Thursday, April 21, 2005

Daniel P. Moloney: Sin's the Thing

April 21, 2005, 8:57 a.m.
What Benedict XVI learned in the shadows of the Nazis.
By Daniel P. Moloney

In the media coverage of the election of Pope Benedict XVI, a number of commentators have mentioned that the young Josef Ratzinger grew up in Nazi Germany. It was a motif of John Paul II’s biography that growing up under the Nazis and the Communists influenced his theology and outlook, encouraging him, for example, to place the dignity of the human person at the center of his theological agenda. So it is natural to ask of the new pope whether his experience under the Nazis affected his theological outlook. Not to suggest that his experience with fascism taught him how to be a hard-line enforcer of Catholic orthodoxy — that line of thinking is beneath contempt. But whether having seen totalitarianism as a youth gave him an intellectual agenda comparable to that of his predecessor’s.

On PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Gwen Ifill asked just this question of Bernd Schaefer, a research fellow at the German Historical Institute. Amazingly, Schaefer denied that Ratzinger was influenced by his experience with the Nazis in any serious way. Instead, in Schaefer’s narrative, Ratzinger’s life was determined by a rejection of the reforms of Vatican II and horror at the reaction to the turmoil in the Church that followed it:

He had an extraordinary career as an academic theologian in the ‘60s when he was pro-Vatican II; he was one of the experts at the council, and later on in the late ‘60s he got really turned off by the '68 movement, social movement but also by the theology and all the problems it brought to the church. And I think from then on he really developed a rather pessimistic view of the reforms of the Vatican, Second Vatican Council and all the implications.

This finally led him to a rather doctrinal narrow path, which shaped his career for the second half of his biography, particularly when he went to Rome in '81. And it's not surprising when you look at the Ratzinger of the late ‘60s, that the experiences he had there I think shaped basically his entire life and brought him to that point where he is now.

Thus the standard liberal biography will probably be that, unlike his predecessor — who courageously stood up to totalitarianism and was a champion of the open Church of the Council — Ratzinger went from being a pro-Vatican II liberal, a colleague of Hans Küng at Tübingen, to being an anti-Vatican II reactionary, who brought Küng under Vatican discipline.

In a follow-up, Ifill tried to get Schaefer to answer the original question, but he wouldn’t deviate from his biography:

GWEN IFILL: And both he and Pope John Paul were also shaped by their experience there in World War II in some ways?

BERND SCHAEFER: Maybe yes, because they are basically, they had some experience on the world, but I wouldn't say that actually shaped them to this extent. It's quite different if you look at the Polish pope and at young Ratzinger during World War II in Germany.
And he goes on to repeat his story about the former liberal who became a pessimist after the Council.

There’s a deeper answer to this question, however — one that touches on what has already become a theme of Benedict XVI’s papacy. That answer is that the ills of western Europe today have the same cause, and the same solution, as during World War II. It seems crazy to think that a man who heard the call to the priesthood during the heart of World War II did not see in his vocation at least the beginnings of an answer to the problems of his day.

A Wall Street Journal editorial Wednesday quotes Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, in which the future pope recounts how the Church seemed to him to be the antidote to the poisons corrupting Europe: “Despite many human failings, the Church was the alternative to the destructive ideology of the Nazis. In the inferno that had swallowed up the powerful, she had stood firm with a force coming to her from eternity. It had been demonstrated: The gates of hell will not prevail against her.” What was it about the Church that offered a young German boy such hope? I want to suggest that, ironically enough, it was in large part the Church’s teaching about sin.

In a radio address in 1940, Pius XII claimed that “the sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin.” This diagnosis has been repeated and emphasized by all the popes of the late 20th century, none more forcefully than John Paul II. The sense of sin, argued John Paul II in his 1984 apostolic exhortation Reconciliation and Penance, is related to the sense of God; likewise, the secular humanist attempt to develop a morality and way of life that makes no reference to God will also force man to lose his sense of sin.

The new pope was a teenager when Pius gave his radio address (he expressed his desire to enter the priesthood the following year). He was also a collaborator with John Paul II on Reconciliation and Penance. In an interview with the German journalist Peter Seewald, published in 2000 as God and the World, then Cardinal Ratzinger repeated this theme: “Being incapable of acknowledging guilt is the most dangerous form of spiritually arrested development one can imagine, because this in particular makes people incapable of improvement.”

But then the future pope connected this by-now-familiar observation with his firsthand knowledge of the Nazi agenda. Psychologists remind us that it can be bad to feel overburdened with guilt, of course, “but it is worse to extinguish the capacity for recognizing guilt, because man then becomes inwardly hardened and sick…That was what was intended by Nazi education.
They thought they were even able to commit murder, as Himmler expressed it, and still remain respectable — and thereby they were deliberately trampling on human conscience and mutilating man himself.”

What Pius XII diagnosed as the sin of the 20th century — the loss of a sense of personal guilt and sin — Benedict XVI thinks helped make great evil seem so ordinary. This is the theological solution to Hannah Arendt’s puzzle about how such boring bureaucrats as Himmler and Eichmann could bring about the Holocaust. The Nazis taught, repeatedly and in numerous different ways, that there is no God, no sin, and no personal guilt. Relentless propaganda made it easy for people to avoid feeling guilty, and, since everyone was complicit, nobody was made to answer for his sins.

In this regard, the consumerism and relativism of the West can be just as dangerous as the totalitarianism of the East: It’s just as easy to forget about God while dancing to an iPod as while marching in a Hitler Youth rally. There’s a difference, to be sure, but hardly anyone would contest the observation that in elite Western society, as in totalitarian Germany, the moral vocabulary has been purged of the idea of sin. And if there’s no sense of sin, then there’s no need for a Redeemer, or for the Church.

I think that, for the new pope, the 1968 protests in Europe and the sharp decline in those partaking of the sacrament of confession in the Church after Vatican II made it clear that the sense of sin was breaking down among Western liberal Christians just as it had for Western liberal Germans between the wars. If there’s going to be a theological key to this papacy, I would locate it here.

Much of the chatter before the conclave suggested that the cardinals ought to elect a third-world pope, because the future of the Church was not in a secularized Europe but in the growing regions of Latin America and Africa. In his two homilies before the conclave, the future Pope Benedict XVI seemed to agree that the secularization of Europe was a real problem for the Church, that “a dictatorship of relativism” has taken control of Catholicism’s historic home. In so quickly rallying around the man who, more than any other in the Church, is identified with a developed and public critique of Western European mores, the College of Cardinals were sending a message: The Church is not giving up on the modern West. It seems fair to read this message too in the name taken by the new pope: that of St. Benedict, the patron saint of Europe, the founder of Western monasticism, whose followers preserved classical culture through the Dark Ages after the decadence and fall of Rome. Having seen the long shadows that a guilt-free Europe once cast, the new Pope Benedict can be expected to remind us all of the great responsibilities that accompany the historic freedoms we in the West enjoy.

— Daniel P. Moloney is a lecturer in the Politics Department at Princeton University and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute.

Ann Coulter: Pies, Lies & Videotape

Ann Coulter (archive)
April 21, 2005

After my column last week, in which I noted that there had been a spate of food attacks on conservative speakers on college campuses within weeks of charges being dismissed against the "Deliverance" boys who threw pies at me at the University of Arizona, the prosecutor said it was my fault. (This column gets results!) David Berkman, chief criminal deputy in the office of Democrat Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, told the Arizona Daily Star that charges had to be dismissed because I didn't show up for the trial.
Of course, it's hard to know what anyone said in this country based on newspaper accounts. The actual statements people make are filtered through reporters, who, as we know, are generally unexecutable in this country under Atkins v. Virginia (holding the death penalty for mentally retarded persons unconstitutional).

Is the prosecutor a phony or the reporter a moron? In other words, is this a "Jeffrey Toobin situation" or a "Dan Rather situation"? We report, you decide.

In an article titled "Writer Coulter, arresting officer missed 1st trial," reporter Kim Smith writes in the April 16 Arizona Daily Star:

"Pima County prosecutors plan to take another shot at two men accused of throwing pies at political writer Ann Coulter, even though she didn't show up at their first trial last month."

"Smith and Wolff were scheduled to go to trial March 18, but neither Coulter nor the arresting officer showed up, Berkman said."

"Coulter was sent repeated notices of the court date" (all of which were apparently sent telepathically) "and she will be notified of the new court date as well, Berkman said. He said it should also be noted that Coulter never contacted prosecutors to find out the resolution of the case."

In fact, my verbatim reply in an e-mail dated Feb. 15, 2005, to the only notice I ever received about my appearing at the trial was the following, preserved through the miracle of computers:

I remain very committed to pressing charges. What is the date of the trial? I do not live in AZ and it may be difficult for me to get there for the trial. Does the prosecutor believe he will have to call me as a witness? I believe there is videotape of the entire event and it is evident thereon that I apprehended the attack and ran away.

I was never asked to attend any trial. Are crime victims in Pima County typically required to pester prosecutors with endless "When's the trial?" phone calls? This trial received even less publicity than my recent speaking engagement at the school. I didn't even get one of those "haven't heard from you lately" postcards the publisher sends after you let a magazine subscription lapse.

The need for a prosecutor to call me as a witness still seems completely absurd in light of the in-living-color videotape of the entire assault, vividly showing each element of the crime. But if called by the prosecutor, I would attend the trial with relish. I can't wait to see if the defendants will try the novel "guy who throws like a girl" defense.

Maybe I'll even give another speech while I'm there.

The only other notice I ever received about the trial was a postcard informing me that the case had been dismissed a few weeks ago. Contrary to the above news account, I called the number on the postcard after getting the notice, got an answering machine, and left a message. Since then, I've been on a whirlwind speaking tour, giving a lot more college speeches and creating many more frustrated liberals deprived of the ability to mount a logical counter-argument.

In Berkman's defense, his office is shorthanded, having been bleeding prosecutors in the last several months. That includes the departure of at least four female prosecutors, two of whom expressly said they were leaving because of the way Berkman treats women. So on the bright side, maybe Berkman allowed charges to be dismissed against my assailants not because I'm a conservative but because I'm a female.

But there still remains the devilish issue of the accuracy of the reporter's account. Daily Star reporter Smith also wrote: "Coulter couldn't be reached for comment late Friday" (as a result of our not trying to reach Coulter for comment late Friday). Tip to aspiring reporters: If you want a comment ... try asking!

I'll even type out my comment for you, Kim: "In a prepared statement, Coulter darkly hinted that prosecutors who fail to bring the pie assailants to justice will be held accountable for their actions – a charge that was tantamount to Coulter calling for a pie-throwing attack on the county attorney." Reporting like that could earn you a coveted position covering Tom DeLay for the New York Times!

Ann Coulter is host of, a member group.
©2005 Universal Press Syndicate
Contact Ann Coulter Read Coulter's biography

Peggy Noonan: Why They Ran

The new pope speaks to the inner adult in all of us.
Thursday, April 21, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
The Wall Street Journal

There were many moving and dramatic moments in Rome two days ago, but this is the one I think I'll remember: the sight of them running.

Did you see them running to St. Peter's Square as the bells began to toll?

They came running in from the offices and streets of Rome, running in their business suits, in jeans with backpacks over their shoulders. The networks kept showing it in their wide shots as they filled time between the ringing of the bells and the balcony scene.

So many came running that by the end, by the time Benedict XVI was announced, St. Peter's and the streets leading to it were as full as they'd been two weeks ago, at the funeral of John Paul II.

Why did they run? Why did this ancient news--"We have a pope"--representing such irrelevant-seeming truths and such an archaic institution--send them running?

Why did they gather? Why did they have to hear?


The faith is dead in Europe, everyone knows that. So why did they come?
You say, "They just wanted to be there. It's history. People are experience junkies. They wanted to take pictures with their cell phones."

That would be true of some. But why did so many weep as the new pope came out? Why did they chant "Benedict, Benedict" as he stood at the balcony? Why were they jubilant?

Why were so many non-Catholics similarly moved? And why in America, where the church is torn in divisions, did people run to the TV and the radio when word spread?

People are complicated. You can hit distracted people with all the propaganda in the world, you can give it to them every day in all your media, and sometimes they'll even tell pollsters they agree with you. But something is always going on in their chests. Some truth is known there; some yearning lives there. It's like they have a compass in their hearts and turn as they will, this way and that, it continues to point to true north.

We want a spiritual father. We want someone who stands for what is difficult and right, what is impossible but true. Being human we don't always or necessarily want to live by the truth or be governed by it. But we are grateful when someone stands for it. We want him to be standing up there on the balcony. We want to aspire to it, reach to it, point to it and know that it is there.

Because we can actually tell what's true.

We can just somehow tell.


John Paul II was a great man. We all knew that. Funny how we all knew. And so when word spread that he was dead, they came running.

And because they came running, because four million people engulfed Rome after his death, the eyes of the world were suddenly trained on John Paul's funeral, which was suddenly an event.

Because the world watched the funeral, they noticed the man who celebrated the mass and gave the eulogy. John Paul II had picked him for that role. He spoke with love. He said John Paul, the old man who always came to the window to greet the crowds and pray with them, was now, today, right at this moment, at the window of his father's house. It was beautiful and poetic and people--cardinals--who watched and listened to the speaker thought: Yes, that's true. And the man who was speaking, who even 10 years ago was considered too old and controversial for the job, was suddenly seen by his fellow cardinals, one after the other, as the future pope.

It was impossible. But it happened. No one was really considering Cardinal Ratzinger until that mass.

Those who are pursuing John Paul II's canonization, please note: his first miracle is Benedict XVI.


We are living in a time of supernatural occurrences. The old pope gives us his suffering as a parting gift, says his final goodbye on Easter Sunday; dies on the vigil of Feast of the Divine Mercy, the day that marks the messages received by the Polish nun, now a saint, who had written that a spark out of Poland would light the world and lead the way to the coming of Christ.

The mourning period for the old pope ends on the day that celebrates St. Stanislas, hero of Poland, whose name John Paul had thought about taking when he became pope. We learned this week from a former secretary that John Paul I, the good man who was pope just a month, had told everyone the day he was chosen that he wanted to be called John Paul I. You can't be called "the first" until there is a second, he was told. There will be a second soon, he replied.

It is an age of miracles and wonders, of sightings of Mary and warnings, of prophecy, graces and gifts.

The choosing of Benedict XVI, a man who is serious, deep and brave, is a gift. He has many enemies. They imagine themselves courageous and oppressed. What they are is agitated, aggressive, and well-connected.

They want to make sure his papacy begins with a battle. They want to make sure no one gets a chance to love him. Which is too bad because even his foes admit he is thoughtful, eager for dialogue, sensitive, honest.

They want to make sure that when he speaks and writes, the people of the world won't come running.

What to do to help? See his enemies for what they are, and see him for what he is. Read him--he is a writer, a natural communicator of and thinker upon challenging ideas. Listen to him. Consult your internal compass as you listen, and see if it isn't pointing true north.

Look at what he said at the beginning of the papal conclave: It is our special responsibility at this time to be mature, to believe as adults believe. "Being an 'adult' means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties." Being an adult is loving what is true and standing with it.

This isn't radical, or archconservative. And the speaker isn't an enforcer, a cop or a rottweiler. He's a Catholic. Which one would think is a good thing to have as leader of the Catholic Church.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag" (Wall Street Journal Books/Simon & Schuster), a collection of post-Sept. 11 columns, which you can buy from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.

David Brooks: Roe's Birth, and Death

The New York Times
Published: April 21, 2005

Justice Harry Blackmun did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American. When he and his Supreme Court colleagues issued the Roe v. Wade decision, they set off a cycle of political viciousness and counter-viciousness that has poisoned public life ever since, and now threatens to destroy the Senate as we know it.

When Blackmun wrote the Roe decision, it took the abortion issue out of the legislatures and put it into the courts. If it had remained in the legislatures, we would have seen a series of state-by-state compromises reflecting the views of the centrist majority that's always existed on this issue. These legislative compromises wouldn't have pleased everyone, but would have been regarded as legitimate.

Instead, Blackmun and his concurring colleagues invented a right to abortion, and imposed a solution more extreme than the policies of just about any other comparable nation.
Religious conservatives became alienated from their own government, feeling that their democratic rights had been usurped by robed elitists. Liberals lost touch with working-class Americans because they never had to have a conversation about values with those voters; they could just rely on the courts to impose their views. The parties polarized as they each became dominated by absolutist activists.

Unable to lobby for their pro-life or pro-choice views in normal ways, abortion activists focused their attention on judicial nominations. Dozens of groups on the right and left have been created to destroy nominees who might oppose their side of the fight. But abortion is never the explicit subject of these confirmation battles. Instead, the groups try to find some other pretext to destroy their foes.

Each nomination battle is more vicious than the last as the methodologies of personal destruction are perfected. You get a tit-for-tat escalation as each side points to the other's outrages to justify its own methods.

At first the Senate Judiciary Committee was chiefly infected by this way of doing business, but now the entire body - in fact, the entire capital - has caught the abortion fight fever.

Every few years another civilizing custom is breached. Over the past four years Democrats have resorted to the filibuster again and again to prevent votes on judicial nominees they oppose. Up until now, minorities have generally not used the filibuster to defeat nominees that have majority support. They have allowed nominees to have an up or down vote. But this tradition has been washed away.

In response, Republicans now threaten to change the Senate rules and end the filibuster on judicial nominees. That they have a right to do this is certain. That doing this would destroy the culture of the Senate and damage the cause of limited government is also certain.

The Senate operates by precedent, trust and unanimous consent. Changing the rules by raw majority power would rip the fabric of Senate life. Once the filibuster was barred from judicial nomination fights, it would be barred entirely. Every time the majority felt passionately about an issue, it would rewrite the rules to make its legislation easier to pass. Before long, the Senate would be just like the House. The culture of deliberation would be voided. Minority rights would be unprotected.

Those who believe in smaller government would suffer most. Minority rights have been used frequently to stop expansions of federal power, but if those minority rights were weakened, the federal role would grow and grow - especially when Democrats regained the majority.

Majority parties have often contemplated changing the filibuster rules, but they have always turned back because the costs are so high. But, fired by passions over abortion, Republican leaders have subordinated every other consideration to the need to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Democrats, meanwhile, threaten to shut down the Senate.

I know of many senators who love their institution, and long for a compromise that will forestall this nuclear exchange. But they feel trapped. If they turn back now, their abortion activists will destroy them.

The fact is, the entire country is trapped. Harry Blackmun and his colleagues suppressed that democratic abortion debate the nation needs to have. The poisons have been building ever since. You can complain about the incivility of politics, but you can't stop the escalation of conflict in the middle. You have to kill it at the root. Unless Roe v. Wade is overturned, politics will never get better.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Jeff Gailus: Role Reversal in Grizzly Population Management

Role reversal

As grizzly bears become increasingly threatened north of the 49th parallel, Canadians look to the U.S. for solutions

By Jeff Gailus

There was a time not so very long ago when American conservationists and biologists looked north across the 49th parallel with hope. They saw a vast wilderness full of grizzly bears they thought would always be able to augment flagging populations of Ursus arctos in the lower 48 states.

Those days are long gone. Now, as Americans contemplate the delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly, many Canadian conservationists and biologists are looking south to figure out how to reverse the continuing decline of grizzly bears and the habitat they depend on in the Canadian West.

Nowhere is this truer than Alberta, where the political and legislative climate is so hostile, and grizzly bear habitat so degraded, that the future of the grizzly is as uncertain as it is anywhere on the continent.

From the perspective of the grizzly bear, the history of the Canadian West is similar to that of its southern neighbor. Grizzly bears once roamed as far east as the Manitoba-Ontario border, but as trappers and fur traders moved west in search of beaver, grizzly bears, buffalo and most other mammals became increasingly scarce.

By the time settlers started flooding the prairies in the late 19th century, grizzlies were all but gone from the Great Plains, relegated instead to the boreal forests and tundra of the North and to the foothills and mountains of southern Canada.

Today, most grizzly bear "populations" on the Canadian side of the border are considered threatened or nearly so. Only two, British Columbia’s Flathead and South Purcell grizzly bear "population units" contain "viable" populations, and only the Flathead provides the potential for meaningful connectivity with a recovering, though not recovered, population in the U.S.'s Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.

In Alberta, the provincial government's own Endangered Species Conservation Committee recommended that the Alberta grizzly be listed as a threatened species, but the government has refused to adopt the recommendation and has done little to reverse the trends threatening grizzly bears everywhere they still exist.

It may come as a surprise that Alberta harbors arguably the most threatened population of grizzly bears in Canada, if not North America. This situation has less to do with ecology or biology and everything to do with politics.

South of the border, grizzly bears are protected by relatively strong legislation (the Endangered Species Act) and a science-based and well-funded recovery plan. While not perfect, these measures, kept on track by a reasonably robust environmental movement, seem able to ensure grizzly bears, perhaps even the small, isolated populations that hang on in places like the Selkirk, Cabinet-Yaak and Cascade mountains, will receive the attention, and habitat, they require to recover.

The success of the recovering Yellowstone population, which has doubled over the last 30 years, is a good example of what is required to recover declining grizzly bear populations.

Biologists have long recognized that access management is the key. Keeping road densities low and ensuring enough secure core habitat exists across the recovery zone are key components of recovering grizzly bears, and have worked well in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
"The Yellowstone recovery plan is still the high bar," said grizzly bear biologist and Banff National Park warden Mike Gibeau. "And we’re nowhere near that in Alberta."

There are no reliable estimates for the Alberta population. The process used by the government to estimate population size and set hunting quotas between 1988 and 2002, one that suggested the population had grown by almost 50 per cent over the last 15 years, was determined by a government analysis to have used "questionable practices" that "are not scientifically defensible," leading to predictions that are "not biologically possible."

Expert opinion suggests there are between 500 and 700 of some of the slowest-reproducing grizzly bears found anywhere in North America. They survive in approximately 260,000 kilometers of western Alberta, though the amount of habitat "occupied" by females with cubs is likely much smaller than that.

This so-called recovery zone is so riddled with roads and cutblocks it is unlikely that any significant patch of grizzly bear range (outside of the national parks) would meet even the weakest standards used in the United States for road density and core secure area.

The deplorable state of grizzly bear habitat in Alberta wouldn't be so alarming if the government was committed to do what is needed to recover grizzly bears in the province. But it is not.

After 15 years, virtually none of Alberta's 1990 Grizzly Bear Management Plan has been implemented. When the Alberta Endangered Species Conservation Committee recommended that the grizzly bear be listed as a threatened species in 2002, the Alberta government decided, for the first time ever, to ignore the recommendation, choosing instead to continue the hunt north of Calgary, although it did decrease the number of tags available.

In an absurd twist reminiscent of a Franz Kafka novel, the government did convene a team in 2003 to develop a recovery plan for a species that is still being hunted for sport. Two years later, the multi-stakeholder recovery team, dominated by industry hacks and pro-industry government bureaucrats, submitted a draft plan to the Alberta government.

Although the plan contains some important ideas and strategies, it is extremely weak, based not on science but on the political manipulation of science. (There is not enough room here to include a detailed critique of the recovery plan. For more information, see

Even if the draft recovery plan is implemented as rigorously as possible, it will do little to slow the continued decline of grizzly bears in Alberta.If Alberta is to begin the long, slow road to recovering its grizzly bear population, it will need to develop, fund and implement a recovery plan that is similar in scope and detail to the Yellowstone recovery plan that has proven so successful to date.

Inevitably, this will require Albertans to restrain their activities in grizzly bear habitat and to repair decades of damage that has been ignored for too long.But in the long term, the investment will have been worth it, for as Andy Russell wrote more than 40 years ago, grizzly bears can teach us something of what it means to live with nature, which is something we will be forced to learn, whether we like it or not.

Jeff Gailus is a writer and conservationist living in Calgary, Alberta. He is currently working on a book about the history and future of Canada’s Great Plains grizzly bear.

Readers respond:

Conservation efforts must address how changes affect humans, too

Let me get this straight.

Jeff Gailus wants Alberta to follow the U.S. conservation model, and for Albertans to, um, "inevitably," um, "restrain their activities" just like has happened south of the border?

On whose authority?

And I can't help but notice the "Kafkaesque" aspect to part of what Ms. Nelson wrote in her sidebar: "Conservationists say the purpose of the Crown of the Continent is not to create new wilderness or public parks, but instead to provide bears and other animals a way to migrate north with as few conflicts with humans as possible." Well, that's what conservationists SAY.
What do they DO?

I would appreciate it if someone at Headwaters or elsewhere could explain to me Montana Wilderness Association's (a Y2Y member group) proposal for the Winton Wedemeyer wilderness proposal in the Flathead North Fork, which of course appears "moderate" compared to the "Flathead National Park and Preserve" thing pushed by Alliance for the Wild Rockies...also a Y2Y member/affiliate -- these are not attempts to create wilderness and/or parks?

Look, folks. People know what is going on. Y2Y is social engineering on a massive scale in support of a value system that isn't exactly mainstream either in its origins or in its implementation.

Unless Y2Y advocates truly consider the consequences for human ecology, and integrate concern for those consequences into both rhetoric (Jeff certainly does not) and policy, they will fail.

Dave Skinner
Whitefish, Montana

Analysis: Grizzly bear's status depends on location

By Shellie Nelson, assistant editor
Headwaters News
April 13, 2005

A lot in life is determined by where you're born, the state of the country in which you live, the attitude of government toward the political heft of your champions and how easy it is to make a sustainable life.

So, too, is the evolving status of the grizzly bear.

Columnist Jeff Gailus writes that the grizzly bear population in Alberta is probably the most threatened in the Northern Hemisphere and attributes the bear's dire straits to the political environment of that province.

A bear living in the the remote wilderness of the Northwestern portion of the United States enjoys federal protection as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
In 1975, when the grizzly bear was first listed as threatened there were fewer than 1,000 bears in the West, with 200 to 300 in Yellowstone National Park.

Bear populations in and around Yellowstone National Park have rebounded to an estimated 700, most of them in Wyoming.

Wyoming, Montana and Idaho have revamped their management plans to handle the expanded populations.

Wyoming's draft management plan released this month creates two recovery zones: The bear enjoys primary protection on park lands and adjoining national and state forest lands, and authorities are given wide latitude in areas outside the primary protection zone to handle bear-human conflicts.

Critics of Wyoming's management plan and of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's plan to remove the grizzly bear from the threatened list say state and federal officials have not considered what 2004's record mortality rate has done to the genetic diversity of the bear populations.

In 2004, 50 grizzly bears were killed or died in the lower 48 states, and 19 of the bears lost were in Yellowstone, more than 2 1/2 times higher than the 15-year average.

Sixty percent of the dead bears were female. Some say the high mortality rate was due to years-long drought that dried up food sources and forced bears to travel longer distances for food.
Bear experts say at least 500 bears are needed to maintain genetic diversity and when they factor in losses of 2 percent to 5 percent of the population, they conclude the Fish and Wildlife Service is acting too hastily.

Plans to introduce grizzly bears into the Bitterroot-Selway Wilderness along the Montana-Idaho border and to funnel populations into Idaho's Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness were shelved by the Bush administration in 2001, despite a strong belief the move would have provided a long-term solution for the species' survival.

A few hundred miles northeast of the proposed reintroduction area, conservationists are working with ranchers to create a wildlife corridor that runs from Ovando, Mont., north 150 miles to the Canadian border.

The habitat bridge, dubbed the "Crown of the Continent" corridor, gives grizzly bears, elk, wolves and other animals a sheltered land for migration.

The trail ends in 98,000 acres of land in British Columbia secured for wildlife habitat through a landmark agreement in December 2004, between the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Tembec, a Canadian forestry company.

Conservationists say the purpose of the Crown of the Continent is not to create new wilderness or public parks, but instead to provide bears and other animals a way to migrate north with as few conflicts with humans as possible.

British Columbia officials estimate there are 14,000 grizzlies across the province. The provincial government takes a somewhat modified approach to sustaining bear populations, with bears being protected in national and provincial parks.

Hunting of grizzlies is allowed in British Columbia with permits, with number of permits set as a percentage of total bear populations. The percentages are reviewed every three years and adjusted as needed.

The grizzly bear faces a lot of challenges: human encroachment on its habitat, environmental changes caused by higher temperatures and drier conditions, and barriers to migration such as roads and oil and gas exploration.

But the most significant of all challenges may be the political ebb and flow of support for the species, both north and south of the Canadian border.

Jon Pareles Reviews Dylan & Haggard Performances

Dylan's in a Dark Mood, and Haggard Isn't Offering Any Relief
The New York Times
Published: April 19, 2005

NEWARK, April 19 - It's some kind of career milestone when musicians start acting older than they are, rather than younger. Both Bob Dylan, 63, and Merle Haggard, the 68-year-old country patriarch sharing his tour, reached that point long ago, seizing the chance to be avuncular, cranky and committed to traditions they see disappearing.

Wearing matching suits, Mr. Dylan's band looks like a 1940's country act; Mr. Haggard's band, the Strangers, sometimes plays like one. But the wrinkles and antique trappings shouldn't fool anyone: these two songwriters are as sharp and rigorous as ever. They performed Tuesday night at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center here, and they start a five-night stand at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan on Monday night.

Mr. Dylan's set had war, mortality, lost love and fierce electric blues on its mind. He started with "Tombstone Blues," snapping out its lyrics in gruff staccato bursts, and continued with some of his most baleful songs, from the apocalyptic nursery rhyme "Under the Red Sky" to "This Wheel's on Fire." Kindly moments were outnumbered, perhaps 10 to 1, by bitter ones.

Mr. Dylan played electric piano, using quick chord jabs to spur the music, or stepped to center stage for pointed, melodic harmonica solos. His voice was in a thick, raspy phase, but when he wanted to sound most menacing, he would ease back into a sardonic croon, as he did when God threatened Abraham in "Highway 61 Revisited."

His latest band, anchored as it has been since the early 1990's by Tony Garnier on bass, could turn "John Brown," his early-60's song about a shattered soldier, into banjo-picking Appalachian rock, and it could sashay through Mr. Dylan's Tin Pan Alley-flavored "Bye and Bye." It had a violinist, Elana Fremerman, who was joined for keening, soaring twin-fiddle passages by Donnie Herron in "Absolutely Sweet Marie." But its core was in the blues, with Denny Freeman playing jagged solos, George Recile on drums making shuffle beats leap ahead, and the whole band, completed by Stu Kimball on guitar, finding new riffs behind old songs like "Masters of War" - almost a minor-key blues in its latest incarnation - or "All Along the Watchtower." With this band, Mr. Dylan's indictments became both pitiless and exhilarating.

Mr. Haggard has slyly backdated his music: from the swinging, twanging Bakersfield style of his 1960's and 70's hits to an invented old-time country that embraces fiddle tunes, western swing, yakety saxophone and pop standards along with drinking songs. His band is almost dainty in its well-oiled swing, as it dips into blues or New Orleans jazz, country waltzes or the Nat Cole hit "Unforgettable."

Mr. Haggard's honey-cured voice has been a model for country singers from George Strait to Alan Jackson, with nonchalant timing and sudden dips into his baritone register. He also played country fiddle and succinct guitar solos. And behind the relaxed phrasing was a steely tension, especially in songs bemoaning modern life. When he looked back at better times, he allowed himself a surly growl.

Jonathan V. Last: The Hard Line on Ratzinger

That didn't take long . . .

by Jonathan V. Last
04/19/2005 3:00:00 PM

The media clichés are already hardening around Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, just hours after becoming Pope Benedict XVI. Will they brook any dissent from the caricature they're drawing?

"German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the strict defender of Catholic orthodoxy for the past 23 years, was elected Pope on Tuesday despite a widespread assumption he was too old and divisive to win election." --Reuters

"Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, the church's leading hard-liner, was elected the new pope Tuesday evening in the first conclave of the new millennium." --William J. Kole, Associated Press

"Thanks for your emails both sympathizing and telling me to leave the Church entirely. But I am still in shock. This was not an act of continuity. There is simply no other figure more extreme than the new Pope on the issues that divide the Church. No one. He raised the stakes even further by his extraordinarily bold homily at the beginning of the conclave, where he all but declared a war on modernity, liberalism (meaning modern liberal democracy of all stripes) and freedom of thought and conscience. . . . His views on the subordinate role of women in the Church and society, the marginalization of homosexuals (he once argued that violence against them was predictable if they kept pushing for rights), the impermissibility of any sexual act that does not involve the depositing of semen in a fertile uterus, and the inadmissability of any open discourse with other faiths reveal him as even more hardline than the previous pope." --Andrew Sullivan

"And what is the creed of the Church? That is for the Grand Inquisitor to decide."
--Andrew Sullivan

"And so the Catholic church accelerates its turn toward authoritarianism, hostility to modernity, assertion of papal supremacy and quashing of internal debate and dissent. We are back to the nineteenth century." --Andrew Sullivan

" A man of deep personal faith who choked up as he delivered the homily at Pope John Paul II's funeral, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger also has alienated some Roman Catholics with his zeal in enforcing church orthodoxy." --Melissa Eddy, Associated Press

"Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a hard-line doctrinal watchdog, was elected by Roman Catholic cardinals in Vatican City today as the successor to the enormously popular John Paul II as pope for the world's one billion Catholics. . . . The Catholic Church is hugely divided and many of its members are seriously disaffected." --Daryl Strickland, Los Angeles Times

"In the Vatican, he has been the driving force behind crackdowns on liberation theology, religious pluralism, challenges to traditional moral teachings on issues such as homosexuality, and dissent on such issues as women's ordination." --CNN

" Joseph Ratzinger, the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, turned 78 last Saturday and is widely expected to maintain John Paul II's deeply conservative line." --London Telegraph

"Hardline Catholics got their man Tuesday, when the College of Cardinals elected its dean, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as the 265th pope. . . . Ratzinger is generally considered to have been a driving force behind several of the Catholic Church's strictest and most social divisive moves in recent years. In particular, he has held the line on homosexuality, women's ordination, and the vein of progressive thinking known as liberation theology. Going into the secret conclave, many observers wondered whether the cardinals would seek a kind of compromise figure, but that was not to be." --Rema Rahman, Village Voice

"Hard-liner Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the leader of the world's one billion Roman Catholics after the conclave of 115 Cardinals ended Tuesday evening." --Newsweek

"Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, a hard-line guardian of conservative doctrine, was elected the new pope Tuesday evening in the first conclave of the new millennium." --MSNBC

"Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, a strict doctrinal conservative who believes the church should hold fiercely to its fundamental beliefs against the pressures of secularism, emerged from St. Peter's Basilica as Pope Benedict XVI today." --Ken Dilanian and Matthew Schofeld, Knight Ridder

Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.
© Copyright 2005, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

Christopher Levenick: Servus Servorum Dei

The self-effacing modesty of Pope Benedict XVI.
by Christopher Levenick
04/19/2005 9:00:00 PM

What can we learn of Benedict from his first appearance? Much can be gleaned from a first impression, and the eyes of the world are always upon the newly appointed bishop of Rome when he takes his first steps out onto the loggia to address the crowds, urbi et orbi. Benedict's predecessor instantly communicated his magnetic personality, and, with the exclamation Be not afraid, sounded the clarion call of his pontificate.

The first keynote of Benedict's papacy was one of utterly self-effacing modesty. The most sophisticated theologian to ascend to the papal throne in fifteen centuries disarmingly referred to his indisputable gifts as "insufficient instruments." The latest successor to St. Peter appraised himself "a simple, humble worker in the Lord's vineyard."

This is no newfound humility; the statements are in perfect keeping with the man. When he was appointed archbishop of Munich-Freising, for instance, Ratzinger added two new symbols to the episcopal coat of arms--both of which were intended to underscore his unworthiness. The first symbol was a shell. According to legend, St. Augustine was one day walking along a beach, grappling with the mystery of the Trinity, when he came across a child who was playfully pouring seawater into a shell. That, Augustine instantly realized, was precisely his problem: the human mind could no more comprehend the mystery of God than the shell could hold the waters of the sea. Ratzinger thought the account pertinent to his own theological work, which always acknowledged "the greatness of the mystery that extends farther than all our knowledge."

The other symbol that he added to the coat of arms was a bear. It comes from a legend told of St. Corbinian, the founding bishop of Freising. While Corbinian was traveling to Rome, his horse was set upon and torn to shreds by a bear. Corbinian rebuked the bear, and ordered it to carry his pack to Rome. The repentant bear did as he was told. And therein Benedict saw something of himself: He too was to be a beast of burden, called to the service of the Lord.

Perhaps the new Pope's most noteworthy decision was to adopt the name Benedict. Before the announcement, it was widely rumored that, if elected, he would take either the name Boniface (after St. Boniface, the Apostle to the Germans) or Leo (after Pope St. Leo IX, a great Germanic saint, whose feast day, incidentally, is April 19). Instead he settled on the name Benedict. Comparisons were immediately made to Benedict XV (1914-1922), a Pope who labored in vain to bring the carnage of the First World War to an early and just conclusion.

That may be, but the decision probably reflects a deeper spiritual sensibility. Saint Benedict of Nursia is, after all, one of the most important figures in the history of Roman Catholicism. From Benedict, the Western empire first learned the ascetic rhythms of the monastic life. Monasticism first emerged in the East with exemplary figures such as St. Antony and St. Pachomius. But it fell to Benedict to assemble the first communities in Latin Christendom dedicated to the pursuit of spiritual perfection. His disciples were to live simply, working with their hands and praying at regular intervals throughout the day. Theirs was a rigorous vocation, one of utter self-abasement, of withdrawal from the world for the sake of the world.

Many will no doubt balk at calling Benedict XVI humble. To the contrary, they insist, he is an arrogant, uncompromising hard-liner. Such complaints usually refer to his having been tasked--for almost 25 years--with the thankless job of patrolling the boundaries of Catholic theology. Bishops have, of course, long wrestled with theologians; as early as 1277, Stephen Tempier, bishop of Paris, was compelled to restrain university theologians from replacing Christ with Aristotle. Though this tension between authority and inquiry is actually quite creative, in an age that smirks at the idea of objective truth, it struck critics as needlessly heavy-handed.

It was a burden that Ratzinger bore, dutifully and patiently, in the service of the Church. He pleaded with John Paul II, begging permission to retire so that he could at last return to the quiet academic life he left in Regensberg. As he writes in his memoirs, Benedict XVI finds much consolation in Psalm 72:23: ut iumentum factus sum apud te et ego semper tectum. Unlike most modern translations, the new Pope follows Augustine's rendition: "A draft animal am I before You, for You, and this is precisely how I abide with you." Like Augustine, he sees himself as a "good, sturdy ox to pull God's cart in this world."

Benedict XVI will probably not carry the papacy with John Paul's seeming ease. His pontificate will rather be a steady shoulder to the plough, the work of an unassuming servant, a servant of the servants of God.

Christopher Levenick is the W. H. Brady doctoral fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
© Copyright 2005, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

Jana Novak: Veritas!

April 20, 2005, 8:04 a.m.
The new pope and old truths.
By Jana Novak

Habemus papam! Now, what does that mean?

Within moments of the announcement Tuesday, the media was already trying to "frame" the situation, labeling the new pope, Pope Benedict XVI, as "controversial," "conservative" — as if they think he is afraid of modernity and progress. Even some Catholics have gotten this idea in their head: a theologian at the University of Notre Dame, the Rev. Richard P. McBrien, was quoted in Tuesday morning's Washington Post, as dismissing Cardinal Ratzinger, "I think this homily shows he realizes he's not going to be elected. He's too much of a polarizing figure. If he were elected, thousands upon thousands of Catholics in Europe and the United States would roll their eyes and retreat to the margins of the church."

Thank goodness for Catholic theologians, eh? (With all due apologies to my father, Catholic theologian Michael Novak.)

Perhaps McBrien ought to understand the Church must stand for something — or it will fall for anything. And what is the point in believing in something that does not seem to believe in anything? Perhaps McBrien ought to try reading some of Pope Benedict XVI's writings, or listening to his arguments.

For example, when then-Cardinal Ratzinger said in May 2004: "The Council, in fact, wished to show that Christianity is not against reason, against modernity, but that on the contrary it is a help so that reason in its totality can work not only on technical questions, but also on human, moral and religious knowledge."

That doesn't sound exactly controversial, anti-modern, or, for that matter, polarizing. Or maybe it is this thought that McBrien finds polarizing (from October 2001): "The Church will continue to propose the great universal human values. Because, if law no longer has common moral foundations, it collapses insofar as it is law. From this point of view, the Church has a universal responsibility."

The truth is, this new pastor of the flock is a gentle, but fiercely intelligent man. He has thought deeply about many of the pressing issues facing the citizens of the world — as well as the Catholic Church itself. He is indeed conservative, in the sense that he believes strongly that there are absolutes, rights and wrongs, and that the Church must make a stand on these. It has long struck me as laughable that somehow it is controversial to believe that the Church should continue to stand for such things as life (from the beginning to the end). What is more controversial? To embrace and hold on to long-held principles? Or to discard them like used tissue?

Long before Monday's homily, Cardinal Ratzinger propounded about the dangers of relativism, of not believing that not only there is truth, but also that one can seek to understand it. As he noted in 2002, "I would say that today relativism predominates. It seems that whoever is not a relativist is someone who is intolerant. To think that one can understand the essential truth is already seen as something intolerant." He has also pointed out this fundamental truth about Christianity itself: "Christianity is not "our" work; it is a Revelation; it is a message that has been consigned to us, and we have no right to reconstruct it as we like or choose." In other words, if to be "progressive" or "modern" is to reconstruct Christianity as we like or choose, than that is abandoning Christianity.

This is not a wholly unpopular message. Interestingly enough, it is in those parishes that are "conservative" and those vocations that are "conservative" and those countries where the faith is still "conservative," where the data shows that the Catholic numbers are growing. So it is clear that holding dear to Catholic Church principles is not controversial — it is in fact, expansive. So while this may leave the Church, in some communities, "on the margin of society" (as the cardinal put it), in many it does not — far from it.

That is not to say this is not — and will not be under Pope Benedict XVI — a vibrant, living, and breathing Church. The pope may understand that there are essential truths or principles that the Church must uphold — but he is also at heart a scholar and a pastor. He understands that faith is much like science — you cannot simply ignore those truths that are "inconvenient" to your thesis, and every day you must constantly seek truth.

Perhaps most important, though, is the pope's understanding of the human condition itself. He knows — and has experienced himself — of the suffering and pain of life. But he has learned it's redemptive value. As he so eloquently put it, "Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice, because, given temperamental differences and the drama of situations, it will always bring with it renunciation and pain."

This is not a man not of this world. This is a man who is firmly aware of its conflicts and despairs — and of its peace and joy. He is, indeed, the perfect "beast of burden" (his coat of arms reflects a bear to represent this sense as a beast of burden for the Church) for the Church to depend upon at this time in history. It seems the Holy Spirit was indeed at work over the last couple of days.

— Jana Novak is currently working on a book on George Washington and his religion. She is the co-author of Tell Me Why: A Father Answers His Daughter's Questions About God and a part-time dogwalker who lives on Capitol Hill.

Joseph Bottum: A Pope For the Grown-Ups

The New York Post

April 20, 2005 -- 'We have a pope," habemus papam, the cry went up at 6 p.m. in Rome yesterday. And out onto the papal balcony walked the 78-year-old German cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger, who will reign under the name Benedict XVI as the 265th leader of the Catholic Church.

By the way the American press has treated the man over the last 20 years, you'd have thought the sun would have turned black at the announcement and the earth trembled in horror. "God's rottweiler," "the panzer cardinal," "the pope's hitman" — these are only a few of the names he's been called since 1981, when John Paul II appointed him to head the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office in Rome that evaluates the orthodoxy of new Catholic writings and practices.

The new pope has small reason to remember the United States with fondness. The homosexual activists, inside and outside the church, always had it in for Cardinal Ratzinger. When he came to Manhattan in January 1988 to deliver a mild talk on recent biblical scholarship to a group of Protestant and Catholic theologians, his talk was interrupted while the NYPD hauled away dozens of hecklers shouting "Stop the Inquisition!" and "No violence against gays!"

That same year, the dissident Matthew Fox, a New Age theologian from San Francisco, responded to his censure from Ratzinger's office by calling the Vatican "a fascist state" and taking out a full-page ad in national newspapers to shout, "I Have Been Silenced!" Meanwhile, the sexual liberationist Charles E. Curran sued the Catholic University in Washington, D.C., after a ruling from Ratzinger caused the school to rescind his license to teach official Catholic theology.
John Paul II's enforcer? "The modern Torquemada"? The labels never stuck with those who know him well — including the cardinals who just elected him Pope Benedict XVI.

"You are looking at the Grand Inquisitor," New York's beloved Cardinal O'Connor quipped while introducing Ratzinger at his 1988 talk. The joke came from the fact that the man was actually known among the church hierarchy as one of the humblest, most self-effacing of its members.

It's true that as Benedict XVI, he will be a conservative — if, that is, you think of John Paul II as a conservative, for there is no one in Rome who was closer to the late pope.

By the election of Joseph Ratzinger, the College of Cardinals has sent a clear signal that it wants the church to continue along the lines established by John Paul II.

Of course, in many ways, it's hard to imagine two popes more different. John Paul II was chosen at age 58, the youngest pope in 132 years; Benedict XVI is already 78 — old, even for the usual run of popes. John Paul was one of the most telegenic people on the planet; Benedict, though he has a quiet charm, projects little of the same charisma.

John Paul came from vibrant Polish Catholicism, flexing its muscles against its Communist overlords, while Benedict comes from a German Catholicism uncertain of how to fight the deathwish that seems to have seized most of Western Europe.

But in other ways, Benedict XVI is as close to the reinstallation of John Paul II as anyone can imagine.

In 1991, John Paul II issued Centesimus Annus, an encyclical on democratic freedom and economics that may be the most pro-American document ever to come from Rome. And then, in 1995, he issued Evangelium Vitae, an attack on abortion and the culture of death that may be the most anti-American document from Rome.

Benedict XVI understands his predecessor's support of both democracy and life — because he understands what ties these issues together. The encyclical that John Paul II issued in between, Veritatis Splendor ("the splendor of truth"), insisted that there are certain moral markers about human life and human behavior that cannot be argued away. A grown-up, serious people doesn't abort its babies. A grown-up, serious people doesn't murder its sick and old. And a grown-up, serious people doesn't destroy the structure of the family just for the sake of easy sex.

The day before he was elected pope, Ratzinger preached to the cardinals, "We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

The rejection of this — the insistence that there is a better way to live: That's the line John Paul II took in Veritatis Splendor. And that's the line the church insists it will continue taking by the election of Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.

America should be grateful. The Catholic Church has another pope who will keep calling the citizens of the United States to be a grown-up, serious people.

Joseph Bottum is editor of First Things, a monthly journal of religion, culture and public life.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Jeruslam Post: Ratzinger a Nazi? Don't Believe it

Apr. 18, 2005 1:56 Updated Apr. 18, 2005 4:41

London's Sunday Times would have us believe that one of the leading contenders for the papacy is a closet Nazi. In if-only-they-knew tones, the newspaper informs readers that German-born Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was a member of the Hitler Youth during World War II and suggests that, because of this, the "panzer cardinal" would be quite a contrast to his predecessor, John Paul II.

The article also classifies Ratzinger as a "theological anti-Semite" for believing in Jesus so strongly that – gasp! – he thinks that everyone, even Jews, should accept him as the messiah.

To all this we should say, "This is news?!"As the Sunday Times article admits, Ratzinger's membership in the Hitler Youth was not voluntary but compulsory; also admitted are the facts that the cardinal – only a teenager during the period in question – was the son of an anti-Nazi policeman, that he was given a dispensation from Hitler Youth activities because of his religious studies, and that he deserted the German army.

Ratzinger has several times gone on record on his supposedly "problematic" past. In the 1997 book Salt of the Earth, Ratzinger is asked whether he was ever in the Hitler Youth.
"At first we weren't," he says, speaking of himself and his older brother, "but when the compulsory Hitler Youth was introduced in 1941, my brother was obliged to join. I was still too young, but later as a seminarian, I was registered in the Hitler Youth. As soon as I was out of the seminary, I never went back. And that was difficult because the tuition reduction, which I really needed, was tied to proof of attendance at the Hitler Youth.

"Thank goodness there was a very understanding mathematics professor. He himself was a Nazi, but an honest man, and said to me, 'Just go once to get the document so we have it...' When he saw that I simply didn't want to, he said, 'I understand, I'll take care of it' and so I was able to stay free of it."

Ratzinger says this again in his own memoirs, printed in 1998. In his 2002 biography of the cardinal, John Allen, Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter wrote in detail about those events.
The only significant complaint that the Times makes against Ratzinger's wartime conduct is that he resisted quietly and passively, rather than having done something drastic enough to earn him a trip to a concentration camp. Of course, whenever it is said that a German failed the exceptional-resistance-to-the-Nazis test, it would behoove us all to recognize that too many Jews failed it, as well.

If he were truly a Nazi sympathizer, then it would undoubtedly have become evident during the past 60 years. Yet throughout his service in the church, Ratzinger has distinguished himself in the field of Jewish-Catholic relations.

As prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger played an instrumental role in the Vatican's revolutionary reconciliation with the Jews under John Paul II. He personally prepared Memory and Reconciliation, the 2000 document outlining the church's historical "errors" in its treatment of Jews. And as president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, Ratzinger oversaw the preparation of The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, a milestone theological explanation for the Jews' rejection of Jesus.

If that's theological anti-Semitism, then we should only be so lucky to "suffer" more of the same.
As for the Hitler Youth issue, not even Yad Vashem has considered it worthy of further investigation. Why should we?

Mere Comments: Arresting Links

These are beautiful blog sites that have received the endorsement of Touchstone Magazine on their blog under "Mere Comments" at

April 18, 2005
Arresting Links

Now and then, I check to see who’s linking to Mere Comments, and this page, Zippy the Fish, by Peter Schrock arrested my attention and led it away in handcuffs. I’m a sucker for excellent photography, but it’s also heartening to see an artist of my generation who reads Mere Comments and First Things and quotes Dante and the Psalms.

There’s something refreshing, too, about Zippy the Fish: Schrock’s ability to craft texts and images in a medium that is too often text heavy. It reminds me of Notes from a Hillside Farm, by another blogger who links to us, John Bell, an Orthodox lawyer in Virginia who raises sheep. For those of us bound to urban commutes and suburban sprawl, the vistas are just what the doctor ordered. It’s a perfect site to visit with your kids.

Though (sadly) there seems to be less photography these days, another site that does this well, and, in keeping with the pattern here, links to Mere Comments, is Jonathan and Amanda Witt’s Wittingshire.
By the way, our thanks to John, Peter, & Jonathan and Amanda, for these links. We appreciate them.

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Cardinal Ratzinger's Homily at the Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff

VATICAN CITY—April 18, 2005: Here is the text of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's homily at the Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff

At this hour of great responsibility, we hear with special consideration what the Lord says to us in his own words. From the three readings I would like to examine just a few passages which concern us directly at this time.

The first reading gives us a prophetic depiction of the person of the Messiah – a depiction which takes all its meaning from the moment Jesus reads the text in the synagogue in Nazareth, when he says: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4,21). At the core of the prophetic text we find a word which seems contradictory, at least at first sight. The Messiah, speaking of himself, says that he was sent “To announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God” (Is 61,2). We hear with joy the news of a year of favor: divine mercy puts a limit on evil – the Holy Father told us. Jesus Christ is divine mercy in person: encountering Christ means encountering the mercy of God. Christ’s mandate has become our mandate through priestly anointing. We are called to proclaim – not only with our words, but with our lives, and through the valuable signs of the sacraments, the “year of favor from the Lord”. But what does the prophet Isaiah mean when he announces the “day of vindication by our God”? In Nazareth, Jesus did not pronounce these words in his reading of the prophet’s text – Jesus concluded by announcing the year of favor. Was this, perhaps, the reason for the scandal which took place after his sermon? We do not know. In any case, the Lord gave a genuine commentary on these words by being put to death on the cross. Saint Peter says: “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross” (1 Pe 2,24). And Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians: “Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree’, that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Gal 3, 13s).

The mercy of Christ is not a cheap grace; it does not presume a trivialization of evil. Christ carries in his body and on his soul all the weight of evil, and all its destructive force. He burns and transforms evil through suffering, in the fire of his suffering love. The day of vindication and the year of favor meet in the paschal mystery, in Christ died and risen. This is the vindication of God: he himself, in the person of the Son, suffers for us. The more we are touched by the mercy of the Lord, the more we draw closer in solidarity with his suffering – and become willing to bear in our flesh “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1, 24).

In the second reading, the letter to the Ephesians, we see basically three aspects: first, the ministries and charisms in the Church, as gifts of the Lord risen and ascended into heaven. Then there is the maturing of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, as a condition and essence of unity in the body of Christ. Finally, there is the common participation in the growth of the body of Christ - of the transformation of the world into communion with the Lord.

Let us dwell on only two points. The first is the journey towards “the maturity of Christ” as it is said in the Italian text, simplifying it a bit. More precisely, according to the Greek text, we should speak of the “measure of the fullness of Christ”, to which we are called to reach in order to be true adults in the faith. We should not remain infants in faith, in a state of minority. And what does it mean to be an infant in faith? Saint Paul answers: it means “tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery” (Eph 4, 14). This description is very relevant today!

How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking… The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and “swept along by every wind of teaching”, looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.

However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an “Adult” means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth. We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith – only faith – which creates unity and takes form in love. On this theme, Saint Paul offers us some beautiful words - in contrast to the continual ups and downs of those were are like infants, tossed about by the waves: (he says) make truth in love, as the basic formula of Christian existence. In Christ, truth and love coincide. To the extent that we draw near to Christ, in our own life, truth and love merge. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like “a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal” (1 Cor 13,1).

Looking now at the richness of the Gospel reading, I would like to make only two small observations. The Lord addresses to us these wonderful words: “I no longer call you slaves…I have called you friends” (Jn 15,15). So many times we feel like, and it is true, that we are only useless servants. (cf Lk 17,10). And despite this, the Lord calls us friends, he makes us his friends, he gives us his friendship. The Lord defines friendship in a dual way. There are no secrets among friends: Christ tells us all everything he hears from the Father; he gives us his full trust, and with that, also knowledge. He reveals his face and his heart to us. He shows us his tenderness for us, his passionate love that goes to the madness of the cross. He entrusts us, he gives us power to speak in his name: “this is my body…,” “I forgive you….” He entrusts us with his body, the Church. He entrusts our weak minds and our weak hands with his truth – the mystery of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the mystery of God who “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (Jn 3, 16). He made us his friends – and how do we respond?

The second element with which Jesus defines friendship is the communion of wills. For the Romans “Idem velle – idem nolle,” (same desires, same dislikes ) was also the definition of friendship. “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (Jn 15, 14). Friendship with Christ coincides with what is said in the third request of the Our Father: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. At the hour in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus transformed our rebellious human will in a will shaped and united to the divine will. He suffered the whole experience of our autonomy – and precisely bringing our will into the hands of God, he have us true freedom: “Not my will, but your will be done." In this communion of wills our redemption takes place: being friends of Jesus to become friends of God. How much more we love Jesus, how much more we know him, how much more our true freedom grows as well as our joy in being redeemed. Thank you, Jesus, for your friendship!

The other element of the Gospel to which I would like to refer is the teaching of Jesus on bearing fruit: “I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (Jn 15, 16). It is here that is expressed the dynamic existence of the Christian, the apostle: I chose you to go and bear fruit….” We must be inspired by a holy restlessness: restlessness to bring to everyone the gift of faith, of friendship with Christ. In truth, the love and friendship of God was given to us so that it would also be shared with others. We have received the faith to give it to others – we are priests meant to serve others. And we must bring a fruit that will remain. All people want to leave a mark which lasts. But what remains? Money does not. Buildings do not, nor books. After a certain amount of time, whether long or short, all these things disappear. The only thing which remains forever is the human soul, the human person created by God for eternity. The fruit which remains then is that which we have sowed in human souls – love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching the heart, words which open the soul to joy in the Lord. Let us then go to the Lord and pray to him, so that he may help us bear fruit which remains. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God.

In conclusion, returning again to the letter to the Ephesians, which says with words from Psalm 68 that Christ, ascending into heaven, “gave gifts to men” (Eph 4,8). The victor offers gifts. And these gifts are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Our ministry is a gift of Christ to humankind, to build up his body – the new world. We live out our ministry in this way, as a gift of Christ to humanity! But at this time, above all, we pray with insistence to the Lord, so that after the great gift of Pope John Paul II, he again gives us a pastor according to his own heart, a pastor who guides us to knowledge in Christ, to his love and to true joy. Amen.

Fr. Patrick Reardon: The Garden of Gethsemane

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The Garden of Gethsemane
Fr. Patrick Reardon
Palm Sunday

Although the Gospel of John does not record the Lord's agony in the garden, it does include several texts that put us in mind of that scene. These Johannine passages reflect, furthermore, the sentiments and resolution expressed by Jesus during the agony as recorded in the other Gospels.

For example, our Lord's determination to obey the Father's will, a resolve so essential to His prayer in the garden, is expressed earlier in John in what He says to the disciples at the Samaritan well: "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work" (4:34). In the next chapter of John, Jesus speaks again of this intended obedience: "I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me" (5:30).

Exactly the same resolution on Jesus' part appears in the chapter after that: "I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (6:38). Two chapters later Jesus says of His Father, "I always do those things that please Him" (8:29).

In John's Last Supper discourse, Jesus explains that this obedience to the Father is inspired by love: "I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do" (14:31).
In John's Gospel, Jesus' obedience to the Father is directed to glorifying the Father: "He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him" (7:18).

This theme of Jesus' obedience to the Father's will takes on a more explicitly active tone in John, because this evangelist goes to same length to portray Jesus as disposing of His own destiny. That is to say, John describes Jesus, not as passively submitting to the Father's will, but resolutely and actively seeking it. In the parable of the good shepherd, Jesus announces, "I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father" (10:17-18).

This more active quality of the Lord's obedience is likewise indicated in the manner of Jesus' arrest in the garden. When His would-be captors came to seize Him, they were unable until He gave them leave to do so. Thus, when Jesus identified Himself to them, John records, "they drew back and fell to the ground" (18:6). Truly, no one could take His life. It remained His, to be freely laid down in obedience to the Father's command.

In a sort of culminating scene, where the language is very reminiscent of the agony in the garden, John again writes of Jesus' set purpose to glorify God by obedience. In the chapter immediately before the Last Supper, the Lord speaks of His coming death as the burial of a grain of wheat in the ground (12:24-25). Next he describes that death as being "lifted up," a reference to His crucifixion. ("This He said, signifying by what death He would die"-12:33.)

Between these two descriptions of His approaching death, the Lord speaks of His distress thereat. "Now My soul is troubled" (12:27), says He, in a sentence that reminds us of His agony as portrayed in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:33; Luke 22:44). Even in this troubled state, however, Jesus does not pray that the hour of His passion will pass Him by: "Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name" (John 12:27-28).

This reference to Jesus' troubled soul is as close as John comes to an equivalent of the Synoptics' agony in the garden. Even as He faces death by crucifixion, the Jesus in John's Gospel remains ascendant in the circumstances of that death. He will not pray to be spared the hour of His passion. With complete command of His own destiny, He lays down His life out of love for the Father.

When the hour of the Cross arrives, Jesus and His Father speak to One Another only of glory: "'Father, glorify Your name.' Then a voice came from heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again" (12:28). And finally, "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You. . . .. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was" (17:1,5).

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon is an Orthodox priest in the Antiochian Archdiocese of America and serves on the editorial board Touchstone magazine.
Posted 16-Apr-05

Michelle Malkin: Who Will Pay the Estate Tax?

April 19, 2005 11:02 AM

House Republicans voted last week to permanently repeal the estate tax.

This prompted the usual complaints from newspaper editorial writers about tax cuts for the super-rich. As the New York Times editorial board put it, "Repeal would shield the estates of the very wealthiest Americans from the tax.... [M]ost Americans never even have to think about the estate tax, let alone worry about it coming on top of some other tax."

You can see similar arguments here.

Under current law, the exemption for estate tax will be $1 million per individual in the year 2011 and thereafter. Supporters of the status quo may think that's an extraordinary amount of money, but in a growing number of cities, million-dollar homes aren't exceptional.

Like the Alternative Minimum Tax, the estate tax will affect a growing number of Americans as prices creep up. If home prices increase 7% a year, a home worth $500,000 today will be worth nearly $1 million in 2015 and more than $2 million in 2026.

As this Bethesda, Md., letter-writer notes in this morning's Post, "It is not inconceivable that even government employees who habitually max out contributions to their thrift savings plans and make other wise financial choices could hit the trigger numbers by 2011, especially with the aid of inflation."


From Ankle Biting Pundits:
Don't Be Misled By MSM's Distortions On Federal Estate Tax
Making a biblical argument against federal death taxes

Christopher Hitchens: Two Ibrahims and Two Women

Four individuals who took on the powerful.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, April 18, 2005, at 11:13 AM PT

The annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum, sponsored by the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution and the Foreign Ministry of Qatar, is no way to begin a sentence, let alone an article. One prepares oneself for another "interface," where liberal Americans and "moderate" Muslims agree to wear fixed smiles and make nice; the sort of meeting where ex-diplomats and future technocrats, laboriously using each other's first names, divide the pie chart. Actually, though, I am very grateful to have been invited this year and very glad that I went.

There is, for one thing, the interest of visiting Qatar itself, which I had done before and would do again. On one small peninsula on the forbidding coast of Saudi Arabia, a tiny emirate plays host to Al Jazeera and to the key U.S. base in the region. Both the network and the base used to be on Saudi soil until they were, in different ways, asked to move. Qatar itself is also a hereditary Wahabbist monarchy, but several years ago the current emir decided to depose his autocratic father, to abolish censorship, to allow women to drive and to vote and to run for office, and to invite critical Arab intellectuals to come and call upon him. The immigrant workers of the country, mostly Indian, are allowed to follow their own religions and receive a much better deal than their semi-indentured fellows in Riyadh and Jeddah. Since Qatar holds an astonishing amount of the world's natural gas—a much less toxic resource than oil—and is now perhaps the richest nation per capita on the face of the planet, Sheik Hamad al-Thani took a look at the map a little while ago; noticed the propensity of Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia to muscle in on small and wealthy states; and put himself under American protection. He also ranged himself on the side of regime change in the area. There's no need to idealize this process, which involved a good deal of self-interest, but it remains the fact that Qatar has become a sort of cross between Switzerland and Hong Kong in the region and makes an excellent listening post if you want to pick up on its debates.

I am not allowed to report on any of the sessions at the conference, which is held on an unattributable basis, but to hang around in the lobbies is to have a chance to meet some astonishing people. I shan't soon forget my conversation with Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the new Iraqi national security adviser, who described how, in the preceding days, he had sat in meetings with Muqtada Sadr's few parliamentary deputies and with representatives of the Iraqi police and the coalition, to arrange that the Sadr-sponsored mass protest against the occupation went off peacefully. "Just like Trafalgar Square," as he put it, memorably if a trifle optimistically.

But the two Ibrahims were the stars. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the founder of the Ibn Khaldun Center in Cairo, is the moral and intellectual hero of the Egyptian civil society movement. His long imprisonment, trial, and eventual vindication—for the crime of monitoring Egypt's "elections" and of trying to take objective opinion polls—was in some ways the catalyst for the developments that are now occurring in his country. He described sitting in prison, partly kept from freezing by an embroidered coverlet that had arrived with a letter from Nelson Mandela (who knows how chilly jails can be, even in hot countries), and writing an open letter to Saddam Hussein telling him to resign for the good of the Iraqi people. This must have seemed quixotic at best at the time; the jailers certainly thought he was crazy. But last year in Qatar, Dr. Ibrahim helped promulgate the Manifesto of the Muslim Democrats, and this year, he says, he has seen more progress and more protest than it would then have been possible to imagine.

As we were chatting over coffee, an Iraqi passerby, not connected with the conference, came up to introduce himself. He was almost crying as he thanked Dr. Ibrahim for being one of the few Arab voices to have opposed Saddam from way back. "We shall never forget you. Our lives were meaningless. Happiness was impossible. We could not be human. Now our life is more risky but worth living." If these words were uttered by an outsider, they might sound trite, but I tell you that there is a tone of voice than cannot be faked.

Anwar Ibrahim may also be known to you by reputation. He is the Malaysian reformist—once deputy prime minister and finance minister—who was imprisoned on disgustingly and transparently trumped-up charges, including the bizarre accusation of "sodomy," in 1998. It took almost six years for him to be acquitted and released and he, too, has a Mandela story. ("When we met, I told him that mine had been a relatively short walk to freedom.") He has since resumed his public advocacy of increased democracy and his critique of the Islamist self-pity that blames all local faults on Western conspiracies.

Both of these men take a positive view of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who welcomed the collapse of the Baathists in public when we spoke on the same platform in New York two years ago, says that, however unfortunately, the region needed a "shock" from outside. Anwar Ibrahim says that he still opposes the invasion on principle but cannot deny that it has had a positive effect in the Arab and wider Muslim world. These witnesses are brave people whose words command attention.


My friend Marla Ruzicka was murdered by a suicide bomber in Baghdad on Saturday night. She had been working bravely and cheerfully to identify and help the civilian victims of the war and had pursued the efforts of her little organization CIVIC, the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, long after many humanitarian activists had given up and fled. Politically, she was somewhere between Global Exchange and, as she had been when risking her life in Afghanistan, and we had some disagreements. But her concern for the victims was deep and sincere (whatever happened to those "human shields" now that they could be useful?), and she and her Iraqi colleague Faiz, apparently slain in the same attack, will be sorely mourned. The "insurgents" couldn't have known that they were murdering her, but then, neither could they have cared.

Andrea Dworkin, who was pelted and ridiculed for decades of her life, was another of those rare people who feel other people's pain as if it were their own. When she first sent me one of her books, I was all ready to snigger. But she could write, and think, and argue, and it was often a pleasure to disagree violently with her, which is more than I can say for some of her detractors.

Like many clever and tormented people, she had the gift of getting the gist of supposedly complex questions. It wasn't OK with her that President Clinton had a special staff of private dicks to "handle" and to slander truth-telling women; it wasn't OK with her that Serbia used rape as a weapon of ethnic cleansing; and she wasn't neutral against a jihadist threat that wanted, and wants, to enslave and torture females. That she could be denounced as a "conservative" for holding any of those positions says much about the left to which she used to belong. If she was indeed crazy, I wish she had bitten more of her twisted sisters.

Related in Slate
Wondering how to pronounce "Qatar"? Brendan I. Koerner explained in December 2002.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and a regular contributor to Slate. His most recent book is Love, Poverty and War: Journeys and Essays.

Monday, April 18, 2005

George F. Will: The Church's Battle With Modernity

April 17, 2005

The astonishing pilgrimage of Europeans to Vatican City for the most attended funeral in history obscured a stark fact confronting the conclave that tomorrow begins selecting the next pope: Vatican City is 109 acres of faith in a European sea of unbelief.

Poles, especially, traveled to Rome to honor John Paul II. But what was said of Georges Clemenceau – that he had one illusion, France, and one disillusion, mankind, including the French – might, with some exaggeration, be said of John Paul II and Poland. He was vexed by the zeal with which Poles, liberated from the asceticism inflicted by communism, embraced consumerism, materialism and hedonism. From Catholic Ireland to Catholic Spain to Poland, the most Catholic nation, the trends of contraception, divorce and abortion are moving against Catholic teaching.

The challenge confronting the church can be expressed in one word: modernity. The church preaches that freedom is life lived in conformity to God's will as manifested in revelation and interpreted by the church. Modernity teaches that freedom is the sovereignty of the individual's will – personal volition that is spontaneous, unconditioned, inviolable and self-legitimizing.
John Paul II's mastery of the presentational aspect of the papacy – a mastery dependent on two modern technologies, television and jet aircraft – may cause the conclave to seek a candidate with similar skills. But the substance of what he presented did not amount to accommodation with the culture of modernity.

In America, a market-driven society, there is a religion market in which the most successful competitors for congregations are churches with clear doctrinal and strict moral positions. For these churches, the "crisis of Christianity" is congestion in their parking lots.

Christianity is a varied and complex structure – theological and institutional – erected on a foundation of biblical prophecies and reports of the activities of Jesus. For two millennia these prophecies and reports have been, to say no more, subject to various interpretations. Hence the search, from the earliest days of Christianity, for sources of authoritative interpretation. That search produced great councils – Nicaea, Trent – and the post-Reformation papacy. When the conclave begins, a European epoch may begin to end.

It took 455 years to pry the papacy out of Italian hands. Now, after 26 years of a pope from Eastern Europe, the church that is withering in Europe is flourishing in the Southern Hemisphere. There materialism and consumerism are less powerful – but people passionately desire the affluence that makes materialism and consumerism possible.

Europe itself is withering. The day of John Paul II's funeral, the European Union's statistics agency reported that the decline of birthrates means that within five years deaths will exceed births in the EU. By 2013, Italy's population will begin to decline; the next year, Germany's will begin to decline. After 2010, Europe's population growth will be entirely from immigration. By 2025, not even immigration will prevent declining fertility from accelerating what one historian calls the largest "sustained reduction in European population since the Black Death of the 14th century."

In his new book "The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America and Politics Without God," George Weigel, biographer of John Paul II, argues that Europe's "demographic suicide" will cause its welfare states to buckle and is creating a "vacuum into which Islamic immigrants are flowing." Since 1970, the 20 million legal Islamic immigrants equal the combined populations of Ireland, Denmark and Belgium.

"What," Weigel asks, "is happening when an entire continent, wealthier and healthier than ever before, declines to create the human future in the most elemental sense, by creating a next generation?" His diagnosis is that Europe's deepening anemia is a consequence of living on what he considers the thin gruel of secular humanism that excludes transcendent reference points for cultural and political life. Such reference points are, he thinks, prerequisites for freedom understood as "the capacity to choose wisely and act well as a matter of habit."

Perhaps. But Weigel also argues that Europe's crisis of civilizational morale was catalyzed by World War I. So Europe's retreat from religion might reflect a reasonable weariness and wariness born of four centuries of religious wars and convulsions wrought by the political religions of fascism and communism.

Weigel doubts that it is possible to "sustain a democratic political community absent the transcendent moral reference points for ordering public life that Christianity offers the political community." Absent a reconversion of the continent, Europeans, who – like many Americans – find the injection of transcendence into politics frightening, are going to find out whether Weigel is right.

Mr. Will can be reached via e-mail at