Father Rutler is Pastor of the Church of Saint Michael in New York City. He is the author of twenty-five books and many essays, and has lectured widely at home and abroad.
Few lands are more cheerful than beautiful Switzerland. There are the mountains, the blonde girls yodeling, the lads sounding Alpine horns across the canyons, St. Bernard dogs with brandy, and all that chocolate and material prosperity. The cynic would dismiss that as a caricature. Think of Orson Welles in the 1949 film The Third Man: “...in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love — they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
The cuckoo clock was actually invented in the Black Forest of Germany. And while thoughts of Switzerland evoke peace, its last strife being a brief civil war in 1847, it is highly militarized and was famous for its mercenaries (which is how the Holy See got the Swiss Guards), and it has mandatory conscription for all able-bodied males. With the lowest crime rate in the world, it ranks only below the United States and Yemen in per capita gun ownership. Switzerland is the second largest exporter per capita of assault weapons, ammunition and tanks to such countries as Saudi Arabia. No country has an unblemished history, and in 2013 the government formally apologized for the forced labor of half a million children in the past two centuries. Officially neutral in World War II, it profited greatly as a banker for Nazi gold.
While proud of its reputation for enlightened social policies, abortion is legal there and the first-trimester limit can be extended for “medical and psychological reasons.” In our time of mania for tearing down politically incorrect statues, there remains in the heart of Bern the 1546 Kindlifresser statue of an ogre devouring babies.
If the monstrous man were eating lobsters, the statue might be torn down because the Swiss government has passed a law effective March 1 that bans the boiling alive of lobsters, since it is claimed that lobsters can feel pain. Lobsters may only be cooked after first having been electrocuted or sedated. This will not have much impact, since Switzerland is land-locked, with negligible crustacean consumption; but imported lobsters must be shipped in seawater and not packed in ice. This runs parallel to California’s legislation banning foie gras, which requires the forced feeding of geese. But partial-birth abortion remains legal, even though human life in utero can feel pain after at least the first eight weeks of gestation.
We can eat lobsters even in Lent, by a revelation given to St. Peter (Acts 10:13-15). But the same God knew (Jeremiah 1:4-5) that unborn babies are sensate. That notwithstanding, there are places where lobsters and geese are safer than human babies. Inconsistent? As Sir Walter Scott wrote: “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!”