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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
by Mary Eberstadt, Senior Research Fellow, Faith and Reason Institute
This piece originally published at Newsweek on February 15, 2021.
Dear President Biden,
This is my second open letter in Newsweek since your election, trying to reach your ear as a fellow American Catholic.
Following your inauguration, my first letter urged you to stand in solidarity with the pro-life movement by sending a message to the annual March for Life in January. Such a magnanimous gesture, I explained, would have underlined the lofty rhetoric of your inaugural address, especially among those whom you singled out for reassurance: Americans who did not vote for you.
To understate, you declined that invitation to bipartisan statesmanship. Instead, your first initiatives in office included executive orders that will swell the number of abortions not only in the United States, but around the world. That longstanding discrepancy between your Church's teaching, on the one hand, and your pro-abortion policies, on the other, might never give you pause. But one other new development should.
Mr. President, the election has emboldened your liberal and progressive allies to target for ostracism and punishment a new band of "deplorables": your fellow Catholics.
Exhibit A: On January 24, 2021, Twitter locked the account of Catholic World Report, the online magazine of Ignatius Press. IP is the largest Catholic publishing house in the Anglosphere. It issues volumes by popes, cardinals, bishops and other men and women of the cloth, as well as lay authors (this one included). CWR is its news arm. Like other Ignatius Press publications, the site leans in toward history and scholarship. Its essay section recently featured one piece on the Gnostic heresy, another on the future of Western civilization and another comparing translations of St. Augustine's Confessions.
Mr. President, the notion that cerebral CWR could run afoul of any "community standards" is prima facie risible. So how did this Catholic outlet find itself in the censorship crosshairs? Because of a news item reading as follows:
Biden plans to nominate Dr. Rachel Levine, a biological man identifying as a transgender woman who has served as Pennsylvania's health secretary since 2017, to be HHS Assistant Secretary for Health. Levine is also a supporter of the contraceptive mandate.
Without further explanation, Twitter ruled that CWR had violated its rules "against hateful conduct."
Days later, authorities relented and restored the account. But the message they sent was loud and menacing. If a cultural authority as established as Ignatius Press can be punished online for being Catholic, who will be spared?
This brings us to Exhibit B. Within days of your inauguration, an online mob tried to oust a professor from his post at a Catholic university.
That was David Upham, associate professor of politics at the University of Dallas—an institution renowned for its non-dissident Catholicism. Upham's purported thought crime, like that of Catholic World Report, was commenting on the appointment of Dr. Levine, including a remark about "participat[ing] in these falsehoods" about transgenderism.
And so, in a pattern repeated ad nauseam these days, an online rabble led by a transgender alumnus organized a petition and ratcheted up the pressure to oust the professor. This time around, the woke pile-on failed. University of Dallas authorities refused to genuflect; instead, a joint letter from the provost and president affirmed that "The university embraces unreservedly the Church's articulation of the moral law."
Once again, however, the implied message was ominous. If a tenured professor at a flagship American Catholic university could be threatened in this way, who's next?
This brings us to Exhibit C: social media censorship of religious traditionalists—especially your fellow Catholics—has accelerated during your brief time in office.
For instance, yet another Catholic publisher, TAN Books, has found numerous ads for its books suddenly removed from Facebook and Instagram. One was a volume about Mary called The Anti-Mary Exposed. Another was Motherhood Redeemed, a critical look at radical feminism. A third was a book on Karl Marx by a professor at Grove City College. A fourth was a primer about the Stations of the Cross, written for children. Ads from another small business, which sold prints of the Sacred Heart, were deemed unacceptable and removed.
Given that big tech will make examples even of small businesses, Exhibit D should come as no surprise: social media sporadically suppresses Catholic voices—especially influential pro-life ones.
So, for example, the Susan B. Anthony List—run by prominent Catholic Marjorie Dannenfelser, one of the leading pro-life voices in the United States—has been bedeviled online repeatedly. During the election, Facebook refused to allow the group's ads to run in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Other instances of interference with the SBA List and other pro-life organizations abound—too many to recount here; see this link.
Mr. President, next consider Exhibit E: the stigmatizing of groups dedicated to Church teaching via spurious accusations of "hate."
On December 9, 2020, NBC News published a story that uncritically accepted the Southern Poverty Law Center's designations of certain organizations as "hate groups." These now include Christian organizations being singled out for their fealty to...well, Christianity. One such is the Ruth Institute, whose mission—in the words of its Catholic founder Jennifer Roback Morse—is opposing "sex abuse, pornography, and divorce."Read the rest of the article.