Friday, February 27, 2015

The Gender Ideology Emperor Who Has No Clothes

Rod Dreher at the American Conservative today takes on the increasingly absurd gender ideology that dominates the popular culture and which has mesmerized otherwise intelligent people. Remarking on an article in The Weekly Standard about the triumph of this ideology among the cultural elite, Dreher says:
Future historians, I think, will look back on this decadent period as a time when our civilization lost its mind. But there’s a long way to go yet, and more disorder to introduce. Charlotte Allen, writing on “the transgender triumph,” explores how transgender activists have so co-opted the political and media class that any discussion, even among scientists and academics, of transgenderism that contradicts their preferred narrative is stigmatized, and even turned into a career-ender. As Allen documents, to contradict the activists, even if one is a transgender oneself, is to invite vicious, relentless attack. 
As I have pointed out before, we are all now under the obligation to nod obediently every time gay rights and transgender activists invent a new gender category, which seems to happen now on an almost weekly basis. limited only by the constraints of the English alphabet.

Where are all those people who regularly complain about the politicization of science when the gender ideology mavens create some new gender category and claim it has scientific justification? Where are the people who take each religious belief into their laboratories, boiling it over a low flame to see if it passes scientific muster? Where are the scientific skeptics to vet the increasingly preposterous claims of gender politics?

They are the ones in the audience, cheering as the Emperor displays his new clothes.

I will comment on the Weekly Standard piece this weekend, but hats off to Dreher, who is one of the few conservatives ... well, who are actually conservative for one thing, but who seems to possess the masculine equipment to point out how completely ridiculous all of this nonsense is.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

No, You're Not Like Ronald Reagan: Why most "conservative" leaders need to stop comparing themselves to the Gipper

I recently ran in to an old acquaintance and we got to talking politics. During the course of the conversation, I expressed disagreement with some policy position he had, which he said he believed in because he was a "conservative libertarian."

I winced at the historically oxymoronic expression, and thought of similar linguistic formulations, such as "square circle." I informed him that I was a traditional conservative in the mold of Russell Kirk.

"Who's that?" he said.

At this point, I made a mental note to write a blog post on old acquaintances I run into who think they are conservatives but who really aren't.

To say you are a conservative who doesn't know who Russell Kirk is is like claiming to be a baseball fan and never having heard of Babe Ruth, or a scientist who's doesn't know who Einstein was.

Let me state this plainly: If you think you are a mature conservative but you do not know who Russell Kirk is—or Edmund Burke or T. S. Eliot, then you are mistaken. You are not a conservative and you might as well face the fact. Look in the mirror. Admit it to yourself. This is the only way healing can begin.

Take off your Republican campaign buttons, put down your ghost written Sean Hannity book, stifle the delusion that Sarah Palin is the second coming of Margaret Thatcher (or for that matter whose name even belongs in the same sentence) and sit down for a minute. Use the pages from the Hannity book as cage lining for your parakeet—unless your parakeet has intellectual scruples that prevent him from deigning even to poop on them, in which case you should just throw them out.

And try to extricate from your mind the belief that culture doesn't matter and that an economic policy suffices for a political position, through surgical means if necessary.

For the benefit of the conservatively illiterate, Kirk was the author of the The Conservative Mind from Burke to Eliot, as well as the best modern statement of traditional conservative belief ever written: The Politics of Prudence. Michael Aeschliman called him "the most substantial American conservative man of letters of the last 75 years."

When you have finished reading these, read every other book Kirk ever wrote, especially The Roots of American Order (and if you can't handle that, then the short version of Roots, a book called The American Cause). In fact, there is a good introduction at National Review's website: "The Moral Imagination of Russell Kirk," by Michael Aeschliman.

And after that, sit down with an honest glass of bourbon (or, if you are Islamic—the only historically valid reason to be a teetotaler, a glass of water) and begin reading Edmund Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution. Spend a whole year on it. At least.

Burke, for those who don't know, almost single-handedly faced down the corrosive and malignant rationalist secularism of the French Revolution, saving England from its worst effects. Would that we had a Burke now to face down the malignant Cultural Revolution of our own time.

Libertarianism is not only not conservatism, it doesn't even amount to a political philosophy. It is, instead, an ideology, a true modern "ism." Like every other illicit modern world view, it takes one part of the truth (in this case, the free market), isolates it from all other truths, and demands that every other part subordinate itself to that one.

We should admire the free market, but we should beware the reductionist ideology that has been constructed in its name.

Which brings me to Ronald Reagan.

Despite all the libertarians and neoconservatives who claim the Reagan mantle, Reagan knew who Russell Kirk was, conferring on him the Presidential Citizens Medal in 1989. Reagan cut his teeth on the old National Review magazine, run by William F. Buckley, who, although he went through the Libertarian Temptation in his later years (something Kirk allegedly saw coming), was for the most part a Russell Kirk conservative.

Before about 1988, no functionally literate conservative would have said "Who's that?" when Russell Kirk's name was mentioned.

The old National Review made Ronald Reagan (and Reagan, as I recall, actually says that somewhere), and Russell Kirk helped make National Review.

The fashionable conservative leaders fleeing the cultural battlements on issue after social issue with their tails between their legs and invoking the name of Ronald Reagan as they do so should be pelted with rotten vegetables at every available opportunity. Reagan would never have done this.

On the great moral issue of late 20th century—abortion—Reagan never backed down. In fact, I think he brought it up in every State of the Union address. The liberal control of the media at the time (this was before conservatives took over talk radio) was universal. It didn't matter, Reagan never gave up.

I can't imagine what he would have said if he had known how so-called conservative leaders would surrender so easily in the fight for traditional marriage.

There needs to be some conservative agency that monitors false claims to Reaganism. It would be a full time job.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Separating school bathrooms by biological sex is like racism? Really?

Sen. Reginald Thomas
You know things are getting desperate at the Lexington Herald-Leader when it begins claiming God is on its side. But this is what it was driven to when a legislative committee recently approved a bill (SB 76) that would ensure that only males could use boys' facilities and females girls' facilities in schools.

Speculating that the bad weather that prevented several supporters of the bill from casting votes needed to pass the bill in an earlier meeting might have been an indication of divine disapproval of the bill, the Herald-Leader went on to call the bill "nasty" and among our "worst moments" as a society.

Prohibiting boys from showering with girls in school. What is this world coming to?

And to underscore its divinely inspired commitment to the anti-nastiness crusade, the editorial went on to praise a state senator who badgered a young girl in a committee meeting, likening her views to racist policies of the past when she expressed discomfort at having to share the school bathroom with biological males.

Those who think that the forces now on a moralistic crusade to stamp out traditional morality are the nice guys need to view video of the two recent meetings of the Senate Education Committee, the first on Feb. 19, and second on Feb. 23. When they do, they will see something quite different.

During the first meeting conservative Republican senators went out of their way to treat the transgender student testifying against SB 76 with politeness and courtesy. But when a young girl, Christina Kelty, came before the committee in the second meeting to say that she was uncomfortable  using the same restroom facilities as biological males, Sen. Reginald Thomas (D-Lexington), an opponent of the bill, compared her feelings of discomfort with the feeling of discomfort Whites had in sharing facilities with Blacks.


Having separate but equal boys' and girls' bathrooms (used by biological males and biological females, respectively) is no different than having separate but equal White and Black bathrooms?

That there are people influencing public policy who find such arguments convincing is scarier than anything opponents could mischaracterize SB 76 as doing.

Not only that, but if a conservative senator had treated the transgender student who testified before the committee in a manner even remotely similar to the way the young girl was treated, the Herald-Leader would have called it scandalous.

Even nasty.

In fact, Sen. Thomas owes Miss Kelty an apology.

Why is it okay for a transgender student to argue against a proposed law because it would cause him discomfort (that was his whole argument) while it's not okay for a young girl to argue in favor of it on the same basis?

The irony is that every argument used by the Herald-Leader and Sen. Thomas against the policy proposed by SB 76 could be used against having separate boys and girls bathrooms at all, never mind the transgender issue. And the fact that they haven't even noticed this yet makes you wonder what business they think they have commenting on an important matter of public policy that affects the privacy and safety of students.

If the Herald-Leader is looking for candidates for "worst moments," it might look at its own editorial.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Press Release: Privacy and safety should trump gender politics in schools

Yesterday's press release from The Family Foundation:

FEBRUARY 24, 2015

LEXINGTON, KY--"Schools facilities policies should be made on the basis of privacy and safety, not on the latest fashion in gender politics," said a spokesman for the Family Foundation in response to the passage of SB 76 by a State Senate committee late today. The Senate heard student testimony in favor of the bill, after hearing testimony from a student against the bill last Thursday.

The bill passed by the Senate Education Committee today which would prohibit schools from setting facilities policies that endanger student privacy and safety will give constructive guidance to schools if passed by the House, said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group.

"Parents don't want their kids showering with students of the opposite biological sex at school," said Cothran. "Unfortunately there are school officials now bowing to the demands of special interest groups to open school restroom and locker room facilities to students of differing biological genders."

Cothran said such policies not only threaten the privacy of students, but endanger the safety of students who think they are of a different gender than their biological sex. "Sending biological males into the girl's bathroom and biological females into the boy's bathroom may accomplish a lot of things, but we don't think safety is one of them."

SB 76 would require that access to school bathroom and locker room facilities be based on biological sex rather than "gender identity." Students identifying themselves as being a gender other than their biological gender would be provided with the best available other facility, including unisex bathrooms or faculty facilities where they would be safe.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Education in the Conservative Crosshairs: How Scott Walker just lost my vote

We now have one more piece of evidence that conservatives are just as confused as liberals on education policy in this country. In fact, we might even say that conservatives (or at least those who use that label) are liberals on education policy.

Scott Walker, who has been one of the more attractive candidates for conservatives looking to replace Obama in 2016, recently moved to replace the University of Wisconsin's commitment to the "search for truth" with the goal of "“meeting the state’s workforce needs.”

Oh. Brother.

No conservative could possibly support this kind of policy. A libertarian, certainly, but not a conservative. Unfortunately, this is representative of the kind of bad educational thinking that passes for wisdom among many Republicans. Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott made a similar move a couple of years ago.

Walker, like most politicians in both parties, doesn't know what education is. And it isn't because he doesn't have a college degree. In fact, not having a college degree is probably an advantage. Generally speaking, the more degrees you have the less you know what education is.

There are two things that pass for education that are not education, and one thing that actually is education that doesn't pass for it anymore among those who run our educational institutions and who set their policies.

The two popular but impostor definitions of education are:

  1. Education is for job training; and
  2. Education is for political and social reform

The first produces technological barbarians; the second produces radicals. The first amounts to no more than technical training; the second is essentially indoctrination. The first produces hollow men; the second produces "community organizers."

So what is education? Education is the inculcation of wisdom and virtue through passing on the culture of the Christian West. As Lynne Cheney pointed out some twenty years ago, if you don't know what Western civilization is, then you are not an educated person.


When you produce a whole generation of adults who are disconnected from the ideas and values that inform our history and culture (and we have done this now for about two generations), then you start producing people who cannot think sensibly about what education is and what role it plays in our society.

How does a person who has received job training or been indoctrinated in the latest political fashion make decisions about what the purpose of a university is? Nothing in this kind of "education" prepares you for it.

The philosopher Albert Camus once said something to the affect that freedom, lacking actual lovers, had to settle for mistresses. The same could be said for education.

Many so-called "conservatives" have bought into the education as job-training idea. In rejecting the idea that education is about finding the truth, they become complicit in the postmodern idea that there is no truth to find.

Shame on Scott Walker.

HT: Forbes Magazine

Cage fighter TKOs 50 Shades of Grey

Cage fighter Yves Edwards takes down 50 Shades of Grey and submits it:

This movie is extremely bad, it's what you get when Nickelodeon decides to venture into the world of pornography. I have paid money to sit in a movie theater and watch garbage that is simultaneously destroying my brain cells, perpetuating the Prince Charming myth, decreasing my faith in humanity and portraying women as irrational and incompetent. I am negatively multitasking on a cosmic level.

Read more here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Do our rights come from the government—or God?

The takeover of state marriage policy by the federal courts in the name of the U.S. Constitution (which gives federal courts no license whatsoever to do so) is now revealing itself for what it is: a wholesale rewriting of this nation's founding principles.

In a debate on CNN last Thursday, Chris Cuomo responded to Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who said, "Our rights do not come from the Constitution, they come from God." Cuomo responded, "Our laws do not come from God and you know that,” he said. “They come from man. … Our rights do not come from God."

Cuomo, apparently innocent of such documents as the Declaration of Independence or for that matter John F. Kennedy's First Inaugural Address, or Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," all of which affirm the view Chief Justice Moore voiced.

In order to hijack the Constitution to conform with their ideological predilections in opposition to the principles upon which it was written, you have to change those principles. And in this case, that means changing the very historical foundation from which rights have always been considered to be derived.

The thing about liberalism (and I mean to include libertarians here, since they are simply right-wing liberals) is that its political philosophy collapses into "might makes right" absurdity.

Here is what Cuomo said in response to Chief Justice Moore's assertion (consistent with this nation's founding principles): "That’s your faith, that’s my faith. But that’s not our country. Our laws come from the collective agreement and compromise.”

For one thing, Cuomo shifts from "rights" to "law." But it doesn't matter. Neither rights and the justice of a law can be determined outside the context of natural law.

The distinction between the unwritten and written law (or what are often referred to as the natural and positive law, depending on who's talking) goes back to ancient times. Both Aristotle and Plato articulate the distinction. It is only ignorant television commentators who obfuscate it. It is a distinction between a transcendent law and a law made by men. And the laws made by men are judged by the transcendent law--there is no other way to judge them.

If a law violates a right, it is unjust. And whether a particular right exists or what it consists of cannot be determined within the system of law itself. Unless there is a transcendent law above the man-made law, there is simply no way to say whether a law is just or not. If there is no transcendent law, then saying a law is just or unjust doesn't even make sense. Outside the context of a transcendent law, the question of the justice of a man-made law quite literally has no meaning.

If the only ground for rights (or law, if you prefer) is our "collective agreement and compromise," then the basis for rights is only as deep--or shallow--as our own shifting opinions.

If there were no transcendent grounding for rights, then there could never be any criticism of any "collective agreement or compromise." If, for example, the Nazis were able to convince people to sign on to a "collective agreement," there would be no stance outside that agreement from which to judge it, since, according to people like Cuomo, it's legitimacy derives from itself.

Cuomo believes our rights come "from government." Okay. Which government? The United States government? The Cuban government? The North Korean government? The Russian government? The government of the Third Reich?

Despite the naive rhetoric of people like Cuomo, no sane person really disbelieves in the natural law. But for liberals it is a convenient form of demagoguery to attack it. In doing so, they count on a public they have rendered ignorant by the bad public schools they support and a mind-degrading popular media which they largely control.

This is the cost that liberals must pay for wanting to say that rights are simply what they say they are, and the fact that they are not willing to admit that that is the cost they must pay is simply another measure of how shallow--and dangerous--they are.

HT: The Public Discourse

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Should a college degree be required to run for president?

Liberals are attacking Wisconsin Governor and possible Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker because he doesn't have a college degree. Has anyone looked recently at actual educational attainment of any of the people who actually have a college degree and actually been impressed?

Would Walker be more qualified if he had a B.A. from the Ohio College of Clown Arts? (an actual college)? Is a B.A. from many other random college around the country an better than the one from the Clown Tech?

Here's George Leef at the National Review:
Of late, the progressives, who always say that they’re against discriminating against people over irrelevant things, have been having a field day with the fact that Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, never finished his degree at Marquette. Howard Dean tut-tutted that this obviously made Walker unsuitable as president. (Never mind that a majority of voters in Wisconsin have now chosen him over properly credentialed liberals three times.)  
This prompted Glenn Harlan Reynolds to comment on the college degree obsession in his latest USA Today column. “An America that once prided itself on real-world achievement and practical good sense now runs largely on credentials,” he writes. 
I'm thinking of William F. Buckley's comment about preferring to be ruled by the last thirty names in the Boston phone book than the entire faculty of Harvard University.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Kentucky falling behind on charter schools

When it comes to Common Core or Obamacare, Kentucky's supposedly "progressive" policymakers want to be ahead of nation. But when it comes to the hottest thing in education it is bringing up the rear.

As of last year, Kentucky was one of only a handful of states with no charter school law. While Kentucky dawdles, more students are attending charter schools than ever before and the number is rising:
America’s enthusiasm for charter schools continues to grow, with nearly 3 million American schoolchildren attending one of 6,700 charters rather than traditional public schools. 
That’s an increase of 348,000 over last year, a surge of a whopping 14 percent from the 2013-14 school year, when charter enrollment rose by 288,000. 
With about 50 million children enrolled in public schools, that means nearly 6 percent of all public schoolchildren are in charters rather than traditional schools, and that proportion could reach 10 percent in just a few years.
Read more here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Roy Moore is Right: It is the Supreme Court, not Moore, who is showing disdain for the law

Are you showing disdain for the rule of law if you refuse to cooperate with a body that shows disdain for the rule of law?

The New York Times says the following about Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's ... "The actions of Alabama’s demagogic chief justice, Roy Moore, show an outrageous disdain for the rule of law."

Really? Then what is the U.S. Supreme Court doing?

If anyone has shown "disdain for the law" it is the Supreme Court itself. There is literally nothing in the Constitution that justifies the Court in striking down the right of states to define marriage. In fact, Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his majority opinion in Windsor v. United States just last year—confused as it otherwise was—underscored the fact that states have exactly this right.

But now the Court, Kennedy at its head, is prepared not just to go beyond the "equal and coordinate" powers it was granted in the Constitution of 1887 it is about to violate, but is getting ready also to contradict its own statements in the decision it rendered only a little more than a year ago.

Anything is permissible in the cause of cultural disintegration.

Those who argue that the Court has the right to do what it is now about to do—and this, unfortunately, includes many conservatives—cannot find their reason in the Constitution itself. In fact, you will notice, if you read carefully, that they don't even attempt it. The only justification they do or can offer is that the Court itself says so: How do we know the Court has the right to do what it does? Because the Court says so.

And where, pray tell, does the Court derive the authority to determine its own power? Itself, of course. The proponents of this imperial view of the Court don't—and can't—justify this view of the Court's absolute Constitution authority on the basis of the language of the Constitution; it can only justify it by appeal to judicial rulings—rulings written by the Court.

It is an infinite jurisprudencial regress. In any other circumstance this would be considered completely circular reasoning, and if this kind of reasoning were being used to bring about conservative legal change, you can bet your bottom dollar that the New York Times would be pointing it out--and backing whoever was serving in the role of the liberal version of Roy Moore.

Under this view of the Court--that it is some kind of oracular body, causa sui in the derivation of its authority--it can literally justify anything it rules without rational justification. Not that such justification is not offered; it is. But that is only because the Court must keep up appearances.

By definition (this one, anyway), the Court can do no wrong.

The weak case for the Imperial Court (what Justice Antonin Scalia calls the "Black-Robed Supremacy") is that it is bound--not by the Constitution--but its own precedent. The strong case is that it is bound by nothing at all, except itself. It is this latter view we are seeing in all its malignancy now, as it prepares to defy its own precedent in Baker vs. Nelson which found there is no Constitution right to same-sex marriage.

Worst of all, under the Court's self-authorized view of itself promoted in self-serving places like the New York Times, there is literally no recourse if the Court abuses its Constitutional authority. There is no corrective because, by definition, there can be nothing to correct in an institution that defines what legal correctness is--unrestrained by actual Constitutional language.

Quite literally the only way to restrain the Imperial power of the Court is by doing exactly what Roy Moore is doing: by simply defying it.

There is precedent in our history for the defiance of authority, provided that those defying it declare the causes that impel them to do so. Among these are when forms of government become destructive of the rights the government is instituted to protect--among which is the right to be protected from abusive power.

When we become subject to "a long train of abuses and usurpations," it is our right, according to Jefferson, in fact our duty to "throw off such Government." and to provide "new Guards" for our future security.

While the Court can appeal to nothing in the actual language of the Constitution to warrant its historic decision to take away the right of individuals, through their elected representatives, to define marriage, Roy Moore has explicit warrant in the actual language of the Declaration of Independence for doing what he is doing.

More power to him.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Is measles an existential threat?

Head of the Centers for Disease Control Tom Frieden has come out against the media hysteria in response to some parents who do not want to vaccinate their children:
"While the dangers we face may be more numerous and varied, they are not of the existential nature we confronted during the polio epidemic or during the Spanish Flu of 1918. We cannot afford to be buffeted by alarmism in a nearly instantaneous news cycle."
It is so refreshing to hear common sense from Obama administration officials in the midst of all of the piling on of the mainstream media on parents who ... Um, hang on here. I'd better check my facts first ... Let's see ... um, okay. Let me correct myself.

Actually this wasn't the head of the CDC talking about vaccination, but National Security Advisor Susan Rice talking about ISIS. And it was not the polio and Spanish flu epidemics she referred to, but World War II and the Cold War.

Other than that, the quote above is entirely accurate.

Never mind.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Why I don't watch the Grammy Awards

I notice that the Grammy Awards are again in progress and that I am not watching them again this year. I don't watch the Grammies every year. It has become a tradition for me. There is something about not watching an awards program that features people who I am not even familiar with that is just fulfilling. I can't explain it.

Actually there are two kinds of people featured at the Grammies that contribute to my desire not to watch it:

The people I don't know; and
The people I do know and don't like

Sam Smith, St. Vincent, and Pharrell Williams. Who are these people? And why does this latter person spell "feral" "pharrell"?

It is a mystery.

And then there is Phil Specter, Madonna, and AC/DC. Seriously? All of these people should now be in rest homes having their diapers changed.

In fact, I didn't even know the Grammies were on until I started getting posts about it on my Feedly RSS Reader. That adds a extra layer of satisfaction for me in not watching them: When I intentionally do not watch certain television programs, it contributes to my satisfaction in not watching them to know that I did not even know they were going to be on the air.

Interestingly, this is even better than finding out after I did not watch them that it was on and I didn't know it.

I have also not watched the Academy Awards for several years now. I can't tell you how much pleasure I derive from this experience.

These were all shows that everyone I knew watched when I was younger. And now, I notice I am not the only one not watching them. It appears to be a trend.

I should also mention that I have not watched the Miss America Pageant in quite a number of years. It always seemed to me to be a tribute to the shallowness of America. But now that I have discovered that this show is becoming a scandal to the political left, I am reconsidering my decision. I am considering not not watching this show now that I know that the people who I consider the silliest people of all do not like it.

Not watching a show that they do not watch would not give me as much pleasure as not not watching a show they do not watch.

I call this tactical TV watching.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Is Cultural Compromise Dead? What happens when secularism metastasizes into dogma

James Kalb asks whether the cultural compromise that involved everyone agreeing to the proposition that our deepest differences do not matter in the conduct of culture is now dead, and whether it was ever a good idea for the Catholic Church to buy into it.

It brings up an interesting question: Is the United States really united anymore by anything other than constitutional formalities? Is compromise between religions or between religion and secularism even possible? These are questions that will be controversial among the religious followers of people like the late Richard John Neuhaus, founder of First Things magazine, who were such ardent signatories to the compromise.

As Kalb explains it:
Christian societies, Muslim societies, and secularist societies are all different from each other. One excludes another, so we can’t favor them equally. It seems then that we must choose one over the others, or else live with a compromise that is likely to prove awkward and shifting—a situation, of course, that is often very difficult to improve upon. That view of the matter makes people today uncomfortable. 
They would like to agree with the political philosopher John Rawls, who wanted basic questions put aside in public life as divisive, and claimed that could be done in a principled way to the satisfaction of all reasonable citizens whatever their outlook. Rawls devoted a great deal of effort to working out those views, and they have become extremely influential.
We have all been operating in this country under this implicit agreement since at least the end of World War II (and in some more implicit form even before that). Catholics (and Christians in general, although Kalb himself does not universalize his thesis in this way) have proved themselves model citizens by holding up their end of the bargain. But it has come at a cost:

The apparent hope behind such tendencies was that lessened emphasis on transcendent absolutes would make the Faith more accessible to modern man, and enable the Church to cooperate in the construction of a peaceful and tolerant world in which Catholics could maintain personal and religious integrity as citizens of a free and open society. They would serve God by serving man, acting as a leaven and transforming hearts and minds.  
The hope hasn’t panned out, and the transformation has gone the other way. Integration of Catholics into a society that rejects the Faith ever more comprehensively has mostly led them to redefine Catholic belief as strictly private opinion or an idiosyncratic restatement of existing social aspirations. For conservatives, Faith often merged with faith in America. For liberals, who have had more intellectual and organizational influence, Love became mostly equivalent to social welfare as understood by their secular colleagues, and the Divine Other tended to give way to the human other, so that outreach and inclusiveness came to substitute for the mystical union.
But whether Catholics can stay within the compromise may be a moot question due to the metastasizing of secularism into a doctrinaire and punitive ideology. In other words, it isn't really the religious signatories to this compromise who are bringing it down. It is dogmatic secularists who have basically declared war on all meaningful religious expression: You can follow your religious inclinations all you like, as long as it doesn't have any tangible consequences.

Groups like the ACLU and the Democratic Party are all fundamentalists when it comes to the First Amendment—except that troublesome part about freedom of religious expression, which we not only don't interpret literally like the part about free speech, but which think really must go.

Secular liberals have issued an Edict of Milan turned upside-down; they have flushed the Flushing Remonstrance.

Catholics may or may not have been wise in signing the cultural treaty: I suspect Kalb is right in thinking they should not have. But it doesn't matter: Secularists have already violated their end of the bargain and declared war.