Articles and Posts by Scott P. Richert:
Getting Naked in the Public Square(147)
There are no political solutions to cultural problems. But in the public square, all problems are political, so, by definition, all solutions must be, too. Let me be blunt: How’s that been working out for you?
The Labor Shortage(40)
Twenty-five years ago, the simple line “There is little doubt about the urgency of the crisis for Europe” in a publication such as Chronicles might have earned a stinging rebuke on the editorial page of the New York Times. Now, the Times simply reports it as fact—which it was then, just as much as it is now.
Hate the Sinner, Love the Sin(0)
Four-and-a-half months into Pope Francis’s pontificate, it’s become more than a little tiresome to hear both his admirers and his detractors compare him with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. “Benedict would never have done . . . ” rolls as easily off the lips of aging Call to Action types as it does off the fingers of the bloggers at the traditionalist website Rorate Caeli.
Yet, taking only the latest tempest in a teapot as an example, Benedict did do many of the things that his admirers and detractors insist he would not have done. Have we forgotten Pope Benedict’s remarks on condoms? Unlike Pope Francis’s recent remarks, Benedict’s thoughts were not delivered in a plane over the Atlantic at the end of an hour and 20 minute interview capping an exhausting trip. And yet Benedict, even though he had the opportunity to revise his remarks before they were published in Light of the World, still managed to provide the media with lines they could take out of context and twist to make it appear that he had changed Church teaching on artificial contraception.
I do not write that as an indictment of Pope Benedict, whom I greatly admire and whose intellectual and liturgical style are more to my taste than Pope Francis’s are. Taking innocuous statements out of context and twisting them for both ideological purposes and to sell more papers is simply what the media, both secular and—yes—Catholic, do, and it’s no surprise that most of us who think we know what Pope Francis said do not realize that his remarks did not concern “gay people” in general, much less those currently engaged in homosexual activity, but homosexual priests in the Curia who are attempting to “seek God” and live out their vocation. (You can read what the Holy Father actually said, and see the context in which he said it, in my post Pope Francis on Homosexuality: Take a Deep Breath . . . on the About.com Catholicism site.)
Far more interesting than all of this is question of the media’s love affair with homosexuality. Why was the New York Times, for instance, so eager to ignore the context of Pope Francis’s remarks and to try to make them appear to be a major step toward the approval of homosexuality? Isn’t this especially odd in light of the Times‘ veritable crusade against the Catholic Church—and Pope Benedict in particular—over the clerical sexual-abuse scandal? After all, the vast majority of cases of clerical sexual abuse were male on male—in other words, they involved priests engaged in homosexual activity.
Yes, I know; science has supposedly established that there is no connection between homosexuality and pedophilia. But pedophilic activity is, by definition, either heterosexual or homosexual. Moreover, men who engage in heterosexual pedophilic activity rarely engage in homosexual pedophilic activity—and vice versa.
By speaking of homosexuality as something that exists both prior to and outside of sexual activity, the media can create an idealized version of “the homosexual” that does not exist in reality. What does it mean to say that someone who has never engaged in homosexual activity of any kind is a homosexual? That he or she has inclinations and desires toward people of the same sex? I have various inclinations and desires in many areas of my life that I have never indulged; does merely having them make me, for instance, a “latent drug user” or “latent murderer” or “latent philanderer”? Even asking the question exposes the silliness of it all.
What it comes down to is this: The media loves the idea of homosexuality—that is, the idealized version of homosexuals who show up in TV sitcoms or go on The Colbert Report to discuss their latest book on the joys of “gay marriage” in their charming English accents. What the media would rather did not exist are those who engage in the whole spectrum [...]
Brief Thoughts on a Justice Bork(0)
Those who mourn the Senate’s failure to confirm President Reagan’s nomination of Judge Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court make the undeniable claim that a Justice Bork would have been different from a Justice Kennedy. But the real question is how different, and in what ways?
Stand My Ground(0)
Purchasing a house in a city with double-digit unemployment and some of the highest property taxes in the country may well be a definition of insanity. Buying such a house on foreclosure, unable to make the purchase contingent on the sale of your current home, undoubtedly is.
Re: Roberts Is No Warren(0)
I certainly understand Mr. Oliver’s point, but I’m afraid he has misunderstood mine. Do I think that John Roberts has a burning desire to impose a “radical social agenda” on the country? No. But his unprecedented expansion of Congress’s power “to lay and collect Taxes” has given Congress a new tool to do just that.
Mr. Oliver writes that Roberts’ opinion is “very narrow,” but the implications of the opinion are not. And it’s hardly a defense of Roberts to say that “he saw the writing on the wall that some form of universal health care is inevitable” and ruled as he did to avoid “damag[ing] the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, his Supreme Court in particular.” Notice what’s missing? Any concern for the constitutionality of the law itself.
Mr. Oliver is convinced that Chief Justice Roberts will do the right thing on “gay marriage”; Tom Piatak has already explained why that is by no means certain. But let’s take it a step further: If Roberts ruled as he did yesterday because he “saw the writing on the wall” and wanted to preserve the “legitimacy” of “his Supreme Court,” why does Mr. Oliver think that such concerns won’t apply in the case of “gay marriage”?
A footnote: Mr. Oliver sees “gay marriage” coming before the Court in a case involving the Equal Protection Clause, but the first cases filed in federal court, and thus the first cases likely to come to the Court, invoked the Full Faith and Credit Clause. That’s why I have argued—as far back as 2004—that there is a strong possibility that the Court will rule in favor of “gay marriage,” and that, if it does, it won’t be surprising to see at least one “conservative” justice join in the majority. If I had to predict which one, I’d choose the man who today was quoted as saying that he hopes that “his Supreme Court” will be remembered for doing “our job according to the Constitution, of protecting equal justice under the law.”
Can’t Get Fooled Again(0)
In Earl Warren Rides Again, I wrote:
Roberts portrays his decision as a check on federal power—if the Court had upheld the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause, it “would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority.” But it’s unclear whom he thinks he is fooling.
Silly me. I should have known the answer: He thought he’d fool the entire conservative movement. And it looks like he’s right. Pretty much every mainstream conservative group or publication has offered a variation of this post at The Weekly Standard‘s website:
[T]he Roberts Court put real limits on what the government can and cannot do. For starters, it restricted the limits of the Commerce Clause, which does not give the government the power to create activity for the purpose of regulating it. This is a huge victory for those of us who believe that the Constitution is a document which offers a limited grant of power.
The author ignores the fact that “the Roberts Court” (that is, Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) also expanded the power of Congress to “lay and collect Taxes” beyond anything ever claimed before. Rather than noting that Congress can now force any American citizen to purchase something he does not desire or need simply by levying a a tax on him if he does not,
he even tries to make lemonade out of Roberts’ declaration that the penalty imposed by Congress for failure to purchase health insurance is “legally a tax”:
Republicans can and will declare that Obama has slapped the single biggest tax on the middle class in history, after promising not to do that.
Who cares that Congress has just been granted total power over how you choose to spend your money—at least Mitt and the rest of the Republicans can start cranking out those campaign ads!
Those who want to provide cover for Chief Justice Roberts or for the Republican presidential candidate who has promised to “nominate judges in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts” will undoubtedly keep referring to the supposed limitation of the Commerce Clause. But that’s a lot like applauding a murderer for not stabbing his victim with a knife because he blew him away with a cannon.
Earl Warren Rides Again(1)
Chief Justice John Roberts was initially nominated by President George W. Bush to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the country’s high court. So, in the wake of today’s ObamaCare decision, authored by Roberts, it’s no surprise that many who wanted to see the Court drive a stake through the heart of the most overreaching piece of federal legislation in American history are comparing Roberts to O’Connor. Joined by liberal Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, Roberts can fairly be said to be the Court’s new swing vote.
In the far-reaching implications of the ObamaCare ruling, however, John Roberts has revealed that he is no Sandra Day O’Connor but a latter-day Earl Warren. Today’s decision not only upheld ObamaCare but provided the framework for an unprecedented expansion of federal power. If you’ve liked the Court’s Commerce Clause decisions over the decades, you’re going to love what the Court can do with Congress’s power “to lay and collect Taxes.”
The Syllabus of the decision provided by the Court cuts through the turgid text of Roberts’ 59-page decision and tells us all we need to know: The individual mandate of ObamaCare could not be justified under the Commerce Clause, because the Commerce Clause can only regulate existing commercial activity, not compel individuals “to become active in commerce.” But Congress and the President want to do precisely that, by forcing individuals without health insurance to purchase it, and so Justice Roberts (with a little help from the Obama administration’s lawyers) found the justification elsewhere: Congress can levy a tax on those who refuse to purchase health insurance.
Roberts portrays his decision as a check on federal power—if the Court had upheld the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause, it “would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority.” But it’s unclear whom he thinks he is fooling. The administration’s lawyers and Roberts turned to the power “to lay and collect Taxes” precisely because the Commerce Clause had already been stretched to the limit. With today’s ruling, Congress has been given the green light to do something that even the most imaginative interpretation of the Commerce Clause would not allow: to compel the supposedly free citizens of the United States to purchase anything that Congress deems in those citizens’ best interest—or to compel them to purchase one thing rather than another. All Congress has to do is to pass legislation levying a tax on those who, say, fail to purchase smoke detectors for their homes, or who insist on purchasing a car that runs on gasoline over one that runs on electricity.
On second thought, comparing Roberts to Earl Warren may be unfair—to Earl Warren, that is. Warren could only dream of writing decisions that would give the federal government this kind of power over the everyday lives of American citizens. Roberts has turned that dream into a reality—and into a nightmare for anyone outside of the ruling elite in Washington, D.C.
Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Bush(1)
Thank God for Republican presidents who appoint strict constructionists to the U.S. Supreme Court. Otherwise, the Court today might have upheld ObamaCare.
Ray Bradbury, R.I.P.(0)
America has lost one of her best novelists and writers of short stories, and perhaps the last chronicler of a world that can no longer be found: the early 20th-century Midwest, a world of small towns and small farms, of hot summer days and bitter winter nights, of swimming holes and traveling shows, of Main Streets and gas lights and front porches. Bits and pieces of that world remained in the smallest of small Midwestern towns for almost 50 years after Bradbury’s family left his hometown of Waukegan, Illinois, for the last time, settling in Los Angeles, California, in 1934. But all that remains now is what Bradbury, and a few other writers like him, captured in such novels and collections of short stories as Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Farewell Summer.
To those today who still remember his name, Ray Bradbury was, as the New York Times declared in a lackluster obituary, “a master of science fiction whose imaginative and lyrical evocations of the future reflected both the optimism and the anxieties of his own postwar America.” But while Bradbury worked in a variety of genres—horror, fantasy, and crime stories among them, as well as science fiction—what bound all of his writing together, as his friend Russell Kirk well understood, was the moral imagination. The best elements of his most famous work, The Martian Chronicles, had nothing to do with the future and technology, and everything to do with memory—imagination operating historically. (Bradbury insisted that The Martian Chronicles was not science fiction but fantasy, something that “couldn’t happen,” while Fahrenheit 451 was science fiction because it could—and, indeed, he believed it had happened, before 1960.)
Bradbury’s moral imagination was born, as was Kirk’s, in a particular time and a particular place. For almost 70 years, his imagination ran free in the hot Midwestern summer of 1934. Like meter in poetry, the constraints of his past allowed Bradbury to transcend the increasingly chaotic and immoral present.
The Waukegan, Illinois, of 1934 is gone, never to return; yet all is not lost. There are many forces competing for the imagination of a new generation, and most of them look like Mr. Dark. But there was a reason Ray Bradbury had Charles Halloway work in a library, and if you don’t know what I am talking about, you need to get a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes and read it to your children, before it is too late.