Dr. Charles E. Rice, Professor Emeritus, Notre Dame Law School, delivered a bracing commencement speech at Christendom College on May 15th, posted to Ignatius Insight.
“When President O'Donnell asked me to give this address, I expressed one concern: "Will there be a protest? And will you prosecute the protestors? Or at least 88 of them?" He made no commitment. I accepted anyway.
“So what can I tell you? This is a time of crises. The economy is a mess, the culture is a mess, the government is out of control. And, in the last three years, Notre Dame lost 21 football games. But this is a great time for us to be here, especially you graduates of this superbly Catholic college. This is so because the remedy for the general meltdown today is found only in Christ and in the teachings of the Catholic Church. Let's talk bluntly about our situation and what you can do about it.
“We are living through a transformation of our federal government. A one-party regime, the leader of which was elected with 54 percent of the Catholic vote, is substituting for the free economy and limited government a centralized command system of potentially unlimited jurisdiction and power. Its takeover of health care, against the manifest will of the people, not only funds elective abortions and endangers the elderly and conscience rights. It was enacted in disregard of legislative process and by a level of bribery, coercion and deception that was as open as it was unprecedented.
“To find a comparable example of the rapid concentration of executive power by a legally installed regime, we have to go back to 1933. Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor on January 30. Over the next few weeks he consolidated his power. The decisive event was the Reichstag's approval of the Enabling Act on March 23, 1933, by which it ceded full and irrevocable powers to Hitler. That was the point of no return. The Enabling Act received the needed two-thirds vote only because it was supported by the Catholic party, the Centre Party. Our "Health Care Reform," enacted with the decisive support of Catholic members of both houses of Congress, may be the Enabling Act of our time in the control it cedes to government over the lives of the people. It includes the federal takeover of student aid. What do student loans have to do with health care? The common denominator is control. No student will be able to get a federally guaranteed educational loan without the consent of a federal bureaucrat. This opens the way to make political loyalty a test for educational advancement, as it was in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. This confirms the wisdom of Christendom's decision to forego all federal aid.
“Unlike Germany in 1933, we have legal means of redress. I am proud to say I am a Tea Party guy. In November, the reaction may dislodge the Congressional arm of the ruling class. But that reaction will be only temporary unless we go to the source of the evil. The root problem is not political or economic. It is religious. And that is where you come in. "The social crisis," said Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, "happens when we elect people to rule over us who are immoral. .... [P]eople who don't have a moral bearing to elect other moral people, elect immoral politicians to serve over them.... So immoral lifestyles produce immoral leaders." In other words, we elect immoral, rather than moral, people because we have lost the ability, or the desire, to tell the difference. The answer, said Fr. Euteneuer, is "to turn back to God. ... What we need is a conversion of heart."
“We rightly urge fidelity to the Constitution. But no paper charter can survive the disappearance of the morality that produced it. In 2001, thirteen days after 9/11, Pope John Paul II, in Kazakhstan, cautioned the leaders of that Islamic republic against a "slavish conformity" to Western culture which is in a "deepening human, spiritual and moral impoverishment" caused by "the fatal attempt to secure the good of humanity by eliminating God, the Supreme Good."
“You graduates will enter a culture in which the intentional infliction of death upon the innocent is widely seen as an optional problem-solving technique. The Columbine shootings set a precedent. If you have a grievance against your classmates, fellow employees or IRS agents, the answer is to blow them away. Legalized abortion is the prime example of murder as a problem solver. And the execution of someone like Terri Schiavo occurs routinely, without public notice, when the family and caregivers agree to withhold food and water because it is time for the patient to "die with dignity." The separation of morality from killing has counterparts in the separation of morality from economics, from sex and from personal decisions in general.”