Friday, September 24, 2021

Toxic Religion

Is there such a thing as "toxic religion"? What does this mean? What about the Catholic Faith?

This article at Religion Dispatches caught my eye.And it's tempting to dismiss it, given that there are so many assumptions the author treats as self-evident that are anything but. The most obvious one, it seems to me, is this: if you want to maintain that truth can't be known certainly, then how do you avoid the conclusion that what is truly right and wrong is likewise uncertain? And once you concede that, how do you take any kind of righteous stance against "wrong" or "evil"? Aren't you really conceding that a statement like, "X is wrong" or, "X is evil" means nothing more than, "____ is wrong/evil for me"? It's nothing more than a preference, and why should your preference be imposed? 

If you are someone who can't concede that, at some point, there must be absolute moral norms, then you won't get much from this post. I'm interested in other questions beyond that.

So back to this idea of "toxic" religion. What might that be?

People who talk that way have four things in mind I think:

1) Specific teachings that are "hateful" or "hurtful" toward individuals, because of "who they are" or what they, themselves want or seek.

Most of the time, this is about sex. If you say that some sexual behaviors are immoral, and that being oriented toward those behaviors is unnatural, that's deemed hateful and "toxic." Similarly, if you insist that ones sexual identity is rooted in a fixed reality of biology -- i.e., male and female -- that too is deemed "toxic." 

2) Hostility to free inquiry and thought; being open to what science might tell us about evolution, climate change or vaccines, to cite three common points of dispute.

3) Groups or religions or religious leaders that are too "controlling" -- either in what questions you ask, what beliefs you hold, or what choices you make. 

4) Too much emphasis on guilt.

So let's take these in reverse order.


This is true! 

Christianity certainly talks about sin and, therefore, guilt. We need Jesus because we can't find eternal happiness without him: that's the basic point. Jesus himself said it, and so did the Apostles; the Gospels all say it; and this is what "orthodox" Christianity teaches to this moment, whether big-O Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant.  Some Christians find this a bit much, so you have a more recent idea of near- or total universalism: we'll all end up OK in eternity, so relax.

Meanwhile, there is a legitimately "toxic" tendency -- certainly among Catholics -- to overemphasize sin and guilt. You can see this in many movements through the ages, and any priest hearing confessions can explain scrupulosity to you, and what struggles he faces in trying to dispel it.

Most priests, I think, wrestle with how they frame their homilies and teaching, so as to avoid feeding either extreme. When I stand up in the pulpit, I know some portion of my listeners are "don't worry, be happy" sorts who could use a little bit of fire-and-brimstone; but also listening are fretful folks who fear God will be angry if they stay home from Sunday Mass because, yes, they were sick, but they weren't that sick. Many times I've wanted to give two homilies; and I don't want the first group to hear what I say to the second, and vice-versa.

Meanwhile, there are priests, and particular groups in the Catholic Church, who seem heedless of these issues. Plenty seem to be in the "don't worry" camp; how can they miss all the warnings Jesus gives in the Gospels? Still others write articles and produce videos and booklets that make me wonder: have they never spent time with a scrupulous person? Their exceedingly detailed examinations of conscience are absolute torture for such folks, and end up being training in scrupulosity.

That said, let's admit some core of this complaint is really arising from bad conscience. 

Who enjoys being reminded of ones favorite sins? We're told the Church is "homophobic" and "transphobic" and is "obsessed with pelvic issues." As far as I know, the Seventh Commandment ("Thou shalt not steal") is still a consensus teaching among all varieties of Christians.  While I haven't done that many homilies talking about stealing as such; I also haven't seen many Catholics demanding we "rethink" this doctrine and "bring it up to date." Nevertheless, the Seventh Commandment gets quite a lot of attention from bishops and priests, as regards just wages, questions of "fair" taxation, distribution of benefits to the poor and powerless, issues of "environmental justice," ethical business practices, and so forth.

Yet I am not aware of us being labeled "kleptophobic" or of many saying we're "obsessed" with the issue.  


Again, this is a fair observation. Throughout history some religious movements and charismatic leaders have exerted too much control over the lives of their adherents. 

A very high-profile, recent example would be the Legion of Christ, with it's clearly toxic founder, Marciel Maciel, who used his order to conceal horrendous abuses, including sexual abuse, but also manipulation of his members, who were bound to a vow not to voice criticism. (This is not to demean the many upright people who sought out the Legion in pursuit of holiness, and who sought vocations in the order for good intentions.) 

Is this a particular feature of the Catholic Church, or Christianity in general? It's an old attack on Catholics, that we're all under the control of the pope -- or the Jesuits! -- or our parish priest. I've joked from the pulpit many times that I wish I had anything like the "power" over people -- or weather! -- that people imagine! 

But, seriously, a fair minded observer would notice no pope in almost 200 years has operated without lots of public disagreement; it has been a long time since most bishops "thundered" or "threatened" about anything, and even when they do, few tremble. Has Speaker Nancy Pelosi been the least bit intimidated by her bishop's warnings? 

To be frank, this problem is a pitfall of splitting off from the main body of the Church; and that splitting off can happen precisely when bishops, or the pope himself, has tried to address that unhealthy level of control. When people can set themselves up, independent of any hierarchy or denomination, there's not much control left.

A little tour of recent history -- especially regarding political movements -- will amply demonstrate this is human problem, not particular to religion.

Hostility to inquiry, i.e., science

Again, there is some truth here, to this extent: there are certainly Christians, including Catholics, who buy into the idea that "Science" is contrary to faith, and they are dismissive of scientific ideas that they don't prefer. This includes those who reject evolutionary theory out of hand, and endorse a "young Earth" form of Creationism; also those who are skeptical of climate change, and lately, of vaccines. 

Why this is so is an interesting question, but I want to stay on this main path. 

Nevertheless, I absolutely dispute the idea that any of this is a product of Christianity. "But what about Galileo, hmm?" 

Well, let's set this straight. Without defending how he was treated, the issue with Galileo was not -- it was never -- about studying and learning, or even drawing conclusions. Rather, it was very specifically about drawing theological conclusions. That last thing is what it seemed, to church officials at the time, Galileo was doing. Notice his punishment wasn't death, or to stop learning, but to be silent. Again, not defending it, but let's be clear about that.

And, for that matter, let's also notice that the punishment of Galileo wasn't an exercise of papal teaching authority; it wasn't an infallible declaration. And the proof that it was an abberation is seen in there being pretty few examples to cite apart from Galileo. 

And that was 500 years ago. So all you prove by that example is how terrible it was . . . 500 years ago.


Meanwhile, you have to wear some massive blinders if you look at the sweep of history since the first proclamation of the Gospel to the world on that first Pentecost Sunday, almost precisely 2,000 years ago, and say that as Christianity spread, it brought darkness and superstition and hostility to free thought. 

Is the truth ever "hateful"?

Allowing for all the terrible things that arise from human sinfulness (which is a Christian teaching; if Christianity is wrong about the pervasiveness of sin, how then do we explain the last few thousands years of world history, including but also beyond Christianity?), there remains the BIG QUESTION: is there truth? And if so, WHAT IS IT?

Until you answer that, how can you say any particular conclusion reached by Christianity, about human nature or human destiny -- and the choices that may determine that destiny -- are "hurtful" or "hateful"?

We're told a lot lately that it's "hateful" to say that sex apart from that between a man and woman -- and which is open to the transmission of life -- is wrong. Sinful. Harmful, perhaps in this life, and certainly regarding eternity with God.

Is it hateful...if it's true?

If it IS true, wouldn't it be hateful to say otherwise; or to say nothing?

Let me cite a famous atheist, Penn Jillette. In the video below, at about the 3:30 mark, he asks, "How much to have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible, and not tell [other people] that?"

This is as good a place to concede the obvious: there are some genuinely hateful people, cloaking their hate in religion. Fred Phelps and his merry band of funeral-crashers come to mind, as do the Taliban. 

God help me, I'll never defend either of these groups -- and I can think of others, as can you, to add to this list -- but you know, this only emphasizes the importance of my main point: what, actually, is the truth?

Do you really think it's a workable strategy to tell Phelps, or the Taliban, or the Iranian mullahs, etc., that there simply is no absolute truth? There is no God? There is no hell to warn people against or to save them from? Really? Explain to me why you think that's going to work. How do you propose to convince the Taliban of this?

All you really can prove is that it's all a matter of what provisional, operational "truth" each of us prefers. Mr. Taliban very much prefers his, thank you very much, Infidel! Why shouldn't he?

"Because it's mean." And what is that -- other than your preference?

No, I really think these examples only make it the more important, instead, to say, yes, there is absolute truth, from which we derive certain absolutes of right and wrong, and here's how your actions, Mr. Phelps, Mr. Taliban, measure up.

Mr. Phelps says he's thinking about eternity. So am I. And if you want to counter Mr. Phelps, you better do so as well. 

Back to sex

To large numbers of people, it seems absurd to say that God cares much about human sex lives. But once you start thinking about it, no one could say he doesn't care at all. At least some sexual choices must be wrong, right? So how do you know? Where do you draw the line?

Does it really work to draw it at "consent" -- when, first, this seems to be rather tricky to establish? Not to get gross, but some sexual activities like to play around on the fringes of consent; and how many of the accusations of sexual predation hinge on consent being withdrawn? If you actually read some of the cases arising from college campuses, this is the issue: one party says, in effect, "I stopped consenting" and other party responds, "but that's not what you said at the time."

And, really, are you actually content to say that it's only about consent? People consent to all manner of destructive behaviors with diet and smoking and so forth. Is telling people to eat right, exercise and to stop smoking and taking other drugs "hateful" -- because, after all, they chose these things, right?

What this is all about are the basic assumptions we hold -- which, if we are honest, we may never have challenged, and may not want to. One of those assumptions is that, regardless of whatever bad choices we make in life, it'll all wash out fine in the end. God only sends a few really awful people to hell, if there is even a hell. For the rest of us -- if not all of us -- we end up just fine. So by that measure, who cares what you get up to with sex or drugs or anything else?

Or we operate from the assumption of extreme modesty about what we can know. That is, we say, well, who really knows, so who really can say? Except is that what you do when it comes to caring for the environment? People who are militantly agnostic about sexual choices pivot 180 degrees at the speed of light when the subject is addressing climate change. And I'm not against battling climate change; I'm just asking, which is it? We can't really know, or, yes we can?

So, yeah, there can be toxic religion. That's bad. But there can be a more fundamental toxicity: the closing of oneself off from even the possibility of truth. Either it's out there -- and there actually is a "there" out there...

Or else you are all alone. Nothing at all is certain. Nothing. At. All.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Change is coming. Change our hearts to get ready (Sunday homily)

 Today I’m going to talk about the “Beacons of Light” 

reorganization project that is underway. 

Let me lay this out very plainly:

Like it or not, change is coming. 

Some people are getting too nervous about it – please don’t do that! 

This isn’t the end of the world, or even close.

But there are others who aren’t paying attention; it’s a boring topic. 

Yet, when change comes these folks will be surprised and angry, 

saying no one told them! 

So: I’m telling you: change is coming! What change?

Archbishop Schnurr is preparing to organize all 200 or so parishes 

in the diocese under the leadership of 50 pastors. 

Right now he’s weighing the possibilities, and in about ten days,

he’ll lay out a tentative plan with all the priests.

On October 1, his proposal will be published online for all to see. 

Then you and everyone will have 20 days to post comments.

After that he will announce a final decision 

and then this will all start being put into effect in 2022.

Then begins several years of adjustment and adaptation.

All this means that most likely, starting in July, 

this parish will begin sharing a pastor with several other parishes. 

This arrangement will probably mean a second priest 

will be assigned to help take care of the new “family” of parishes.

Why is this happening?

In many places, pews are empty and those parishes are struggling.

Meanwhile, we have 110 pastors in the diocese.

Fifty-eight of them – more than half – are over 60, 

which means a big wave of retirements during the next decade. 

The Archbishop is acting now to get ahead of that challenge.

Right now, my purpose is to alert you,

and to provide all the information I can. 

Please read my weekly column; I will share information there, 

including links to websites where you will find more. 

If you have questions, please ask. 

I can’t promise to have the answer, but I don’t mind the question.

I can tell you that I’m sharing everything I know;

I’m not holding anything back, not keeping anything secret.

But I am just hitting key points. If you want every last detail, 

I urge you to go to the Archdiocese’ website and dig deep as you want.

That web address will be in the bulletin.

Meanwhile, keep praying: this is a great time to heed the advice 

of St. James and the Lord in the Gospel: 

to keep our egos in check, and to try to appreciate the bigger picture.

For example, there will be changes in Mass schedules.

That will cause a lot of grinding of teeth.

For this parish, the biggest change will be sharing your priest 

with several other parishes. 

It’s been over a century since we had to do that. 

Early on, our priest would have duties in Versailles, later in Piqua.

When a priest is asked to shift from being a pastor to one parish, 

to leading three or four, you can’t expect him to operate 

as if he were three people. 

He can’t do the work of three people. No one can.

He shouldn’t be expected to attend three times as many meetings;

and why would you want him to?

And when you take three or four parishes that were on their own, 

and ask them to operate as one “family,”

everyone is going to have to adapt and be flexible.

As you can imagine, I’m thinking about this A LOT.

And I will predict that when the time comes, 

some changes will be made that will have people saying 

they can’t see the reason, and that will breed frustration.

Let me give you an example.

It occurred to me that our weekly bulletin will have to change. 

Instead of having a bulletin all about St. Remy,

while the other parishes have their own bulletins,

we’ll need to start having a common bulletin for the whole “family.”

Why is that?

Because one of the things that will breed distrust really fast 

is if everyone isn’t operating from the same information.

If you have three or four parishes that are now one “family,”

they need to plan together, not independently.

And that means everyone needs to have all the same information.

If you keep each parish isolated from the others, it won’t work.

I can’t give you a comprehensive list of all that will change.

It’s going to take time to figure it out.

I’m simply trying to give you a sense of it, so that you can prepare.

There’s no denying the negatives of this, but there are some positives.

Not every parish has a well organized religious education program;

lots of parishes’ youth programs are minimal.

Grouping parishes together this way will share these benefits,

truly making us brighter “beacons” of Christ’s light in this area.

Remember: our Catholic faith is NOT changing.

The sacraments are not changing. Jesus Christ is not changing!

If we have to adapt and stretch and even make sacrifices, 

that’s something the Catholic Church has had to do in every century, since the beginning. 

Why should you and I expect anything different?

Sunday, September 12, 2021

No Christ -- no life -- without the Cross (Sunday homily)

When you separate sex and baby-making, there's nothing wrong with this picture.

In the Gospel, Peter is offended 

by the idea of the Messiah going to the cross. 

But then, isn’t what Peter says just what we might say?

If someone says to us, “I’ve got a terrible path ahead of me,”

wouldn’t we say, “God forbid! No such thing shall ever happen to you”?

And yet Jesus whips around and says, 

“Get behind me, Satan!” 

He’s not rejecting Peter; but he is warning him 

of how misled, and ultimately fruitless, his thinking is. 

And notice, Jesus doesn’t say get away from me, 

but rather, “get behind me”—

he still wanted Peter with him, but not as a roadblock.

How does this apply to us?

Well, I think about how some people respond when someone says, 

“I am thinking about being a priest,” or entering religious life.”

And parents and grandparents will say, oh no, that will be too hard; 

you’ll be lonely, you won’t make much money. 

They try to talk their children out of it, too much of the cross.

I have known great joy as a priest.

But if anyone wants an easy path, don’t be a priest;

we do NOT need any priests who want an easy path. Not even one.

To be a priest is to unite yourself with Jesus the High Priest, 

and his priesthood is the Cross.

The joy I have as a priest is seeing how life is born from the Cross.

I get to see that in people’s lives every single day.

Next Jesus then goes on to say – to everyone –

Whoever comes after me must take up his cross and follow me. 

“Whoever”! That’s every single one of us.

Parents, I want you to know what Karen, Mark Travis and I –

what our staff, and our many, talented volunteer catechists –

are telling our boys and girls in our religious education classes,

and in our youth programs.

We’re telling them that to be a Christian man or woman 

isn’t to run away from the Cross, but to face it. 

That’s where virtue happens. That’s how we become saints.

This is a good time to talk about a part of our Faith 

that is most misunderstood, and most widely disregarded, 

and yet I think it will prove, in years to come, 

to be the most prophetic. 

I mean our teaching – which goes back to the beginning of Christianity, by the way – 

about contraception and openness to life: 

that all acts of marital love between husband and wife 

must be open to life;

and that life must have its beginning, 

not in a laboratory, but in a couple’s act of love.

Of course I realize being a parent is a sacrifice. 

So many of you bear witness to this every day;

and I will always remember the sacrifices my parents made, 

which I had to reach adulthood to understand fully. 

But to me, that only proves the truth of this teaching: 

because notice, it puts the cross right at the center of marriage. 

How can a Christian marriage be otherwise? 

How can a home and a family be Christian, 

without the Cross right at the center? 

So there is either the sacrifices of having a larger family, 

or the sacrifices of times of self-denial 

that are part of Natural Family Planning. 

And of course this is a challenge, I won’t minimize that.

But what doesn’t make sense is to say 

“this teaching can’t be true, because it’s too sacrificial.” 

I see no way to square that with what we just heard Jesus say.

And before I move on, let me state something clearly:

all the various ways to make these acts of love sterile are mortal sins. 

Let’s go back to Jesus’ words: 

You and I can’t be his disciple without the Cross.

As much as we might like to, it simply won’t work.

Bishop Fulton Sheen once explained powerfully 

what happens when you separate the Christ and the Cross.

If you try to have Christ without the Cross, 

you end up with cheap sentimentality. 

This is the Jesus so many say they admire – “oh, isn’t he nice!”

But why would you give your life for Hallmark Card pieties?

Then Sheen talked about the alternative: a cross without Jesus.

In his time, Bishop Sheen cited communism, 

but the point can easily be made about all kinds of movements

that invite people to discipline, self-denial 

and dedication to something greater than oneself. 

In our comfort-rich but meaning-impoverished culture, 

this is attractive.

You can see many today who build their lives around various causes.

This explains why so many are drawn to Islam, 

and this includes many conversions happening in American prisons.

The trouble, as Sheen said, 

is that the Cross without Christ is authoritarian and cruel; 

conversion without love and forgiveness only means conformity. 

There is death but no resurrection.

Saturday was 9-11, and we remembered those events of 20 years ago.

Followers of a Cross-without-Christ flew those planes into the Towers,  

saying that the world must be purified.

A Christ-without-the-Cross looks on in horror, but does nothing. 

Those who ran into the fire showed us: 

no one has greater love than this: to lay down ones life for another.

There are lots of reasons to recoil from the Cross as Peter did.

But there is no other way to real life.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

'May I attend the wedding?' Guide for Catholics

This article by Father Francis Hoffman (via Steve Ray) is very well done, and states everything clearly and succinctly.

The only thing I would add is a little depth to his third case: of nominally or lapsed Catholics who do not marry in a Catholic wedding. Consider the following case, which is very common:

A lapsed Catholic who is free to marry seeks to marry a non-Catholic, who likewise is free to marry. The Catholic has no particular desire, unfortunately, to practice his or her Catholic Faith. If the Catholic marries without benefit of the Catholic form of marriage, that marriage is treated as invalid by the Church, although -- as Father Hoffman says, it is potentially valid.

But before you say, then a Catholic should not attend that wedding, unless the Catholic party remedies this situation, let me explain something: there may not be any way -- in good conscience -- for the Catholic party to remedy it! Let me elaborate.

Suppose you tell your lapsed-Catholic friend, "look, we can fix this. Come with me to see Father Friendly, who will explain how you can be validly married. You can even be married at the park as you planned, since your intended is not Catholic, so whatever form of marriage s/he prefers can be an option -- with the bishop's dispensation."

Your lapsed-Catholic friend agrees, the couple meets with Father. In the course of that meeting, Father will explain everything, including that the Catholic party -- marrying a non-Catholic -- must make two promises:

Do you reaffirm your faith in Jesus Christ, and intend to live that faith as a Catholic?

Will you do all in your power to share your faith with your children by having them baptized and raised as Catholics?

Do you see the problem?

Here it is: we saw above that this lapsed-Catholic does not desire to practice the Catholic faith. Perhaps s/he does not believe in Jesus. Perhaps s/he has joined another religion, or simply has no faith at all.

The only way this marriage can be "recognized" is either the lapsed-Catholic must believe -- that is, undergo conversion -- or else, answer insincerely. (And don't doubt for a moment that happens!)

Does that seem just to you? Do you think that is the intent of Catholic norms on marriage, to say that if you lapse from your faith, you may never enter into a valid marriage?

At one time, a provision in canon law specifically said that someone who formally defected from the Catholic Faith was not bound to the Catholic form of marriage; that was intended, I think, for such situations. This provision, however, was deleted. Why? Because that deletion solved a knotty problem: Catholics who defected from the faith came to their senses, and sought to return to the faith -- and perhaps what helped them wake up was realizing they'd entered into a marriage (outside the church) hastily and without care, and now that marriage was a wreck. Alas, the marriage was presumed valid, and they had to go through the arduous process of asking for a declaration that it was otherwise -- i.e., null.

Since such situations often involved a lot of immaturity, the sense was that by treating such marriages as invalid -- for lack of form -- then the Catholic who is now back to his/her senses can either resolve the problem of a foolish (and invalid) marriage easily; or else seek the Church's help in that marriage being recognized as valid.

However understandable that concern was, it created a new problem which I highlighted. How is that to be resolved? Are we to press people to make insincere declarations of faith?

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Two words to say it all: what will you say? (Sunday homily)

 Just as a change of pace, I’m going to tell a joke.

There’s this man and he decides to join a religious community. 

It is very strict and observes total silence; no one speaks at all.

After six months, he meets with the superior, 

and then, he can say just two words. 

So the superior calls him in, and asks for his two words:

“Bad food,” he says. 

The superior nods, and sends him back to his room to keep praying.

Another six months go by, and he meets the abbot again,

who asks for his two words: “Hard bed.”

The abbot nods and sends him back to his room.

Another six months go by, and the abbot calls him back a third time.

This time his two words are, “I quit.”

The abbot responds sadly, “I can’t say that I’m surprised; 

ever since you got here, all you’ve done is complain!”

What if all you got to say were two words.

Two words to tell people what you stand for,

what matters most in your life? 

What two words would you choose?

Friday, September 03, 2021

No, the Supreme Court did not uphold Texas' heartbeat law.

This week a new law went into effect in Texas, outlawing most abortions after the unborn child's sixth week of life. The not-very-bright, never-thinking-independently talking heads and professional shriekers all did their thing, especially when the U.S. Supreme Court did not do anything to block the new law. As a result, this looks like a big victory for the prolife cause.

Well, hold on.

First, here's why the U.S. Supreme Court didn't do anything. Normally, when a court blocks a law, what it actually does is issue an injunction stopping individuals from enforcing the law. Most of the time, those individuals are office holders: presidents, governors, attorneys general, judges, etc. (Here's a good explanation of the legal landscape.)

But this new law did something rather different. It specifically bars anyone in public office from enforcing this particular law! Instead, it allows for any private citizen to sue, in civil court, anyone who provides or facilitates abortions that are contrary to this new law.

So, the reason the U.S. Supreme Court didn't do anything, is because it's far from clear who, precisely, the court was supposed to enjoin: every citizen and resident in the state of Texas? Thankfully, the too-expansive powers of the courts aren't that expansive. Indeed, if you look closely at the petition that came before the high court this week, the abortion-defenders were asking for injunctions against a handful of people. Setting aside whether such an injunction would have been lawful, it would have been ineffective, because as I said, anyone at all can file a lawsuit against an abortion-provider.

So, is that it? Is that the end of the story? Not at all.

There's still a lot of legal wrangling to come, and as I am not an attorney, I won't try to parse all that. But here's what the framers of the law expect to have happen. At some point, someone actually files a civil lawsuit; and now there's a court case; and the abortionist or someone else who is implicated in abortion must defend him- or herself in court. The new law specifically says that one defense is to say that the abortion was legal under existing legal precedents (i.e., Roe and Casey). In other words, it's entirely possible that someone brings a civil suit against an abortionist, and the abortionist wins in state court.

On the other hand, in the event the abortionist (or insurer, or landlord who rents to the abortionist) loses, then it seems very likely that case ends up in the federal courts, and now, the federal courts have something they can "enjoin" -- i.e., the adverse judgment. Why? Because it conflicts with Roe or Casey. Alternately, the Supreme Court could then decide that the new law should be upheld, and so much the worse for prior precedents. 

In the meantime, this new law makes things much more complicated for abortionists and their enablers; they have to deal with the threat of lawsuits from every side. And that prospect alone seems to be a victory, right?

Well, not so fast. What the conservative, pro-life majority in the Texas legislature can do, the liberal, pro-abortion majority in the California legislature can also do. Several years ago, California passed a law making life difficult for pro-life crisis pregnancy centers. After several years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that law. So why can't California try again, only this time, barring any public official from enforcing the law, and instead, invite private citizens to file lawsuits against pro-life pregnancy counseling centers?

Or, do the same against gun manufacturers and sellers?

Or, do the same to get at speech they don't like?

The possibilities are endless and not appealing. Recall the scene from Hunt for Red October: the Russian sub captain cleverly turns off the safeties on his torpedoes after Ramius tricks him; but then those torpedoes circle back on the Russian sub.


Again, I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me there could be a case to be made that when government passes a law, it's the government's job to enforce it, and to make sure enforcement of that law is fair and unprejudiced. Call it a matter of due process, or "equal protection under the law," or an application of the "privileges and immunities" clause in the 14th Amendment. But if laws are passed with empower a flood of lawsuits, the chilling effect on the exercise of a constitutional right is real and serious. Of course, the Constitution does not and ought not grant a right to kill an unborn child. But so the U.S. Supreme Court has held more than once, and that is the real problem.