Our Current Moral Crisis: Men Without Chests


Since my reversion, I twice have had the privilege of meeting with Father George W. Rutler, pastor, author, columnist, EWTN host, theologian, and sharp social critic.

The highly educated and wonderfully articulate Rutler, a Catholic convert, currently serves as pastor at St. Michael’s Church in New York City.

Last July, Father Rutler authored a breathtaking column in Crisis Magazine. It has stuck with me ever since – and I strongly recommend that you read it in its entirety.

Father Rutler’s column, The Pity of Christ, succinctly addressed what has lately become a massive American failing: misdirected moral outrage. I needn’t go into specifics. There are countless examples all around us and I’m fairly certain that several easily come to mind – including, perhaps, the specific ones about which Father Rutler chose to write last year.

Fair use permits me to only quote brief passages from the column so I have been quite selective here.

But these are key:

In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis called these sheep in sheep’s clothing “men without chests” because their perception of reality lacks objective moral reason. Consequently, they really have no heart, if the heart is the seat of a righteous will, and thus they are ruled by whim, incapable of courage. The eagle on the Great Seal of the United States has arrows and an olive branch, but the sheep in sheep’s clothing would carry a limp pre-Raphaelite lily. For them infanticide is no big matter provided it is described in gentle tones; and the shooting of unarmed soldiers (deprived of defensive weapons by the sheep in sheep’s clothing) is just “heartbreaking.”

And this:

General Patton was thought by some not to have much pity. But he had a chest. When he entered Ohrdruf, the sub-camp of Buchenwald, his reaction to the corpses and crematoria surprised his soldiers. He did not say the lurid scene was “inappropriate” or “unacceptable” or “heartbreaking.” He bent over and vomited. And the medals on his chest rattled.

While pleas of ignorance ring hollow:

When the people who lived outside the camps protested that they did not know what had been going on, General Eisenhower ordered them to walk through the fetid buildings and look at the corpses.

It’s certainly not just the recent “tone” that’s become problematic. Nor should anything of late be dismissed as merely “heartbreaking” – a tepid description employed by amoral politicians to smother feelings of outrage and disgust rather than to express or attempt to resolve them.

No, wanton destruction and death seems everywhere to surround us these days.

Perhaps it’s time that we, like Patton, reveal whether we have chests that still savagely rattle when we vomit.

Assuming, that is, that what we are witnessing – if we in fact are looking – actually sickens.

I remain, as yet, unconvinced.

And wary.


Photo Image: General Patton via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

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