March 07, 2008

The role of Cassandra is classically a thankless one. Point to danger signs too early, and you’re dismissed as a nut. Wait until it’s obvious, and you’re too late. You can’t win, so you might as well tell the truth: It’s distinctly ominous how many government agencies, courts, and legislatures across the West are forcing Christians to act against their conscience—and threatening those who resist with bankruptcy or jail. In England, Catholic adoption agencies can’t insist on placing children with heterosexual couples. In Germany, it’s still illegal to home school (has been since Hitler), and the EU is upholding that law—packing off children of home-schoolers to psychiatric facilities. In Belgium, a bishop might go to jail for criticizing homosexual behavior.

What’s more important than the direct impact of these incremental attacks on religious freedom is their power as symbols, as ritual acts of ostracism. By employing the coercive power of the State (every law is backed by bayonets) to forbid Christians to live out their faith in important social arenas—education, family life, preaching and sexual ethics—they are branding those who resist as outsiders, excluded from the community of respectable citizens,  subject to criminal or “therapeutic” intervention. The closest historical parallels I can think of are in European anti-Semitism of the 1930s. Not the Nazi variety, whose combination of pseudo-science and pornographic paranoia was sui generis. More like the Jew-baiting fostered by the Polish dictators of the 1930s—who first forced Jews to obey the Christian prohibition on Sunday labor… and then outlawed the Kosher slaughter of animals. It was not long before freelance thugs were beating up Jews in the streets, and the government was pressuring Jews to emigrate—to Madagascar if necessary (as Niall Ferguson notes in his powerful new book, The War of the World). If this all sounds too outrageous to you, remember the vicious persecution of the Catholic Church in Spain under the Republic, or the bloodless crackdown on Catholics in France in 1905 (religious orders were expelled from the country, and all Church schools and property stolen by the State). It doesn’t require Bolsheviks or the SS to find a supernatural organization with transcendent claims and timeless ethics a threat to the project of secular ideology. If the Third Republic could persecute Christians, so can the EU—and so it probably will.

But it can’t happen here. Except that it has. Last week, a California court ruled that Catholic hospitals will be forced to perform sex change operations. According to the California Catholic Daily (thanks to Catholic World News for the link):

A Catholic hospital that refused to allow its facilities to be used for breast implant surgery on a man who had undergone a sex-change operation has backed down and will now allow the procedure.

In 2006, a doctor told Charlene Hastings, 57, that Seton Medical Center in Daly City would not allow him to perform breast-enhancement surgery on a transsexual. Hastings then called Seton to learn more, reported the Jan. 5 San Jose Mercury News. Hastings told the newspaper the inquiry elicited the following responses from a Seton surgical coordinator: “€œIt’s not God’s will,”€ and “€œGod made you a man.”€

A 2006 memo sent by Seton Medical Center to physicians said that “€œtransgender procedures or procedures that are part of the transgendering process may not be performed at Seton, as Seton is a Catholic Hospital.”€

On Dec. 21, Hastings filed suit in San Francisco Superior Court against the hospital, a part of the Daughters of Charity Health System. The suit alleges that Seton violated state law, which allows religiously-based hospitals to refuse to perform abortions but makes no religious exemption for a denial of elective surgery to transgenders.

On Feb. 27, the Bay Area television broadcast CBS 5 News announced that “€œtransgender Charlene Hastings has claimed moral victory against Catholics.”€

“Charlene” decided to find another hospital to implant his new hooters, but he’s suing Seton Hospital for (cue the Jerky Boys)… punitive damages.

I know, this happened in California—which strangely remains doggedly left wing and anti-Catholic in its policies, despite the influx of all those immigrants with “family values” (encouraged by the likes of Cardinal Roger Mahony) and the local Republican party’s abandonment of border control and “outreach” to Hispanics. (Funny, how Peter Brimelow was right about that one….)

But courts in big states set the trend for smaller ones. And California isn’t alone. In New York, the Catholic bishops conference has shown admirable chutzpah in standing up to Gov. Spitzer’s attempt to declare abortion a “fundamental right” and threaten the licenses of doctors and hospitals which refuse to perform abortions, producing a video and cannily uploading it straight to Youtube:

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Of course such decisions affect millions of religious believers of various faiths, and constitute an ongoing assault by cultural leftists with a taste for totalitarian tactics on the right of religious Americans simply to be left alone. As I’ve argued here before, Leviathan in America is structurally biased to favor secularism—which means that we should fight the beast, tooth and nail. But in the meantime, what should administrators of Catholic hospitals actually do, if laws are passed requiring them to become complicit in murder? Meekly play along, circulate petitions among the nurses (like my sister) who’d really rather not go home with innocent blood on their hands? Attempt to mitigate the damage, and keep on relieving suffering, even at this price? Instead, I’ll second the plan offered by the late Cardinal John O’Connor, when he was faced with a law like this. He said that rather than cooperate, he would close every single Catholic hospital, and send all the patients to public hospitals for care. That’s a very good plan.

But here’s another: Give all those hospitals to the Moslems. Between multicultural guilt and the fear of “explosive” consequences, something tells me Governor Spitzer would find some way to compromise.


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