In 588 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon began a siege of Jerusalem that would last two years. The siege ended with the destruction of the city and its temple, and the exile of Judea's leaders and many of its citizens to Babylon. Thus begins the analogy between the proponents of heresy and the Jews exiled from Jerusalem. It is a good analogy if the Church is seen as Jerusalem, if the secular world is Babylon, and if faithful Catholics are the exiles. But this is not the analogy Townsend draws. To the dissenter, the Church is Babylon. Just dwell on that a moment. The Church, the spotless Bride of Christ, is Babylon.
About 50 years later, the Babylonian exile was about to end, and Jews would soon return to Judea. An anonymous prophet, one of those in exile, wrote part of the biblical book we now know as Isaiah. That prophet's message is delivered to a people who believe God has abandoned them in Babylon. In this case, the heretic has chosen to move to Babylon. He was not plucked by force of arms into Babylon. He made reservations, and traveled first class, to the delight and praise of the Babylonians themselves.
But they're wrong, the prophet says. God is good and is signaling the coming restoration in Jerusalem, an exodus from Babylon to rival the original from Egypt. In reality, the secular world uses these dupes to bring Babylon into Jerusalem, to destroy it and her people.
On Friday, a couple of millenniums later, leaders from a multitude of faith traditions (the fruits of the worst of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue) came together at Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis to plan a restoration of their own.
But then, last month, they finally tasted victory. Does it taste a little like millions of murdered babies, I wonder? When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President [sic] Barack Obama, years of unheralded, unappreciated, lonely work seemed to pay off. The Babylonians, it seemed, were beatable. Again, recall that the Babylonians in their estimation are CATHOLICS. Was it possible that the value at the heart of every major faith, conveyed in the book of Leviticus as "love your fellow as yourself," could triumph in an era of individualism and greed? The chutzpah, if I may borrow an expression, of these people is staggering. Loving your fellow as yourself does not encompass murdering him, unless you are the most pathetic of nihilists.
Before the planning began in earnest, Monsignor Jack Schuler, pastor of St. Ferdinand Catholic Church in Florissant and the dean of the Archdiocese's Northeast County Deanery, led the group in prayer. It was a version of the prayer he gave a week earlier in the belly of the whale — the Missouri House of Representatives. It was both jeremiad and overture. Oh, the drama!
"Never before in our lifetime has there been such a desperate need for leadership in our state," Schuler told his fellow faith leaders. "As countless individuals lose their homes, as thousands and thousands lose their jobs, as scores of businesses, big and small, close their doors, as millions of youth and children look for opportunity, may we rise to the occasion."
Sister Jean deBlois, a professor of theology and health care ethics at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis (and a registered nurse) (Aquinas Institute, despite some modicum of improvement, has long been a cesspool of heresy), warned that those who are preparing to repeal the new health care legislation "even as the ink is still wet on the paper, stand in the way of the common good (if by common good you mean good for some, not for most, and certainly not for innocent babies) in this state and in this nation."
The concept of the common good in Catholic social teaching is described in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World as "the sum of those conditions of social life by which individuals, families and groups can achieve their own fulfilment." The "common good" and "social justice" are two catch-phrases used to justify forcing people to give more and more of their money and liberty to the government under the guise of religious obligation. This device is a fraud, obfuscating the true nature of the obligation of charity. And it is a singularly nice touch for the writer to quote from a Vatican II document. It highlights the ease with which these documents' ambiguities can be used to justify anti-Catholic legislation. "Common good" is less hackneyed than "social justice", and seems to be gaining traction as the term of choice. This comes on the heels of the latest publication of the Missouri Catholic Conference (included in last week's Review) to the effect that we all need to pay more taxes.
Todd David Whitmore, professor of theology and Catholic social teaching at the University of Notre Dame (Obama's favorite formerly Catholic University), has said the concept "underscores the basic claim in Catholic social teaching that the person is fundamentally social. This is opposed to certain modern understandings of the person as fundamentally autonomous, and separate from society." Part of that society includes the old, the disabled, and the unborn, all of whom are at risk thanks to the healthcare takeover.
After hearing some dire statistics about projected budget shortfalls (dire for whom?), and possible tax loophole fixes from Ruth Ehresman, the Missouri Budget Project's director of health and budgetary policy (many illustrated with props — stuffed giraffes, wooden ships and garden shears) (sounds like a Call to Action Puppet Mass), one after another of the 100 or so attendees got up to talk.
Many in the room called one another by name (how pleasant it is when the anti-Catholics dwell in unity) as they expressed support for one another's work, asked questions about taking the day's message back to their congregations and considered the popularity of "a popular uprising."
Amy Smoucha, an organizer with St. Louis Area Jobs with Justice, struck another note of warning. Beware, she said, of the Show Me Institute, which, according to its website, is "rooted in the American tradition of free markets and individual liberty." Where do I donate?
Smoucha said the group's president, Rex Sinquefield, is "interested in lowering taxes, no matter the consequences." The horror!! (Sinquefield did not immediately respond to a call for comment Friday afternoon.)
Beware, Smoucha said, of the American Legislative Exchange Council and its many corporate sponsors, all of whom want tax laws that are antithetical to the common good.
"What we're starting is a movement to counter that corporate movement," Smoucha said to a burst of applause. Um, I think that movement was started long ago.
As the gathering came to a close, two hours after it started, the Rev. David Greenhaw, president of Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves and a longtime exile in this particular Babylon, rose to read aloud from one of his favorite texts.
He walked to the middle of the room, opened his Bible to the book of Isaiah, turning to Chapter 55. He read the words that same anonymous prophet wrote 2,500 years ago in the voice of God:
"Ho, everyone who thirsts," Greenhaw began, then stopped. He looked up at the choir he was preaching to. "Everyone who thirsts," he repeated, emphasizing the word "everyone." "Everyone who thirsts."
He began again, striding through the room, his voice rising.
"Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!"
Greenhaw closed the book, and looked up.
"Everyone," he said. "Everyone. Everyone. Everyone." Mr. Greenhaw, the water referred to in that passage refers to the water of grace. Christ is the source of this water, as He revealed to the Samaritan woman. You and your ilk, inside and outside the Church, have accomplished much to block the flow of this water, to deny the thirsty a drink from it and to misdirect seekers from finding it. All for a mess of pottage doled out from the government.