Robert R. Reilly

Robert R. Reilly

Robert R. Reilly writes for Mercatornet.com, is a music critic for Crisis Magazine and author of The Closing of the Muslim Mind. He is currently completing a book on the natural law argument against same-sex marriage for Ignatius Press.

E-mail him at [email protected]

Articles by Robert R. Reilly

The Supreme Court's misuse of children to justify same-sex marriage

Jul 5, 2013 / 00:00 am

Of all the misconceived nonsense in the recent Windsor v. United States ruling, perhaps the most egregious was Justice Anthony Kennedy's insinuation that "the children made me do it." Windsor declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional because it defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. Why was DOMA a problem for children? Justice Kennedy said that by denying same-sex couples legitimacy, DOMA "humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples." The Act "makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives." Thus Justice Kennedy portrays himself as riding to the children's rescue.This strategy is reminiscent of President Barack Obama's misuse of the military to justify same-sex "marriage." First, he forced the repeal of "don't ask don't tell" on the reluctant military, and then used that very same military as the excuse for endorsing homosexual "marriage," as if it were the military asking for it. Those poor Marines in the foxholes of Afghanistan were just aching to marry each other, and Obama comes to their rescue. He shamelessly proclaimed: "When I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that "don't ask don't tell" is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."This was completely risible, but one has to admire the audacity of his sophistical argument, as we do Justice Kennedy's similar one. His goes like this: First, allow same-sex couples to adopt children, but then do not blame the humiliation of the children on the situation into which they have been placed, through no fault of their own, but upon the people who objected to it in the first place. Do not fault those who created the problem through the fabrication of faux "marriage"; fault those who warned that the fabrication of faux "marriage," along with attendant adoptions, would create this problem. First, exploit children by placing them in this situation, and then exploit them again in order to justify it. Voilà! A fully formed faux family.If children had their rights, there would be no such "families" in which to place them. The magnitude of the injustice involved in the redefinition of marriage comes most clearly into view in regard to children, to whom justice is also owed. As Professor Seana Sugrue writes, "the ability of same-sex couples to be parents depends crucially upon the state declaring that they possess such rights, and by extinguishing or redefining the rights of biological parents. With the rise of same-sex marriage, the obligations parents owed to their biological children are reduced to mere convention. This is true for everyone. Parents come to owe obligations to their children not because they are parents, but because they choose to be parents." What is owed to children by right becomes optional by convention. This is a staggering loss for them.The adoption of children by same-sex couples is, of course, an extension of the rationalization of their sexual misbehavior, no matter how motivated it may be by accompanying eleemosynary motives. Children are the fruit of a mother and a father, ideally in matrimony as husband and wife. If same-sex couples, too, can have children, this must mean that they, also, have "real" marriages. The possession of the child by the same-sex couple completes the rationalization for them. Just as most active homosexuals practice faux intercourse, they can have faux progeny from it. They can pretend that this is so, and they can insist that society pretend along with them. In fact, Justice Kennedy just issued the order that we all must share in the rationalization. What is worse, same-sex couples will make the children pretend, too. They will be indoctrinated to participate in the lie, now reinforced by the Supreme Court. And therein lays a good deal of the harm that same-sex couples will bring to them, despite the love and affection they may provide. As one mother explained to me, "Most kids understand intuitively the idea that everything has a purpose. How does one explain to them that the purpose is ignored by adults? The children are caught in that web of deceit."This makes complete nonsense of Justice Kennedy's bizarre remark about how "difficult [it is] for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family" if the same-sex "family" is not accorded full legitimacy. It is difficult for the children to understand, not because of any animus or lack of respect from others, but because that "integrity and closeness" is compromised by the very nature of same-sex relationships. Same-sex "families" with children are broken by definition because in no instance will both parents be present. Therefore, they naturally do not possess the integrity of which Justice Kennedy spoke. Such "families" are made to be broken, or rather broken to be made, by design. This is especially so in the cases in which a child is bred-with the outside assistance of a person of the other gender-to be placed with the same-sex couple, only one of whom is, or could be, the parent of the child. This is a grotesque act of injustice to the children who are misused in this way and for this purpose. They are deliberately denied the possibility of being with both parents. They are made rootless, or rather made to be rootless in the essential aspect of the missing parent-an intentionally truncated genealogy. Indeed, they are willfully wrenched out of the chain of being.They can feel this acutely. Robert Oscar Lopez, a bisexual man raised by a lesbian couple, stated that, "children deeply feel the loss of a father or mother, no matter how much we love our gay parents or how much they love us. Children feel the loss keenly because they are powerless to stop the decision to deprive them of a father or mother, and the absence of a male or female parent will likely be irreversible for them." Elsewhere, Lopez added that, "Conferring marriage on same-sex couples means some children will never be able to invoke the words 'father' and 'mother' in order to describe the household that their parents are now allowed to describe as a 'marriage.' In order to grant validation and prestige to mom and mom or dad and dad, the kids lose access to the value of celebrating a maternal and paternal line of ancestry. Come Mother's Day and Father's Day, they will not be equal to their peers, due directly to the fact that their same-sex guardians fought so hard to be equal to their peers' parents." In light of this, who is really responsible for any lack of "concord with other families in their community" that same sex families may experience?For all of Justice Kennedy's fulminations about the absolute equivalency of heterosexual and homosexual parenting, the children raised by two males or two females could never have that instinctive sense about the beginnings of their existence in the love of their parents-for the obvious reason that they could not originate in the relationship between two males or two females. If you are supposed to be the incarnation of the love between two people, but at least one of those people is missing, of what then are you the product? Can that incarnational love be replaced, or are your origins compromised? When my children were younger, they used to think that, if my wife and I removed our wedding rings, they would disappear. We never told them that. Yet they instinctively understood that their very existence depended upon the love between my wife and me. They sensed that they were incarnations of this love, and they therefore concluded that if it were broken they would disappear.Do the children of same-sex couples feel the loss of this incarnational love, or the tenuousness that its absence imparts to their own existence? Here is Lopez's bitter reflection: "It's disturbingly classist and elitist for gay men to think they can love their children unreservedly after treating their surrogate mother like an incubator, or for lesbians to think they can love their children unconditionally after treating their sperm-donor father like a tube of toothpaste." Unconditional love, morally at least, was supposed to be there between the spouses as a condition for the creation of a new person. If it was not there (and it cannot be if one spouse is deliberately missing), how can the child be its incarnation? Is the child the result of one person and a petri dish? This terrible dilemma will leave these children with the lifelong quest for their real origins, or suffering from their being unable to discover them and wondering why at least one of their real parents did not want them. Even the laudable love of adoptive parents cannot overcome this profound instinctual problem.There is also ample human testimony from others who have endured same-sex upbringing concerning its dysfunctional character and the price they have paid for it. Here is a cri de coeur from Jean-Dominique Bunel, a 67-year-old French man, who was raised by two women. He lamented that, "I also suffered from the lack of a father, a daily presence, a character and properly masculine behavior, and an otherness in relation to my mother and her partner. I realized this very early. I experienced this lack of a father as an amputation." As a result, he advises, regarding homosexuals, ". give them as much as possible the same rights as heterosexuals but this equality obviously cannot apply to a 'right to the child,' which exists nowhere and is not found in any text." Referring to the same sex marriage bill in France [which has since passed], Bunel said, ". this measure necessarily opens adoption, thus institutionalizing a state that had so disturbed me. There is an injustice that I cannot stand." He concluded, "If the two women who raised me were married after the adoption of such a bill, I'd continue in this fight that I have filed a complaint against the French government to the European Court of Human Rights for violating my right to have a father and a mother."Fortunately for Monsieur Brunel, his case would not appear before Justice Kennedy, who would inform him that the humiliation and injustice he suffered was not inherent to the situation in which he was unfairly placed, but was the result of France's tardy recognition of same-sex "marriage." There is a French phrase for Justice Kennedy's behavior-trahison des clercs. He has earned it, especially in respect to his misuse of children to justify injustice.This column originally appeared on Crisis Magazine on July 2.

Cultural imperialism on the march

May 21, 2013 / 00:00 am

As June approaches, get ready for the official celebration of “Gay Pride Month” by U.S. embassies abroad. If sodomy and same-sex marriage are constitutional rights, what is their relationship to U.S. foreign policy? Despite the tremendous controversy regarding these issues within the United States, the Obama administration has gone ahead and placed them at the center of U. S. diplomacy. Why? In Libido Dominandi, E. Michael Jones wrote that the rationalization of sexual misbehavior “could only calm the troubled conscience in an effective manner when it was legitimized by the regime in power… [which] went on in the name of high moral purpose to make this vision normative for the entire world.” Therefore, the Obama administration has undertaken the task of universalizing the rationalization for sodomitical behavior and is doing so with high moral rhetoric – in this case, by appropriating the language of human rights.The effort began in earnest on International Human Rights Day, December 6, 2011. President Obama issued a memorandum for the heads of executive departments and agencies, directing them “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons”. Mr. Obama said that, “The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights”. Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, explained, “They have directed their embassies everywhere to monitor and assist domestic homosexual movements whether the host country and their people accept it or not. The U.S. is very powerful and can force governments to submit to its social-policy views. They are intent on forcing homosexual ‘marriage’ and homosexual adoption on countries that are offended by such things…”  In her International Human Rights Day speech, Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State, gave the rationale for this. She came to the defense of those “forced to suppress or deny who they are to protect themselves from harm. I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people”, whom she described with a strong Rousseauian echo as “human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity…” But, if they were born free, why are they not free now? No doubt, because society oppresses them, just as South Africa once oppressed its black population through apartheid – an example Mrs. Clinton gives. But history overcame that, and since, as Rousseau taught, man is a product of history, history can overcome this, too. Thus, Mrs. Clinton ends with the admonition, “Be on the right side of history”. In a moment of humility, Mrs. Clinton stated that, “my own country’s record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect. Until 2003, it was still a crime in parts of our country.” It was? What was it? Being homosexual or lesbian was not a crime in the United States, so what was she referring to? Mrs. Clinton never said, but the it to which she alluded is sodomy, the elephant in the room. She repeated the mantra that “it is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay…” and “it should never be a crime to be gay”. One would have to agree in so far as persecution of and violence against homosexuals is concerned but, as Austin Ruse has pointed out, “Such attacks upon individuals are already recognized as violations of human rights in international law particularly in the 1966 Covenants implementing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other existing treaties”. This, then, is moving beyond that to the moral and legal endorsement of certain behavior. Some governments continue to have laws against homosexual acts, which is not the same thing as violating their rights as human beings. Was Mrs. Clinton saying that it is a violation of human rights to declare sodomy illegal?Apparently, for that would be consistent with Section 1 in the Obama directive, instructing agencies abroad to engage in “Combating Criminalization of LGBT Status or Conduct Abroad”(emphasis added). What kind of conduct might this be? The only conduct that is or has been consistently criminalized by many countries is sodomy. What might be the moral objections to such laws? The somewhat evasive answer in the Presidential Memorandum is because “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love…” In her speech, Mrs. Clinton echoed this response: “We need to ask ourselves, ‘How would it feel if it were a crime to love the person I love?’” Well, that depends. What if the person one loves is already married? What if the person one loves is a sibling? How about a teacher in love with a student? Or a pastor in love with a choir boy? Or an uncle with his niece? Acting upon any of these loves in a sexual relationship is, in most places, a crime. How it would feel does not really matter since, in each of these cases, it is morally wrong to sexualize the relationship. Feelings do not change the moral nature of an act. Why, if all the above cases deserve prohibition, do homosexuals deserve an exemption when it comes to sodomy? As with all rationalizations for moral misbehavior, Mrs. Clinton’s speech was rife with denials of reality, three of which came in one sentence. She said, “Now, there are some who say and believe that all gay people are pedophiles, that homosexuality is a disease that can become caught or cured, or that gays recruit others to become gay. Well, these notions are simply not true”. Well, these notions have to be seen as not true for her to promote the “gay” agenda internationally and get away with it. I have never met anyone who believes that all homosexuals are pedophiles. By setting up the pedophile straw man, Mrs. Clinton avoids this unpleasant reality. Whether homosexuality is a disease or not (it is certainly a disorder), there is ample evidence that it can be cured. Some who have become immersed in this life and who later wish to leave it have successfully done so through a variety of therapies. For Secretary Clinton to deny this is an enormous disservice to the very people whose rights she purports to be defending. Lastly, the bigger the lie, the bolder the assertion – as in Mrs. Clinton’s outright denial that “gays recruit others to become gay”. In my professional career in the arts, I witnessed such recruitment, saw its occasional success, and was several times the object of it. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the homosexual subculture could not possibly make such a statement. This is not to say that all homosexuals recruit, but to assert that none do is a complete denial of reality – which, after all, is the point of the rationalization.One of the most immediate results of the priority given to the homosexual cause by President Obama and Secretary Clinton has been the profusion of “gay pride” commemorations and celebrations in U.S. embassies abroad. June is the month singled out for this because, in 2000, President Bill Clinton declared June “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month”.Therefore, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad celebrated its first-ever lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) “pride celebration” with an event on June 26, 2011. The embassy said the purpose of meeting was to demonstrate “support for human rights, including LGBT rights, in Pakistan at a time when those rights are increasingly under attack from extremist elements throughout Pakistani society.” Richard Hoagland, the U.S. deputy chief of mission, was quoted on the embassy website, as saying, “I want to be clear that the U.S. Embassy is here to support you and stand by your side every step of the way”. However, it is Pakistan’s Penal Code, not extremist elements, that, in Section 377 (introduced at the time of British colonialism), states that “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” shall be punished with some prison term and a fine.Pakistani students protested against what they called “the attempts of the United States to promote vulgarity in Islamic societies under the pretext of human rights”. One speaker at a demonstration said, “Now the United States wants to project and promote objectionable, unnatural, abnormal behaviors under the pretext of equality and human rights, which is not at all acceptable…If you destroy the morality of the society, you have destroyed it completely.”  In Nairobi, Kenya, June, 2012, the U.S. Embassy hosted what is thought to be the first “Gay Pride” event in that country. John Haynes, a public affairs officer at the U.S. embassy, introduced the event: "The U.S. government for its part has made it clear that the advancement of human rights for LGBT people is central to our human rights policies around the world and to the realization of our foreign policy goals". Homosexual acts are illegal in Kenya, just as they were in parts of the United States until 2003. This type of thing at U.S. embassies has become standard. As then-Secretary of State Clinton proclaimed in June, 2012: “United States Embassies and Missions throughout the world are working to defend the rights of LGBT people of all races, religions, and nationalities as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy. From Riga, where two U.S. Ambassadors and a Deputy Assistant Secretary marched in solidarity with Baltic Pride; to Nassau, where the Embassy joined together with civil society to screen a film about LGBT issues in Caribbean societies; to Albania, where our Embassy is coordinating the first-ever regional Pride conference for diplomats and activists to discuss human rights and shared experiences”. Secretary Clinton avowed that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights”. The problem with this should be self-evident. The promotion of gay rights must come at the expense of the promotion of human rights because the two notions are immiscible. One is founded on the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God and the other on moral relativism, which eviscerates the very idea of natural rights and the natural law on which they are based. If you have one, you cannot have the other. You have your rights by virtue of being a human being, and not by anything else – not ethnicity, not religion, not race, not tribe, not sexual orientation. I deplore, for instance, the persecution of Baha’is in Iran and the persecution of Ahamdis in Pakistan. Nonetheless, there is no such thing as Ahmadi rights or Baha’i rights: there are only human rights. And our defense of them comes precisely at the level of principle in the inalienable right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. Were we to construct such a thing as Ahmadi rights or Baha’i rights or “gay” rights, we would be eviscerating the foundations for those very human rights, which have to be universal by definition in order to exist. If one has rights as a Baha’i, what happens to those rights if one converts to, say Christianity? Does one then lose one’s Baha’i rights and obtain new Christian rights? What happens to one’s “gay” rights if one goes straight? One does not possess or attain rights in this way. They are inalienable because one possesses them by virtue of one’s human nature.  Either they exist at that level, or they do not exist at all. If someone tries to appropriate human rights for something that applies to less than everyone, then you may be sure that they are undermining the very notion of human rights. If the United States wishes to promote democratic principles and constitutional rule in other countries, but insists on inserting manufactured rights as integral to that program, it will be rejected overall by religious people and by anyone who has arrived at the existence of human rights from natural law. If we wish not only to make ourselves irrelevant, but an object of derision in the Muslim and other parts of world, all we have to do is openly promote the rationalization of homosexual behavior, which is explicitly taught against as inherently immoral by Islam and, in fact, by every minority religion in those Muslim-majority countries, including Christianity and Judaism. If we wish to make this part of American public diplomacy, as we have been doing, we can surrender the idea that the United States is promoting democracy in those countries because they are already responding, “If this is democracy, we don’t want it, thank you; we would rather keep our faith and morals.” But, of course, democracy is not the goal; the goal is the universalization of the rationalization for sodomy. This is now one of the depraved purposes of U.S. foreign policy. The light from the City on the Hill is casting a very dark shadow.This article derives from a longer piece on Mercatornet.

The President needs a history lesson

May 2, 2013 / 00:00 am

In the spring of 1983, President Ronald Reagan did something highly unusual for a sitting president. He wrote and published an unsolicited article in "The Human Life Review," titled "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation." In it, he denounced the "raw judicial power" by which the Supreme Court had dispossessed the unborn of their inalienable right to life in the Roe v. Wade decision, and mourned the some 15 million lives that had been snuffed out by abortion by that time.On April 26, 2013, President Barack Obama did something equally extraordinary. He became the first president to address a Planned Parenthood conference. Planned Parenthood is the foremost provider of abortions in the United States. In his speech, Mr Obama celebrated the "quality healthcare to women" that this organization purportedly provides without once mentioning the service for which they are best known - abortion.President Obama also lauded the organization for its near century of service since "the first health clinic of what later would become Planned Parenthood opened its doors to women in Brooklyn." Curiously, he neglected to say much else about the origins of the group, except that "for nearly a century now, one core principle has guided everything all of you do - that women should be allowed to make their own decisions about their own health. It's a simple principle."Actually, that's not quite accurate. The real founding principle behind the group from which Planned Parenthood sprang was purely eugenicist, deriving from Charles Darwin's "survival of the fittest." Perhaps it is best to let founder Margaret Sanger (1883-1966) speak in her own words at length (so as to avoid their being taken out of context).In "Women and the New Race" (1920), she wrote that:"Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives. So, in compliance with nature's working plan, we must permit womanhood its full development before we can expect of it efficient motherhood. If we are to make racial progress, this development of womanhood must precede motherhood in every individual woman. Then and then only can the mother cease to be an incubator and be a mother indeed. Then only can she transmit to her sons and daughters the qualities which make strong individuals and, collectively, a strong race."The purpose in promoting birth control, she added in the "Birth Control Review," Nov. 1921, was "to create a race of thoroughbreds." How can this be done? Among other things, she explained in "Women and the New Race," "[We should] apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring."The only way to do this was to have fewer children from the "unfit." Who were the unfit? One can guess the answer from where Margaret Sanger placed her clinics - in poor neighborhoods. Who lived there? Blacks, East Europeans, and shanty Irish, among whom were my grandparents. The solution to poverty was to get rid of the poor. In case anyone missed the point, she said, "The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it."Of course, Mr Obama did not come from a large family, but one wonders from the circumstances of his birth what Margaret Sanger would have thought about bringing the unborn Obama to term? One can only be grateful that his mother did not consider herself part of a breeding program to create a "new race." However, it is puzzling that he chose to celebrate a group whose origins are so explicitly steeped in eugenics.This makes all the more remarkable the kind of criticism he leveled at the new restrictions recently placed on abortions by several states, including Kansas and North Dakota. President Obama said that "after decades of progress, there's still those who want to turn back the clock to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century." But Planned Parenthood's ideas turn back the clock far earlier than the 1950s. In fact, they go back almost a full century before that and have their genesis in Darwin's work, the full title of which is "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life." These ideas, with a little help from Frederick Nietzsche, reached their fruition in Nazi Germany.That makes the 1950s look rather good. In fact, in comparison to today, 1950s America sported intact families, low crime rates, almost no pornography or drugs, and an extremely low divorce rate. Rather than denigrating it, Mr Obama should be celebrating these aspects of that fortunate decade. Of course, the 1950s did not allow what Mr Obama tells Planned Parenthood is "your right to choose." This is the popular euphemism for abortion, employed by people who might otherwise squirm at Margaret Sanger's admonition to "kill it."Therefore, the way Mr Obama disguises the issue is by cloaking it in the rhetoric of healthcare and human rights. He objects to "the government injecting [interjecting?] itself into decisions best made between a woman and her doctor." Abraham Lincoln, whom Mr Obama purports to admire, would have had a good laugh at this. It is straight proslavery language. It would be like objecting in the 1850s to the government interjecting itself between a man and his slave. After all, it's his property, just as the Dred Scott decision said. After all, it's not a "person," as Roe v. Wade said. However, if the government can't protect innocent human life, what can it do?Well, it can provide free contraceptives. Thanks to Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, the president said, "most insurance plans are now covering the cost of contraceptive care, so that a working mom doesn't have to put off the care she needs just so she can pay her bills on time." What could he possibly be talking about? Without insurance, one month's worth of generic oral contraceptives costs around $9. For this, we have a government?President Obama, Margaret Sanger would be proud of you. Abraham Lincoln would not.Robert R. Reilly was a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and served as his liaison to the pro-life movement. He is completing a book forthcoming from Ignatius Press on the natural law argument against same-sex marriage.

Do infertile couples clinch the case for same-sex marriage?

Mar 27, 2013 / 00:00 am

Nope. All infertilities are not equal. There is a crucial difference between an infertile heterosexual union and an impotent homosexual one.This week, the US Supreme Court began its deliberations on the contentious issue of same-sex marriage. One of the two cases it will hear concerns California's Proposition 8, an approved state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. One of the objections to this amendment brought by lawyers Ted Olsen and David Boies for the two same-sex couples who seek to overturn it is that, "this court has never conditioned the right to marry on the ability to procreate."That is exactly right.No court has ever made the ability to marry contingent on the ability to procreate. In the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case in 2010, which first found Proposition 8 unconstitutional, US District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker stated that the ability to produce offspring has never been a prerequisite for granting heterosexual couples marriage licenses.But what is the relevance of this point to the case at hand and why is it at the center of the argument against exclusively heterosexual marriage?The pro-homosexual movement uses the matter of infertility in an attempt to gain traction for same-sex marriage by pointing out that if infertile heterosexual couples can marry, then the ability to procreate cannot be a prerequisite for or essential to marriage. Therefore, they reason, homosexuals should also be allowed to marry. However, this argument works only if there is no distinction between the infertility of homosexual relations and those of an infertile heterosexual couple. In other words, all infertilities would have to be equal, ie, existing for the same reason.Is this so?It is not. Homosexual relations are essentially sterile, while heterosexual relations are only accidentally sterile. In fact, they are not even both infertilities properly speaking. This is a smokescreen used to deflect attention from the real underlying issue. Infertility is an issue only in respect to those whose exercise of their procreative powers in heterosexual intercourse has failed for some reason that may be due to congenital or temporary health problems.This is the only proper use of this word. One would not, for instance, refer to baseball playing or to a rock as an infertile act or thing because it would be gratuitous. Baseball does not have the potential to be fertile, nor do rocks.Things or acts which do not possess procreative powers are not called infertile, because they could not possibly be fertile. Therefore, it makes no sense to say that a rock is infertile. Likewise, homosexual liaisons do not possess procreative potentiality. They are, therefore, not properly called infertile but, more accurately, impotent. To be accurate, Judge Walker should have contrasted heterosexual infertility with homosexual impotence.Infertility equivalence also presumes equivalence between the kinds of acts in an infertile heterosexual union and in an impotent homosexual one.Regardless of its fertility or infertility on any specific occasion, the coital act is procreative by its nature - as only it can produce life - even when and if procreation does not result, as it does not in the vast majority of cases during a couple's fertile lifetime. Is the nature of marital relations fundamentally different during the frequent instances when pregnancy does not occur? Are those acts, then, equivalent in kind to sodomy? At a certain point, all heterosexual couples become permanently infertile due to age, but does this make the character of their acts sodomitical? It does not. They are no less marital or generative in their nature because they always remain, in their "one-flesh" aspect, unitive - something a homosexual act can never be. Unitive coition is obviously the necessary precondition for procreation, which is why these acts remain generative in their essence.However, sodomy, by its nature and in all circumstances, is a non-procreative act. One might even say that it is an anti-procreative act. Sodomy and coition have never been treated the same before because they are not the same. Judge Walker's ruling and the current case against Proposition 8 rest on a denial of this. If these two acts can be equated, then treating them differently would be wrong. In the law, like must be treated alike. It is with the implicit conflation of sodomy and the marital act that Judge Walker and the current litigants try to manufacture the charge of the denial of equal protection and discrimination against Proposition 8.This is how Judge Walker attempted to pull it off in the Perry ruling: "same-sex couples are identical to opposite-sex couples in the characteristics relevant to the ability to form successful marital unions." Consequently, denying same-sex couples the right to marriage must be a form of discrimination and a denial of equal protection. However, they are not the same because coition and sodomy are not the same. The former allows marriage; the latter does not.Common law holds, and has always held, that a marriage is not valid until it is consummated. What does consummating a marriage mean? It means and has always meant by law an act of vaginal intercourse between the husband and wife. If this act does not take place, the marriage can be legally declared a nullity. Until consummation, it is subject to annulment. Therefore, becoming "one flesh" is not optional for a legally valid marriage. If one is incapable of consummating a marriage or simply unwilling to do so for any reason, there can be no marriage, and therefore no "right" to it can exist. In legal terms, the spouse requesting an annulment of marriage on the grounds of impotency must prove that the impotence or physical incapacity in the partner is permanent and incurable, and was so at the time of the marriage. Any attempted union between two males or two females easily meets these criteria for annulment. (Infertility, on the other hand, is not a ground for annulment.)Infertility and impotence are not the same; neither are coition and sodomy. So yes, dear litigants in the Proposition 8 case, the ability to marry is not contingent on fertility, but it is contingent on potency, on consummation - on becoming "one flesh." On that requirement alone, your case for same-sex marriage fails.This post originally appeared on Mercator Net.

Why men fight

Jan 29, 2013 / 00:00 am

Will women in front-line combat duty change the way men behave in combat?Men fight to protect their women. Or, at least, that's the way it used to be.On Thursday, however, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, "Today Gen. Dempsey and I are pleased to announce that we are eliminating the ground combat exclusion rule for women and moving forward with a plan to eliminate all gender-based barriers to service." This, in effect, voids the 1994 rule that mostly excludes women from units below the brigade level when the primary mission is direct ground combat.Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, proclaimed that, "The time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service,"Why is this necessary? How did such a "time" arrive upon us? According to the Wall Street Journal, "last February, Mr. Panetta ordered US military service chiefs to find ways to expand the role of women." In other words, the military chiefs did not go to the Secretary of Defense and say, "we need to place women in combat units in order to fulfill our military mission."Had they said this, it could have been for two possible reasons. One is that there are not enough men willing to serve in combat. Or two, women are demonstrably better in combat than men. The first is clearly not the case, as the military is cutting back on personnel. The Armed Forces have more men in combat units than, according to President Obama, they need. Two, there are no studies demonstrating women's superiority or even equivalence to men in combat. In other words, this came from the top - the political top. It is ideological pressure that created this requirement, not military necessity.The rationalizations for it are almost amusing in the distance they have achieved from reality. One of the women who filed a lawsuit to challenge the combat ban, Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, who was injured in 2007 by a roadside bomb in Iraq, said, "Right before the IED went off, it didn't ask me how many push-ups or sit-ups I could do." Yes, indeed, an explosive can rip right through a woman as well as a man. It does not discriminate. Death is an equal opportunity killer. Usually, that would be a reason to keep women out of harm's way, not put them in it.Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a former Army pilot who lost both her legs in Iraq when her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, said the decision will allow the "best man or woman on the front line." Absolutely, if a woman can kill men more effectively than a man can, why not let them? Women killing men is an essential part of equal opportunity.Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) said that on the current battlefield "all who serve are in combat." Absolutely, the person who cuts his or her finger at the company mess hall slicing bread should get a purple heart just like the infantry man who is shot by an enemy soldier. All wounds are equal. If we define everything as combat, then there are no obstacles to women in combat.White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama thinks that the end of the combat exclusion is "appropriate." Appropriate to what? Apparently to removing "unnecessary gender-based barriers," as Mr Carney said.Here is evidence of the barrier. Since 2001, 152 women have been killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, with 946 wounded. Considering that women make up some 14 percent of the active duty military, the killing is obviously not proportional to their participation. It only represents .019 of US fatalities in these two wars. Clearly, this must be the result of discrimination. To make sure women are given a fair shake in their new roles as front-line fighters, perhaps the fatality figure could be brought up 14 percent. In fact, this might be the new metric of success for the integration of women into ground combat.There is another serious problem that requires no sarcasm. According to John Luddy, in a 1994 backgrounder for the Heritage Foundation, "History shows that the presence of women has had a devastating impact on the effectiveness of men in battle." Why? For example, "a review of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. revealed that men tried to protect and assist women rather than continue their attack. As a result, they not only put their own lives in greater danger, but also jeopardized the survival of the entire unit. The study further revealed that unit morale was damaged when men saw women killed and maimed on the battlefield."According to the late Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, women reduced the combat effectiveness of Haganah units because men took steps to protect them out of "fear of what the Arabs would do to (the) women if they captured them." In other words, men will behave like men, nowhere more so than in the presence of women. This is why Israel barred women from direct combat until 2000, when the so far only mixed gender infantry battalion was organized to patrol the relatively quiet borders with Jordan and Egypt.There is another less appetizing way in which men will be men in the presence of women. General Dempsey, apparently with a straight face, suggested that allowing women into combat units may alleviate the military's serious problem with sexual harassment: "I have to believe, the more we can treat people equally, the more likely they are to treat each other equally." In other words, if we pretend that women are just smaller men, sexual harassment will go away.Here is the political program: Inject sexual tension into combat units by mixing genders, which results in an explosion of sexual harassment; then blame the military and insist that it transform itself - not to fight the enemy and win wars - but to fight sexual harassment.A rare voice of sanity was heard when Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said, "The focus of our military needs to be maximizing combat effectiveness. The question here is whether this change will actually make our military better at operating in combat and killing the enemy, since that will be their job, too."Should it be their job to kill or to be killed? Retired four-star general Volney Warner said that, "I remain convinced that women are better at giving life than taking it." What kind of society seeks to put its women, it's life givers, directly in harm's way - to endanger that which is most precious to it? The answer is a society that no longer knows what women are or why men fight to protect them. In turn, it asks men not to be men - not to be protectors. What is there left to defend in such a society?President Obama said, "Today, every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love." Instinctively, one feels that this sentence should say the opposite - that we can be proud that our military is protecting "our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters" by keeping them from harm, not by placing them in it. One reason this is a "country we love" is that we can keep our women safe here. Obama brings us only one step away from the idea that "our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters" should be the ones protecting our military. This is a proposal that the ancient Greek playwright and satirist Aristophanes could have had great fun with. "Honey, tell the kids that mommy will be late tonight. I've still got some killing to do."If you want men to have nothing to fight for, this is the way to proceed.This column originally appeared on Mercator.net.

Will Egypt become a totalitarian state?

Jan 10, 2013 / 00:00 am

The Muslim Brotherhood has made another giant step forward in consolidating its rule in Egypt through the successful passage of the newly drafted constitution by some 64 percent of those who voted.

Mary in the city of angels

Dec 5, 2012 / 00:00 am

Los Angeles today might not be the first place that comes to mind when seeking out hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, a recent concert on Sunday, November 18, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, featuring Monteverdi’s “Vespers” (“Vespro della Beata Vergine”) of 1610, was not the first time that this city has lived up to its literal name: El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles.I recall my discovery several years ago of one of the most beautiful versions of the “Ave Maria” composed since Schubert. It was written by Los Angeles composer Morton Lauridsen, with whom I’ve since become acquainted. When I asked Lauridsen, a Protestant, about this radiant a cappella motet, so suffused with love for Mary, he responded, “I don’t have to belong to the Catholic Church to be in love with Mary.”The recent concert I attended brought this to mind for a reason. The “Vespers” were performed with outstanding vocal purity by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. It is this same group that premiered the “Ave Maria,” which, in fact, was composed in honor of Paul Salamunovich, its director at the time. These forces made the world premiere recording on the RCM label. (9705) Several weeks ago, I was absolutely floored when I received a UPS tube from Lauridsen, because it contained the original manuscript sketch of the opening measures of “Ave Maria,” given to me because the composer knows how much I love the music. Needless to say, the preciousness of this gift went straight through my heart.My expectations for the performance of the “Vespers” were high because of my prior acquaintance with the LA Master Chorale through both the Lauridsen recording and its performances of the wonderful “Te Deum” by Dominick Argento and Maurice Durufle’s “Messe 'Cum Jubilo,'” also for the RCM label. My expectations were easily met by the Chorale, now under the baton of Grant Gershon, along with the Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra.First some words about the extraordinary “Vespers.” Monteverdi was not primarily known for religious or liturgical music, but rather for his secular motets, madrigals and operas. Why he wrote the “Vespers” is a matter of speculation. Some think it was a job résumé, which he intended to help him escape the court of Mantua for a more favorable and lucrative locale. In any case, it seemed to work, as he was offered a place at St. Mark’s in Venice, where he served as maestro di cappella for the rest of his long career, which ended with his death in 1643.Monteverdi’s “Vespers” are in the tradition of the sung evening service for feasts of the Virgin Mary. For this, he gave choral settings to five psalms (“Dixit Dominus” [6-part choir], “Laudate pueri” [8-part choir], “Laetatus sum” [6-part choir], “Nisi Dominus” [10-part choir], and “Lauda Ierusalem” [7-part choir]), followed by the Marian hymn, “Ave Maris Stella,” and a setting of the “Magnificat,” which closes the work. Between the psalms, Monteverdi inserted five “sacred concertos,” a sequence of motets for a gradually increasing number of solo voices, with continuo accompaniment – the last one, an exuberant “Sonata Sopra ‘Sancta Maria ora pro nobis,’” with an extensive instrumental introduction, followed by the full chorus.It is unclear whether Monteverdi expected the “Vespers” to be performed all together, or only in parts. Nonetheless, it has become the custom to play the whole piece together, which takes about an hour and a half. Much to the credit of the LA Master Chorale, the “Vespers” were played without intermission. The singing was thrilling, from the first entry by the tenor at “Deus in adiutorium meum intende,” followed by the resplendent full chorus and orchestra, till the closing, magnificent “Magnificat.” The eight soloists, drawn from the 40-member Chorale, were all outstanding, especially tenors Daniel Chaney and Matthew Tresler, and sopranos Suzanne Anderson and Claire Fedoruk.The eight soloists, drawn from the 40-member Chorale, were all outstanding, especially tenors Daniel Chaney, Michael Lichtenauer, and Matthew Tresler, and sopranos Suzanne Anderson and Claire Fedoruk.Tresler's solo in “Nigra Sum” was tender and exquisitely delicate. In the “Duo Seraphim,” the piece was begun by Lichtenauer and Chaney in a brilliant evocation of the text describing "two Seraphim calling one to the other," as they sang antiphonally back and forth until, when the Holy Spirit enters, they were appropriately joined by the third tenor, Tresler. The singing and the effect were simply superb. Though this "sacred concerto" only lasts about four minutes, it was one of the highlights of the evening.These first two tenors again created an excellent impression in the next "sacred concerto," “Audi coelam.” Chaney sang downstage, praying to heaven, while Lichtenauer, placed above in the organ loft, sang the heavenly answers to the prayers. Visually and dramatically this worked stunningly well.The last “sacred concerto,” “Sonata Sopra ‘Sancta Maria ora pro nobis,’” after an orchestral introduction, contains a very lovely violin duo that was well played by Ingrid Mathews and Janet Strauss. When the full chorus joined in, the effect was inspiriting.With my comments on the soloists, in fact, I may seem to be neglecting the chorus, for which no praise could be too high. Not only was the singing spot on throughout, but it was infused with spirit or, I might even say, soul. This was no where more evident than in “Ave Maris Stella” and the splendidly sung “Magnificat.”I have two niggles. Music director Grant Gershon, who otherwise did such a magnificent job, made the mistake of turning to address the audience after the first Psalm in order to explain the music to us. I think this was a mistake. He was simply extemporizing what was already in the program notes. By breaking through the fourth wall, by violating the dramatic space between his performers and the audience, some of the mystique of the “Vespers” evaporated. It was after the spell was broken that the audience felt free to applaud after each number, which again interrupted the atmosphere. Unfortunately, Gershon made another interpolation after the last Psalm.I was also given intermittent pause by the Musica Angelica, its 13 members playing on original instruments. I found that when the members of this Baroque orchestra were individually accompanying the singers, everything was generally fine. In fact, the string and lute players seemed particularly fine. However, when playing as an ensemble, they occasionally sounded slightly out of sync and not quite in tune. I do not know if Cornettos and Sackbuts are particularly unwieldy brass instruments, but they certainly sounded unwieldy. However, I often find the sound of original instruments faintly ridiculous, so I may be prejudiced in this area – one in which I admit to no expertise. I note that other reviewers (LA Times, Examiner.com) were thrilled, but I have to trust my ears on this one.Monteverdi was renowned in his time for his highly expressive vocal style. What about for our time? Does it still convey? The answer from the Walt Disney Concert Hall is that, when sung as splendidly as it was by the LA Master Chorale – yes, the “Vespers” are for our time or any other. There is something timeless about music like this, which is the whole idea. It is also clear from this great composition that Monteverdi was every bit as much in love with Mary, as is Morton Lauridsen. It is quite a coincidence that the loves of these two composers have been so effectively communicated by the same performers. Or perhaps, as unexpected as it might be – could this be something about the City of Angels?

Twentieth century (and later) musical treasures

Nov 23, 2012 / 00:00 am

In this column, it has been my special brief to pursue and attempt to resuscitate the reputation of great 20th century and contemporary classical music that I think has been neglected. There is a lot of it, which is why I published a book 10 years ago, titled Surprised by Beauty: A Listener's Guide to the Recovery of Modern Music. Over the past 10 years, I have, of course, made many new discoveries, which is why I am hard at work on a new edition of this book for Ignatius Press, which will roughly double it in size.

Silenced

Nov 6, 2012 / 00:00 am

Whenever Benedict XVI speaks on the subject of dialogue with Islam or directly addresses Muslims, he invariably emphasizes the acknowledgment of freedom of conscience and religion as the prerequisite for dialogue, not as an outcome from it. The new book, “Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide,” by Paul Marshall and Nina Shea, shows in dramatic detail how very far many Muslim-majority countries are from meeting this prerequisite.

Why can't Islam apologize?

Oct 19, 2012 / 00:00 am

By now, everyone is familiar with how upset many Muslims were by the 14-minute amateur video, released on YouTube, called “The Innocence of Muslims.” The new president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, advised from the podium at the U.N. General Assembly that, “insults against the prophet of Islam, Mohammed, are not acceptable. We will not allow anyone to do this by word or by deed.”

'Shining Night:' a portrait of composer Morten Lauridsen

Oct 12, 2012 / 00:00 am

One of the privileges of writing this column is that I occasionally get to meet the composers of the music I review. I had a meeting this past year with a musician with whom I have been in correspondence for some time. Morten Lauridsen, the most frequently performed American choral composer, came to Washington, D.C. for the local premiere of the documentary film that Michael Stillwater made about him, titled “Shining Night.” I was delighted when Lauridsen asked me to sit with him during the showing. What I saw – and heard – left me deeply moved.

From Vaughan Williams in London to Rachmaninov in Rimini

Sep 25, 2012 / 00:00 am

During a late summer adventure that took me to Rimini, Italy, I was able to stop over in London for a day to catch a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in the wonderful Proms series, which is one of the musical glories of that great city.

There is no democracy if God and reason are separated

Sep 13, 2012 / 00:00 am

“At a certain point in its history, Islam abandoned reason in the belief that the human mind cannot know good and evil without divine revelation. Thus, the only people qualified to distinguish right from wrong are the experts who have studied the sacred texts their whole lives. This has infantilized the vast majority of Muslims.”

Is man by nature in relation to the infinite?

Sep 4, 2012 / 00:00 am

The headline above has been posed as a question. However, at the Rimini Meeting in Italy, from which I have just returned, it was put forth in a statement as the main theme of a week-long event (August 19-25) that seemed to examine every aspect of life within the broader context of its divine purpose.

Is Romney right about culture?

Aug 7, 2012 / 00:00 am

Governor Mitt Romney seems to have stirred up some controversy by the remarks he made to a gathering in Jerusalem the other week.

Bravo for the boy scouts; boo for the washington post

Jul 30, 2012 / 00:00 am

The Boy Scouts are as American as apple pie, and they have decided to keep it that way. This has earned them the censure of the Washington Post's editorial page last week. The Scouts decided to reaffirm the policy to deny membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA."The Post opined that this is un-American, because the policy teaches "young people that it seeks to empower that some of them are unequal, merely because of the way they were born." This "represents a sad embrace of intolerance" and it is "nothing if not an incitement to 'criticize' and 'condemn'" open or avowed homosexuals.Does, in fact, the Boy Scouts organization deny the founding principle of the United States that all people are created equal? To the contrary, the Scouts have no class, social, economic, racial or religious barriers to entry. If anything, they are a shining example of the principle of equality. All you have to do to become a Scout is to adhere to its principles, as expressed in the Boy Scout pledge, which is as follows:"On my honor, I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."Is there anything iniquitous in this pledge? The purpose of the Scouts is the physical and moral formation of young boys. The moral part of that formation excludes the avowal and promotion of homosexual acts, which are inherently immoral. This is the basis of the "exclusion" that the Post deplores. However, this policy has nothing to do with the way anyone is born, but everything to do with how they behave. It is not about "who" they are, but what they "do" and, most importantly, how they justify what they do.In other words, by announcing their proclivities and behavior publicly, "open" homosexuals are not only telling others that they have accepted themselves as active homosexuals; they are insisting that others accept them on the same basis on which they have accepted themselves. Therefore, in the Boy Scouts case, they have made a public announcement concerning their sexual behavior and wish to have it accepted as the basis for their inclusion in an organization that is explicitly dedicated to moral formation. By including "open" homosexuals, such an organization would be, at the very least, implicitly accepting the rationalization for homosexual sexual behavior as part of that moral formation. To do so would make the Scouts complicit in the corruption of youth.They should be very proud of themselves that, despite all the pressure, they have refused to do so. A Scouts spokesman said, "The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting." In other words, the Scouts refused to be instrumentalized by the homosexual movement to advance its cause. Bravo.The absurdity of the Post's case against the Boy Scouts can be understood as follows. Let us say there is a Temperance League to which some active and "open" alcoholics seek admittance. The whole point of the Temperance League is to teach the evils of overindulgence in spirits. If it accepts others who openly advocate and practice drunkenness, it would be denying the reason for its own existence. It   would abandon the moral principle that it is evil to be drunken.What would be the purpose of the "active" alcoholics in joining the Temperance League? They would not be joining in order to quit drinking or to be changed, but to change the Temperance League itself so that there would be one less societal organization in the way of their getting good and sozzled whenever they wanted to without public, moral opprobrium. They would join to reverse the public teaching on drunkenness.Is it then a matter of intolerance to exclude active alcoholics? Yes, of course, it is, but it is based not on who the alcoholics are, but on what they do and how they justify what they do. Any reformed alcoholic would be welcome to join the Temperance League.Now the Post might say that this is treating active alcoholics as unequal to non-alcoholics and others   "merely because of the way they were born." And, in fact, there is a case to be made that certain people are afflicted with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. However, some people with this predisposition choose not to drink, while others choose to imbibe. In other words, despite the predisposition, the act is still a matter of free will, and therefore a moral issue. All acts are not equal. Moral acts are superior to immoral acts. Virtue is superior to vice. Truth is superior to falsehood. All of which are implied in the Boy Scout pledge – which is why it is under attack by the Post.Speaking of which, we ought to say that the Post's editorial is simply the latest volley in its incessant war against sexual morality and marriage. Not only its editorial page, but the Style section and often even its news pages are dedicated to the overthrow of chastity and any notion of marriage as between a   man and a woman. Selecting at random the July 23rd issue, we find on page A3 of the news section, "In one year, N.Y. gay-marriage law has made its mark on state, nation." Needles to say, the report is all good news. In the Style section, here is the sub headline on page C3, "Early gay-rights activist   lionized in HBO's 'Vito'" The Metro section has from page story on "AIDS meeting aims to reinvigorate efforts." There is then an entire separate supplement on "AIDS in America."Like any good propagandist, the Post believes that if it repeats its mantra often enough it will change reality or create a new one. (This reminds me of a recent Iranian video dramatizing a classroom change in which the teacher institutes a policy in which 2 + 2 = 5, and of how, through sheer repetition, peer pressure and force, he gets the   students to agree to the new reality: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3eTjftyAtIc)The Post certainly feels itself free to "criticize" and "condemn" those like the Boy Scouts who won't go along with the program. If you do not embrace their unreality, you will be punished. How tolerant is that? The editorial ends by calling into question the Boy Scouts popular motto, "Be Prepared," and asks sarcastically, "Prepared for what kind of world?" The answer is, if the Post succeeds in its endeavor, a very dark Orwellian one.

Eccentrics, anomalies, and forgotten gems: Reilly's June music review

Jun 25, 2012 / 00:00 am

As I was saying before we were interrupted by the time and space constraints of May, we will now address some of the fine music from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that recent CD releases have made available to us. As usual, my focus is on composers whose works were, quite undeservedly, nearly forgotten.First off, we have several new CPO releases of the music of Dutch composer Julius Rontgen (1855-1932). Initially, Rontgen became familiar to me through his chamber music. When I listened to it, I thought that I had encountered an undiscovered genius. It's that good. If you don't believe me, try the RCA CD, titled Right through the Bone (a reference to Rontgen's brother, who discovered x-rays), which includes a gorgeous piano quintet and string sextet. You must also hear his fabulous piano trios. I, therefore, looked forward with great anticipation when the CPO label began releasing gobs of his orchestral music, including a selection of his many symphonies.Alas, the level of accomplishment was not the same, which is not to say that it is not very good music. It is, but I would not put it in the absolute first rank, where his chamber music belongs. How do I tell the difference? Easy. When I discovered the chamber music, I went around grabbing people by the lapels to tell them to listen to it. I don't do that with his orchestral works. This may be a highly subjective standard, but it's how I know – my own personal barometer of quality.CPO has added to the Rontgen orchestral survey with three new releases: one, containing his Piano Concertos Nos. 2 &4 (CPO 777 398-2), another with his with two of his Violin Concertos and a Ballad for Violin and Orchestra (CPO 777 437-2), and the third, containing two wind Serenades and a Trio for flute, oboe and bassoon (CPO 777 127-2). All of this music is pretty solidly anchored in the late 19th century, even though more than half of these works were written in the early 20th. Rontgen's language did not change much over the course of his lengthy career. In any case, these are all very attractive works, which would make for great summer listening. As I knew from his chamber music, Rontgen had a pronounced melodic gift. Even Rachmaninoff might have envied the main theme of Piano Concerto No. 2. The wind Serenades could not be more gently genial. They make for a lovely entertainment. Anyone enamored of late 19th-century violin concertos will also be delighted with the graceful sonority of these.I have followed with keen interest the releases on the Guild label of the complete symphonies of Fritz Brun (1878-1959), Switzerland's 20th century answer to the great symphonist Anton Bruckner. Brun wrote large-spanned, big-boned music that may require the ministrations of the Berlin or Vienna Philharmonics to show its stuff. The Moscow Symphony Orchestra, under Adriano, has been soldiering through several releases with mixed results. The first issues were clearly not equal to the demands of the music. The newest release, on Guild GMCD 7372, with Symphonies Nos. 6 &7, shows improvement and comes much closer to the mark in exhibiting in a convincing way the impressive stature of this music. Still, there is an occasional stodginess present that I am inclined to blame on the musical forces, rather than the composer. However, I may be wrong. I will certainly continue to listen because I think there is some level of greatness here. Whatever my reservations, Adriano and his forces capture a good deal of beauty, and I am very grateful to Guild for investing in this important enterprise.One of the most extraordinary eccentrics of the music world was Havergal Brian (1876-1972), a largely self-taught English composer who wrote 21 of his 32 symphonies after turning 80 years old. I shall forever love this man for having told a Gramophone interviewer, who had gently inquired about the issue of mortality after Brian had turned 90, "I can't die. I just bought a new pair of trousers." The majority of Brian symphonies are now available. So the intrepid Toccata Classics label is bringing out a series of Brian's orchestral music, the first two volumes of which are now available in excellent performances by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, under conductor Gary Walker. Volume 1 contains a very substantial Burlesque Variations on an Original Theme (1903), written partially in response to Elgar's Enigma Variations and in the works. Volume 2, titled Orchestral Music from the Operas, has substantial excerpts from four of Brian's five operas, all of them yet to be staged. What can one say of this music other than that it is completely unique combination of the archaic and the radical, which is what makes it so interesting and intriguing? Brian employed traditional means in nontraditional ways. If that seems enigmatic, it's supposed to. The music can sound more or less normal for some stretches and then, all of a sudden, arrest you with a startling abruptness or an eruptive outburst of power that leave you wondering what just happened. With concentrated power, the music occasionally congeals in giant exclamation points. The element of surprise is part of the great fun in listening to Brian. I can't think of a better place to start than this new Toccata Classics series.The Romanian composer George Enescu (1881-1955) is famous enough, but I wonder how many people actually listen to his music. I've been very taken by the chamber music releases I have been listening to, especially of his Piano Quartets Nos. 1 & 2, played by the Tammuz Piano Quartet on CPO 777 06-2. This is riveting music, richly Romantic, with haunting themes. It is highly animated, hard driving, and gloriously melodic – almost overheated, but generally irresistible. The second Quartet is a bit less rhapsodic, but no less dramatic. There is also a wonderful Naxos recording (8.570582), issued several years ago, of an Enescu's Cello Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2. In the second Sonata, the cello usually carries the melody – long lines of it, sprinkled with glittering, shattered shards of crystal from the piano. This music is performed with panache by cellist Laura Buruiana and pianist Martin Tchiba.Hans Gal (1890-1987), whom I have praised to the skies for his refined chamber music, is now finally receiving attention for his symphonies. The Avie label has previously given us his Symphony No. 2, which is a treasure, as well as the marvelous Violin Concerto. Now, it delivers Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3, albeit on two different CDs. The First is matched with Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 6, with the Northern Sinfonia, under Thomas Zehetmair, and the Third with Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 3, with the Orchestra of the Swan, under Kenneth Woods.I would've preferred Gal's two symphonies on the same CD, but I understand the point that Avie is making by matching his music with Schubert and Schumann. It is placing Gal in the grand tradition of which he is so obviously a continuation and an expositor. It is not mere hype to title the CD paired with Schubert "Kindred Spirits." The Viennese world of Schubert is still present in Gal. Indeed, it comes as a shock that these two symphonies are here receiving their world premiere recordings. Gal's music was driven underground, after he fled Vienna from the Nazis in 1938. This is clear evidence that the line to the great tradition in music was, in fact, not broken, either by the depredations of Second World War or by Arnold Schonberg. Here preserved intact are the senses of structure, balance, and proportion, not as if in aspic, but living, breathing.Gal's First Symphony is fresh and engaging, charmingly balletic in places, with some of the effervescence of Prokofiev, though without a Russian sound. In fact, it has a touch of musical chinoiserie. The Third Symphony, which opens with such a gentle, lovely theme on the oboe, then the flute, before the horns zone in more assertively, has simply to be one of the most graceful modern symphonies. There is a haunting Viennese waltz lilting through parts of it. How can anything this lovely – try to resist the gorgeous andante – not have been performed in 55 years, until this superb recording by Kenneth Woods and the Orchestra of the Swan? Both he and Zehetmair are Avie veterans of Gal's music, and they and their forces both do equally well with the Schumann and Schubert pairings. This is music for those who thought the world had ended, and who can now discover that it didn't.Walter Braunfels' music also disappeared as a result of the Nazis, and he, too, remained deeply rooted in tradition. Braunfels (1882-1954) had a huge reputation before the war, but it never recovered – until now. His glittering opera, “The Birds,” made a big splash in its 1997 Decca recording debut, and now can also be seen on an Arthaus Musik DVD. Premiered in 1920, Fantastic Appearances of a Theme by Hector Berlioz is a set of variations on Mephistopheles' "Song of the Flea" from “The Damnation of Faust.” It is a wild tour de force, every bit as orchestrally brilliant as the best of Richard Strauss and completely worthy of its source in Berlioz. The piece was recorded in 2001 by Dennis Russell Davies, who is perfectly fine conductor. He is to be praised for the sumptuous performance he gave this piece on the CPO label, with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. However, Gunter Wand was a great conductor and a notable exponent of Braunfels' music. Issued by the Profil label (PH 06004), his 1953 recording, in good monaural sound, with the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, is incomparably more bracing and exciting. This is the recording to listen to in order to realize the greatness of this phantasmagoric piece. It is thrilling. We simply must have more Braunfels. In the meantime, listen to his stunning Te Deum on the Orfeo label.Space-time constraints tell me to race through some other worthy releases. Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948), once a famous opera composer, was largely forgotten after World War I. It turns out, he wrote some exquisite orchestral works, Triptychon, Divertimento, and Venezianische Suite, which the CPO label now brings us with the Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra, under conductor Ulf Schirmer (CPO 777 567-2). As one might expect from his hyphenated name, Wolf-Ferrari's music shows both German and Italian influences. However, these very attractive works also display some solemnity, and an almost Elgarian melancholy and stately nobility. They are very well crafted and immediately appealing. This is one CD to which I have repeatedly returned for its bittersweet pleasures.Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) was one of the most renowned conductors of the first half of the 20th-century. He was also a lesser-known composer. The CPO label has been releasing his symphonies and a complete set of his five string quartets. Truth to tell, I have not been able to make it through a second audition of any of the symphonies. I find them exemplars of what I dislike most in late Romantic music – too much emotion in too little form. Thus it was a more than a pleasant surprise to discover that his string quartets are superlative. Perhaps the form demanded greater discipline from him. In any case, the third and final volume (CPO 777 253-2), containing Quartets Nos. 2 & 4, simply confirms my opinion that this is one of the most enjoyable and revelatory quartet cycles of the recent past. What does it sound like? You might think that Franz Schubert had continued writing music at the turn of the 19th century, especially in the moving vein of his Death and the Maiden Quartet. If that sounds appealing, and it should, do not hesitate, because the Sarastro Quartet plays this music with real feeling and distinction.I close with another anomaly, Paul Graener (1872-1944), a German who avidly gained British citizenship in 1909, but who then went on to enthusiastically join the Nazi party and work in its musical bureaucracy. I don't read jacket notes before I listen to music, and my first impression was that I was hearing a Swiss composer of the caliber of the Paul Juon – high praise indeed. While he was a contemporary, he was not a compatriot of Juon. Nonetheless, like him, he wrote terrific music for piano trio, evidence of which appears on the CPO label (777 599-2), with the capable ministrations of the Hyperion-Trio. The Kammermusikdichtung for Piano Trio is a stand out, with its surging, dramatic melodic flow. If you can bracket his distasteful political affiliation, you can enjoy some excellent late Romantic chamber music here.I see I have barely reached the mid-20th-century, which lets me know exactly where I should begin in July. Stay with me, and I will introduce you to some exciting new music, which will include two recent guitar concertos, one from Ernesto Cordero and another from Paul Lansky. They will provide the cool breezes you will need in a simmering July.This article was originally printed in “Crisis Magazine”  June 19, 2012.

Obama devolves

May 14, 2012 / 00:00 am

The President has twisted immutable truths in the Constitution and Christianity into their opposites. Both Vice-President Joseph Biden and President Barack Obama have said that their positions regarding same-sex marriage have evolved. When you are "evolving," you should really watch your grammar. Otherwise, people might suspect you are devolving instead.

The sound of faith

Mar 8, 2012 / 00:00 am

There is no intellectual in public life today who understands the essence of music in a more penetrating way than does Benedict XVI.

Why 'invent' the Palestinians?

Feb 3, 2012 / 00:00 am

Last month in Amman, Jordan, Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators met for their first time in 15 months to try to restart the "peace process." Meanwhile, the Palestinian group that rules in Gaza, Hamas, has repeated its declaration: "The battle for the liberation of Jerusalem is closer than ever and, God willing, we will win." Which is it to be, peace or war?