Quo Vadis America?

Sunday, November 04, 2018

What Now America?
 By Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen













Thursday, October 04, 2018

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host,
by the Divine Power of God,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Pope Leo XIII

Monday, September 24, 2018


On June 8, 1978, a man with a craggy face and a beard came to Harvard University, where I was then a graduate student, to give the annual commencement address. The man was not a Harvard graduate. He was not a professor. He was not an American. He did not speak English. His address, given in his native Russian with simultaneous English translation, was not universally well-received. I suspect that some Harvard officials regretted their decision to invite him to speak.
The man’s name was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He was a brilliant novelist who had spent several years as a political prisoner in the gulag in the Soviet Union. He was a strong Orthodox Christian and a fierce critic of atheistic communism and Soviet tyranny. His writings had exposed the corruption, cruelty, and injustice of the communist regime that had come to power in Russia in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and would remain in power until 1989—a regime that had enslaved its own people and reduced those of many other nations to serfdom under puppet governments. It was a regime as totalitarian and as murderous as the Nazi regime in Germany, which the U.S. and Britain had allied with the Soviets in World War II to defeat.
In 1978, the Cold War was raging, and the U.S. was still reeling from its humiliation in the disastrous war in Vietnam. Anti-Americanism was flourishing both abroad and at home. Many Americans—particularly young Americans—had lost faith in their country, its institutions, its principles, its culture, its traditions, its way of life. Some proposed communism as a superior system; many suggested what came to be known as “moral equivalency” between American democracy and Soviet communism. By 1978, to suggest such equivalency had become a mark of sophistication—something to distinguish one from the allegedly backward hicks and rubes who believed in the superiority of the American to the Soviet system. There were many such “sophisticated” people at Harvard. And Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn came to Harvard to confront them and others.
His speech was not, however, an encomium to America or the West. On the contrary, it was a severe critique—one might even say a prophetic rebuke—and a warning. Of course, Solzhenitsyn did not argue for the moral equivalency, much less the superiority, of the Soviet system. He hated communism in all its dimensions and he loathed the gangsters who ruled the Soviet empire. What he faulted America (and the West more generally) for was its abandonment of its own moral and, especially, spiritual ideals and identity.
He viewed the West’s weakness, including its weakness in truly standing up to Soviet aggression, as the fruit of the materialism, consumerism, self-indulgent individualism, emotivism, and narcissism—in a word, the immorality—into which we had allowed ourselves to sink. Solzhenitsyn, the (by then) legendary human rights activist, warned America and the West that we had become too focused on rights and needed to refocus on obligations. We had come to embrace a false idea of liberty, conceiving of it as doing as one pleases, rather than as the freedom to fulfill one’s human potential and honor one’s conscientious duties to God and neighbor.
At the heart of this moral confusion and collapse, Solzhenitsyn argued, was a loss of faith, and with it the loss of a particular virtue—the virtue of courage.
Here are Solzhenitsyn’s own words:
A decline in courage may be the most striking feature, which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.
I submit to you today that, despite the American victory in the Cold War (for which we should all be grateful) and the collapse and disappearance of the Soviet Union, nothing has changed that would diminish the force or relevance of Solzhenitsyn’s words. The virtue we lack—and it is an indispensable virtue—is courage. And we must recover it. Our young men and women must regain it—not to defend us from a hostile foreign power armed with nuclear weapons, but to protect us from a far more dangerous foe, a truly deadly enemy: our own worst selves.

At all times and in all places all of the virtues are needed. No virtue is superfluous or dispensable. But it seems that at any given time in any particular society there is a particular virtue that is lacking and therefore desperately needed. Moreover, because the virtues are integrally connected to one other—they are like a network—the loss of any one virtue tends to weaken and imperil all the others. Or worse, the loss of a given virtue threatens to turn other virtues into engines of vice.

Take, for example, the virtue of compassion. It is an essential virtue—like the others. It can move us to work selflessly and even heroically for the good of our fellow human beings—especially those who are needy or suffering. We cannot do without it. We rightly praise the compassionate for their good deeds in caring for the least, the last, and the lost. But consider what can happen when compassion remains strong but other virtues, such as love of truth and justice, have eroded or disappeared. Operating by itself, in isolation from the other virtues, compassion can motivate every manner of evil—from the killing of the unborn in abortion to the killing of the disabled and the frail elderly in euthanasia. We can convince ourselves that kindness calls for these things.

Well before the Nazis gave eugenics a bad name, well-intentioned, decent, compassionate people in places such as Germany, England, and the U.S. embraced eugenics, precisely out of a sense of compassion. It was they, not the Nazis, who invented the doctrine of lebensunswertes Leben—“life unworthy of life.” Because they did not want people to suffer, they supported mandatory sterilization for some classes of persons and even “mercy killing” for those whose lives they considered so burdensome as to be “not worth living.”

We live at a time of great moral confusion. If anything, our situation is worse today than it was when Solzhenitsyn visited Harvard in 1978. There has been, to borrow a concept from Friedrich Nietzsche, a “transvaluation of values” in many spheres. What is good—such as marriage considered precisely as the conjugal union of husband and wife—has been redefined as bad. What is bad—such as sexual immorality of a wide range of types—has been redefined as good. To defend the conjugal understanding of marriage and traditional ideas about sexuality and morality is to be accused of “hatred” by people on one side of the political divide today. To welcome the migrant and the refugee is to court being accused of disloyalty to your country by some on the other side. To stand up for the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions, beginning with the defense of the precious and vulnerable child in the womb, is to risk being labeled a “misogynist.” To speak out for religious freedom and the rights of conscience is to invite being smeared as a “bigot.”

It is not pleasant to be subjected to these types of abuse and defamation. And these days it goes well beyond unpleasantness. To speak moral truth to cultural power is to put at risk one’s social standing, one’s educational and employment opportunities, one’s professional advancement; it is to place in jeopardy treasured friendships and sometimes even family relationships. And the more people, in reaction to these threats, acquiesce or go silent, the more dangerous and therefore more difficult it becomes for anyone to speak the truth out loud, even if they know it in their hearts. Anyone who succumbs to the intimidation and bullying—anyone who acquiesces or goes silent out of fear—not only harms his or her own character and fails in his or her Christian duty to bear faithful witness to truth, he or she also makes things harder for others. We owe it not only to ourselves to be courageous, but to our brothers and sisters too. And because we owe it to ourselves and others, we owe it to God.
Our own worst selves are our unvirtuous selves. Our own worst selves are our selves when we lack the self-mastery that possession of the virtues—including the virtue of courage—makes possible. Our own worst selves are slaves—not to alien masters, but to our own weaknesses and wayward desires. Our own worst selves are what we are encouraged by so much of our culture today to be. When we are our own worst selves, what we seek are ephemeral and ultimately meaningless things, such as pleasure, status, social acceptability, wealth, power, celebrity—things that are not bad in themselves, since they can be used for good ends, but things that are not good in themselves, either. And they can lure us into supposing that—and acting as if—they were. When we are our own worst selves, we fail in our duty to bear faithful witness because a desire for ephemeral things and a fear of losing them paralyzes us. When we are our own worst selves, we lead lives that are marked by those vices against which Solzhenitsyn railed forty years ago: materialism, consumerism, self-indulgence, narcissism. We place the focus on doing as we please, no matter what we please; getting what we want, no matter what it is we happen to want. Instead of seeking what is true because it’s true, what is good because it’s good, what is right because it’s right, we seek what we desire, for no better reason than our happening to desire it; indeed, we fall into the profound moral and philosophical error of imagining that the human good consists in the satisfaction of human desires.
Thus it is that we rationalize our failing to behave like rational creatures—creatures blessed with the powers of reason and freedom—and our behaving instead like brute animals, slaves of our passions. By definition, slaves to passions can never be masters of themselves; and no one who lacks self-mastery can practice and exemplify the virtue of courage. Courage always presupposes a willingness to sacrifice oneself for others or for something higher; someone who is not master of himself, someone who cannot rise above his own wants, desires, and passions, can never give himself to, or live for, others, or give himself to, or live for, something higher. Self-mastery is a precondition of the willingness and ability to live self-sacrificially. One cannot give oneself to others if one is not first master of oneself. Lacking self-mastery, one simply has nothing to give.
The Christian story is all about self-giving, self-sacrificial living—and dying. God himself sends his only begotten Son to us, in our sinfulness, to be our Redeemer and Savior by a supreme act of self-sacrificial love. We, as disciples of Jesus, are to model our lives on his, emptying and sacrificing ourselves for others. Bearing witness to truth, no matter the cost.
I have suggested that Solzhenitsyn saw a connection between the decline of courage and a loss of faith. Five years after his Harvard address, in a 1983 speech accepting the Templeton Prize in Religion, he stated this in the most explicit terms. The title of the speech could not have made the point more clearly. That title was “Men Have Forgotten God.” Here is its opening paragraph:
As a survivor of the Communist Holocaust I am horrified to witness how my beloved America, my adopted country, is gradually being transformed into a secularist and atheistic utopia, where communist ideals are glorified and promoted, while Judeo-Christian values and morality are ridiculed and increasingly eradicated from the public and social consciousness of our nation. Under the decades-long assault and militant radicalism of many so-called “liberal” and “progressive” elites, God has been progressively erased from our public and educational institutions, to be replaced with all manner of delusion, perversion, corruption, violence, decadence, and insanity.
Thirty-five years later, who can deny the truth of Solzhenitsyn’s lament? Today, the cultured despisers of Christianity and Judeo-Christian values do not speak of communism or its ideals—communism having been discredited by Soviet gangsterism. They speak instead of “liberation” or of “equality,” by which they seek to marginalize and stigmatize the principles of Judeo-Christian morality and justify acts and practices that contravene those principles. And they are certainly aggressive—moving, to cite just one of many examples, from the legalization of abortion, to the demand for its approval and even public funding, to the insistence that people or institutions—including religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals—who refuse to perform or refer for abortions be made to suffer professional or civic penalties or disabilities.
What is behind all this? According to Solzhenitsyn, the moral decline of the West has behind it the same factor that produced the horrors of communism, namely this: “Men have forgotten God.” People worship themselves, deify their own desires, fall into an idolatry of the self, because they have forgotten that there is something—indeed someone—higher. They have forgotten God. And absent faith in God, how can they—how can we—muster the courage to bear bold witness, as Solzhenitsyn himself did, to Christian values in an increasingly hostile culture and world? How can there be courage in the absence of faith? Fear is a powerful emotion—a very powerful emotion indeed. Faith alone can overcome it.
When people forget God, when they come to suppose that they don’t need Him or His grace and guidance, when they fall into the hubristic error of imagining that they are too smart and sophisticated to believe in Him, a catastrophe always ensues.
This was no novel insight or discovery of Solzhenitsyn’s. It is the central teaching and theme of the prophets—all prophets, and not just the Biblical ones.
In March of 1863 another man with a craggy face and a beard spoke to the American people words of critique and prophetic warning of precisely the sort spoken by Solzhenitsyn at Harvard and in his Templeton Address. Abraham Lincoln, reflecting on the catastrophe of the Civil War and on its causes, issued a Proclamation of a National Day of Prayer and Fasting. What he said in that proclamation was, in a sense, echoed by Solzhenitsyn, and we would do well to heed it today. Indeed, we fail to heed it at our mortal peril. Here are Lincoln’s words:
Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It has been 155 years since Lincoln wrote those words. And yet, it is as if he wrote them yesterday and directed them to us today. Yes, as a culture, as a people, we have forgotten God. That is reflected in our laws, in the edicts of our Supreme Court, in our public policies, in our news and entertainment media, in our schools and universities, in our economic and cultural institutions, on the streets of our cities, and even, alas, in many homes. We “have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts,” that our “blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.” And, as a result, we find ourselves in the condition so accurately and brutally diagnosed by Solzhenitsyn.
But what has been forgotten may be remembered. What has fallen into decay can be renewed. What has been lost can be rediscovered. But for these things to happen, those who remember God and sincerely seek to do His will must look to Him for the grace necessary to be His courageous and faithful witnesses—to be, in the words of another modern prophet, Pope John Paul II, “signs of contradiction” to a world that has forgotten God. This, allow me humbly to say, is your mission. You must remember God to a world that has forgotten him. By the example of your lives, as well as by the words of your mouths, you must be the salt and light that repairs what is broken and points the way to true freedom for those who have fallen into forms of slavery that are all the more abject for masquerading as liberation.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.

Thursday, August 02, 2018


"Goodness, patriotism, honesty and loyalty are losing their battles not by conflict, but by default. Those who are called to be defenders of what is right are not wounded in the battle: they flee. Courage has always been in the past the attribute of those who have faith: now the moral leaders become defenders only of the feeble. They are afraid to speak on vital truths to their troops, fearful that they may incite a revolt or be unloved. The result is "every man does what is right in his own eyes." Actually, the troops are yearning for strong leaders who will challenge them and sound trumpets with clear notes. But seeing the shepherds uncertain and afraid of wolves, the sheep scatter.
Why are leaders in a nation, in education, in religion afraid to speak out with courage? Partly because they are not themselves practicing what they ask others to do: partly because they are afraid of being unloved or because they do not rely on Divine strength to aid them in their defense of what is right and just. When Peter and John were arrested and brought before judges for preaching Christianity, the judges were struck by first their "boldness" and secondly by the fact that they were unlearned. Their strong convictions came not from academic degrees, but from their being filled with the Spirit of God. When David's commander Joab "saw the battle was against him in front and rear" he and his brother Abishal pledged mutual support, shored up their moral courage and left the final decision in the hands of God. "If the Aramaeans are too strong for me, then you shall help me, Joab said, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you. Be of good courage and let us fight bravely for our people, and for the cities of our God: and may the Lord do what seems good to Him."
In the area of religion, the secret of courage is: "I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." Responsibilities are no longer burdensome if one realizes that the Divine works in us. Want of courage is want of Faith. If a bishop, for example, is afraid to tell a minister in the sanctuary not to appear in patched overalls and leather jacket, it is because he is less-in awesome concern for the glory of God than he is dread of the cutting rejoinder of the hippie. All the fears of life are expelled by a great love, and love is the only thing that can successfully cope with them. On the contrary, the fear of evil is essentially an unbelieving thing. All weakening anxieties have their roots in practical unbelief.
The tragedy in the loss of courage and boldness on the part of leaders is the latent courage in the young and their readiness to follow those who have a high ideal. The so-called generation gap does exist: it is a spirit-gap — The distance between the leaders who are not on fire with ideals and the followers who are unlighted torches waiting for the flame. The young are as quick to pick out phonies as they are anxious to be inspired by those who are unafraid of being unpopular once truth is at stake.
Our democratic process sometimes makes for weakness than strength. A candidate for office keeps his finger on the pulse of the electorate: he finds out by survey what they want and then he promises to give it to them, generally at the expense of the public treasury. His campaign is directed to the desires of the people, but never to their needs. The result is, the electorate is rarely offered a chance to vote for a real leader, it is worth recalling that the majority vote about the Isrealites going into the Promised Land was 10 to 2. Only Caleb and Joshua favored it. The masses would have killed the two of them if Moses had not interceded. In religion and politics alike, leadership will return when a man will not be afraid to make enemies because he loves God above all things."
(Fulton J. Sheen, D.D., Ph.D. 'Leaders', 1973.)

Monday, July 02, 2018

This Is The Legacy Of The Nazis. The Real Nazis... 

On the morning of April 29, 1945, my father, US Army Sgt. Joe C. Sacco, and his battalion helped liberate the notorious Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, Germany.

As the son of a liberator, what I present here is not a political statement, but rather an American one. I have never been nor do I have plans to become a member of the mindless crowd that willingly hands over its intellect to the groupthink of a political party. 

In order for the following to make sense, one must perform the difficult task of suspending his or her political herd mentality, if only for a moment.

To those who now carelessly and, in truth, ignorantly portray the great men and women who serve our nation in their roles as ICE agents, border patrol agents, police officers, and the like as “Nazis” who are “marching kids off to the showers,” you deserve nothing but the contempt of our citizenry.

To those on the increasingly-unpopular network and cable news programs who recklessly accuse fellow Americans of being Nazis, here’s a one-sentence summary; the real Nazis ripped innocent people from their homes, put them in horrific concentration camps, and murdered them by the millions.

Those imprisoned were not people who had snuck into Germany to take advantage of government handout programs. They were, instead, legal citizens of Germany, Poland, Austria, Italy, and surrounding countries who, oftentimes, wanted to escape Europe altogether so as not to be rounded up and killed. 

Their possessions were confiscated and they were transported to the camps, where they were systematically murdered, all for the crime of being Jews or other undesirables. They were starved, they were beaten, they were stabbed, they were shot, they were hung, they were used in shockingly inhumane medical experiments, and they were decapitated. The teenagers were even used as target practice. And then their bodies were cremated so as to make room for more victims.

To those who breathlessly - and mindlessly - say, “But separating children from their illegal immigrant parents is how it all started,” you are wrong. As usual. 

It started when a group of self-proclaimed elites began accusing those who disagreed with them of being evil … just as you now do on a daily basis. So sober up and knock it off.

Such ill-informed rhetoric is an open call to do violence against those with whom one may disagree and who, therefore, must be evil.

There is a deep and foreboding chasm between the actual evil of the Holocaust and those who attempt to manufacture it for the purpose of political gain. From deep within that gorge will forever echo the cries of millions who were murdered by people who had positioned themselves as morally superior.

I know that many in the media, while pointing to photographs from circa 2014, hysterically accuse current government officials (including ICE and border patrol agents, members of Congress, and even our President) as heartless and evil. These same media members made no mention of the dilemma back when the photos were actually taken. 

Such a misrepresentation is as stupid and dangerous as having a doctor look at someone else’s old X-Rays and then prescribing a course of treatment for you.

But perhaps most appalling is the willingness with which many in the media accuse other Americans of being Nazis in order to serve some idiotic, convoluted political agenda. Such viciousness is not only monumentally insulting, it is a betrayal of both the victims and the liberators of the real Holocaust. In addition, it sends the younger generation the asinine message that the Holocaust might not have been such a big deal after all.

The Holocaust ended the minute the American soldiers, my father included, entered the camp. But Dachau’s liberators did not enter as Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives. They were Americans first, foremost, and forever. As such, they were victorious over real - not imagined - evil.

Here’s a quick recap:

ICE Agents = Not Nazis
Border Patrol Agents = Not Nazis
Police Officers = Not Nazis
Members of US Military = Not Nazis
Members of Congress = Not Nazis
Democrats = Not Nazis
Republicans = Not Nazis
Libertarians = Not Nazis
Independents = Not Nazis
Donald Trump = Not a Nazi
Mike Pence = Not a Nazi
First Family = Not Nazis
Barack Obama = Not a Nazi
Hillary Clinton = Not a Nazi
American politicians in general = Lots of hidden agendas that are almost never in your best interest, but not Nazis
People who may disagree with you = Not Nazis

So now, on behalf of the millions murdered by the real Nazis and on behalf of my father and his buddies who were among those who put an end to the truly evil atrocities of the Third Reich, I share with you one singular, horrifying image of what an actual concentration camp looked like.  

The photos in my book are just of few of the many taken by my father on the day of Dachau’s liberation. They provide only a glimpse of the evil he and his fellow soldiers found when they entered the camp.

Among the scenes he described was an especially poignant one in which he stared down into one of the railcars in which Jewish prisoners had been locked and starved. There, leaning against a corner, was a young lady nursing her infant son. Both mother and baby were dead. My father, who was 20 at the time, knew that no matter how long he lived, he would never see anything so profoundly tragic as this.

This is the legacy of the Nazis. The real Nazis.

Jack Sacco
Author of “Where the Birds Never Sing”

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I believe that now more than ever, Christians need to take a stand for what is right and defend the godly principles that have made this nation great.

In so many areas of society—whether it’s government legislation, indecent displays in public places, or what is now considered “acceptable” in TV and movies—immorality has taken center stage.
That’s why it is so important to let our voices be heard in a loving way and to defend the incredible freedoms and liberties we’ve been given. 
I believe if enough people will stand up for what is right, those in government will listen, and change will take place.       Dave Meyer