My wife and I have sent our five-year-old son to kindergarten at the small Catholic school in our Westchester town for the reasons youd expect: were Catholic, we love the schools old-fashioned curricula and its friendly but disciplined atmosphere (including the sharp uniforms), and we werent impressed with the local public school, where the classroom walls, festooned with feminist and multi-culti icons, shout PC indoctrination and early tweens dress like hookers and hoodlums. Our first parents association meeting, with lots of talk of phonics and high math achievement, convinced us that wed made the right choice.
Until the pastor, Father Bill, spoke. Thanking us, Father Bill (not his real name)Irish and a bit past middle agehad a big announcement. This year, were adding a new curriculum, and Ill be teaching it: peace studies. I said to my wife: Hes not going to say what I think hes going to say, is he?
Sadly, he was. Tomorrow, September 11, a group led by friends and family of those who died on 9/11 will make a walk for peace, beginning at Gandhis statue in Union Square and finishing at the WTC site. Theyre saying that they dont want the memory of the tragedy to be hijacked by the warmongers, Father Bill said gravely. And thats what I want to teach your kids. Looking around, I saw several parents who seemed as uneasy as we did with this left-wing bunkum.
He continued: Look at our colleges, where the ROTC can recruit people to kill. Yet how many kids today know the Nobel Peace award winners? By now, I was really squirming. To impugn the ROTC when Americans were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, on the anniversary of 9/11 to boot, was unconscionable. And what Nobel winners did he mean? Yasser Arafat?
Father Bill concluded: We cant denigrate an entire race [sic] just because of a few fanaticswe have fanatics on our side too. The doctrine of moral equivalence, beloved by the far Left as a way of attacking the U. S., had reared its head: Donald Rumsfeld = Usama. Most of the crowd clapped, but without enthusiasm. My wife and I just glared. Nobody said a word. As parish pastor, after all, he was head of the school.
Peeved as Father Bill had made me, I shouldnt have been surprised. Catholic priestsespecially those, like him, who came of age during the 1960s and were swept up in the heady spirit of the Second Vatican Counciltend to look to the New York Times editorial page or even to the liberation theology of radical Third Worldist priests for political guidance, not to the teachings of Augustine or Aquinas on a fallen world and the potential for evil that runs through every heart. Instead of the Christian doctrine of the just war based on this realistic view of mans nature, which recognizes that military force is sometimes necessary and moral, the liberal priests embrace a pacifism utterly at odds with it. War, in their view, is always bad; dialogue, even with mass murderers, is always good.
In social policy, moreover, Catholic tradition teaches, the Churchs duty is to lay down the principles that should guide judgment, notas Father Bill didmake the particular judgments. Reasonable Catholics can disagree about the War on Terror, just as they can on other political issues.
Ultimately, Father Bills peace studies, like other political causes espoused by Church leaders since the sixties, undermine the Churchs already battered moral authority. My sons experience illustrates the point. After a service presided over by Father Bill, he told me: You must never war, Daddythats what Father says. I had to correct him: sometimes there are bad men in the world, and we need force to stop them. On reflection, he had no problem with that. One of his favorite TV shows is Justice League, chronicling the (often violent) adventures of Superman, Batman, and other heroes as they oppose monstrous villains. But now hes likely to treat all of what Father Bill says with greater skepticism. Father Bills radicalism hasnt outweighed the other advantages of choosing a Catholic education for our boy. But it sure has made that choice less satisfying.