Fragments On A Theme

The seventieth anniversary issue (November, 2015) of Commentary was dedicated to a symposium on “The Jewish Future.” Seventy Jewish writers and scholars responded to John Podhoretz’ request to answer the question: What will be the condition of the Jewish community fifty years from now? The tenor of responses range from the exhilarating to the unsettling. All are  compelling. One of the few women respondents is of interest here.

Bethany Mandel described herself as “a writer on politics and culture and a stay-at-home mother.” She cited an earlier Pew study on American Jewry that reveals the gradual disappearance of non-Orthodox Judaism. Orthodoxy, then, carries the burden of keeping Judaism alive in this country. She asked how “this last great hope of survival for American Judaism” is handling the responsibility laid at its feet. Her answer was “not very well” and called attention to the current state of the Catholic Church as a warning to Jews:

There is much that is beautiful and authentic about Orthodox Judaism. There is also much that is necessary, considering the demographics. But it must learn from the stumbles of the Catholic Church. Before the sex scandals involving priests during the 1980s, Catholicism was the most powerful organized religion in the world. It is now a shell of its former self.

If Orthodox Judaism can learn anything from the Catholic Church, it is this: Men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers will prioritize the safety and well-being of their families. If rabbinic authorities don’t take seriously the plight of agunot and sexually victimized women and children, Orthodox Judaism will squander its place as the last best hope for American Judaism. If the lesson of the Catholic Church isn’t heeded, American Judaism will face the same fate.

Agunot is word that refers to a woman chained to a marriage by a recalcitrant, missing or abusive husband. The “agunah problem” is analogous to the problem of divorce among Catholics. And on this issue, Ms. Mandel’s sympathies are askance of those of traditional Catholics.

But that is not why I saved her words. What stayed with me is Mandel’s recognition of the Church as “a shell of its former self.” There are more and deeper reasons for that emptying out than the sex scandals plaguing the Church, however large and visible their role.

Mandel has no reason to attend to the theological and liturgical turmoil visited upon the Church in the wake of Vatican II. But her emphasis on the passion of husbands and wives for the well-being of their children is a very great contributor—as it ought to be—to Catholic dismay at this pontificate’s embrace of open borders and sentimental embrace of predominantly Muslim “refugees.” In the end, when it comes to the protection of one’s own family and the future of one’s children, Catholics know the very real limits to pious injunctions to welcome the stranger. Especially when that stranger is the carrier of a culture that seeks the eventual annihilation or subjection of one’s own.

It would be good for the future of the Church in America if our bishops understood that.


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Florida’s Bishop Robert Lynch responded to the Orlando massacre by making it an issue of gun control and an opportunity to rally to the defense of the LBGT community. His Excellency could not bring himself to acknowledge the butchery as a herald of things to come—a matter of national security that requires strict border control and unapologetic surveillance of mosques and Islamic “cultural centers” with jihadist sympathies. Given Omar Mateen’s status as a native born citizen (to non-citizen Afghans), it casts a bloody light on mass immigration of Muslims. But the bishop pulls his hems back from any such discussion.

This man without a chest laid ultimate blame for the bloodbath on religion itself. Not on Islamic endorsement of the death penalty for homosexuals. Not on shar’ia law. Not on the Koranic injunction to strike terror into the hearts of the kafir. No, no, the bishop is above such a narrow view of things. In the cope and chasuble of political correctness he blamed religion in toto, including the one he was ordained to serve:

Sadly it is religion, including our own, that targets, mostly verbally, and often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence. . . .

Even before I knew who perpetrated the mass murders at Pulse, I knew that somewhere in the story there would be a search for religion as motivation. While deranged people do senseless things, all of us observe and judge and act from some kind of religious background.

It follows, then, that the Church must abandon disapproval of homosexual behavior to ensure a world safe for the LGBT community. The bishop’s stance parallels that of Fr. Edward Beck, writing in Crux the day after the shooting:

Love the sinner but hate the sin simply does not satisfy those who feel as though they have nothing for which to apologize.

What kind of men say these things? Take these resentful, skewed positions? Lynch’s disordered response to the Orlando shooting raises questions. What is his stake in the targeted murder of homosexuals that was missing from the wholesale slaughter of Parisian club-goers, or travelers in a Brussels airport? Why the rush to publicize his pieties on behalf of this particular category of victims rather than endangered Christians in the Middle East and the dead among them?

In the hands of men like this, the Church will be hard pressed to survive. A shepherd sodden with moral vanity and willed ignorance can lead his flock in only one direction: toward dhimmitude.


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The following report is from the archives of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). It originally appeared on March 10, 2015:

In recent months, the Islamic State (ISIS) has publicly executed men they have convicted of homosexuality in Iraq and Syria, including by burning them alive and by stoning them to death. The most common method of execution, however, has been throwing them off tall buildings; if they survive, they are usually shot or stoned, sometimes by the crowd of observers. This punishment for homosexuals was detailed, featured, and praised in the latest issue (published February 2015) of ISIS’s English-language magazine Dabiq, in an article titled “Clamping Down on Sexual Deviance.”


Achille Beltrane. Massacre of Armenians in Turkey (1909).

To end on a note similar to the one with which this began: What will be the condition of the Christian community, here and in Europe, fifty years from now? What would the Bishop Lynches among have us bequeath our children?