Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Liberalism, Intolerance, and Despotism

Some days I have the attention span of a gnat, just like the majority of the American political landscape; other times I can dredge up stuff from my personal "wayback" machine with astounding clarity. In this case we're only talking about four months.

Three is a magic number which tends to trip my internal filter mechanism and I say: I've seen this before. The latest instance of this happened when I noticed voices in the Church speaking on the same theme from three different corners of the world: the relationship between liberalism, intolerance, and despotism.

The first instance happened when Pope Benedict XVI was commenting in a letter sent to Italian philosopher and senator Marcello Pera on his latest book Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians: Liberalism, Europe, and Ethics.
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2008 ( At the heart of liberalism is the Christian image of God, and rediscovering that is the key to overcoming the current crisis of ethics in Europe and the world, says Benedict XVI.

"With irreproachable logic, you show how liberalism loses its base and destroys itself if it abandons this foundation," he added.

"This has generated what is known as the phenomenon of anti-clericalism, and anti-clericalism has generated another: what in the book I call 'secular equation,' namely, 'liberal equals non-Christian.', [Pera said.]"

The second instance came from the Australian Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell in an address at a conference in Oxford on "Varieties of Intolerance: Religious and Secular."
LONDON, MARCH 12, 2009 ( Modern liberalism has strong totalitarian tendencies, according to the archbishop of Sydney.

"Some secularists seem to like one way streets," he added. "Their intolerance of Christianity seeks to drive it not only from the public square, but even from the provision of education, health care and welfare services to the wider community. Tolerance has come to mean different things for different groups."

The cardinal noted how particularly in the United States, members of Church organizations are facing more and more legal obstacles when it comes to following their consciences.
Following close on the heels of that, "USCCB President Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, warns that President Obama is moving towards despotism in removing conscience protections from medical providers who choose not to provide abortion services" (H/T: Thoughts of a Regular Guy by :
On Friday afternoon, February 27, the Obama Administration placed on a federal website the news that it intends to remove a conscience protection rule for the Department of Health and Human Services. That rule is one part of the range of legal protections for health care workers—for doctors, nurses and others—who have objections in conscience to being involved in abortion and other killing procedures that are against how they live their faith in God.

As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we are deeply concerned that such an action on the government’s part would be the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism.
Anybody noticing a trend here?

It may have been obvious from the start or not, but societies tend to follow broad movements; once started, thoughts and attitudes roll on under their own momentum (or constant agitation from a vocal minority) until something radical shifts its course.

Intellectual, political, and religious beliefs have practical consequences in real life. That is why totalitarian regimes shoot the dissidents even for their own private thoughts. Thoughts lead to action.

The fight to legitimize gay "marriage" is not simply a case of civil rights or "live and let live" -- it is about reshaping the entire culture; it would require sweeping changes in law, finance, education, politics, and even impinge on freedom of religion.

The rescission of conscience clauses in public law is a transparent attempt not only to silence the practice of religion in the public sphere but also to compel doctors and health care workers to be complicit in the crime: It is not enough for you to let us kill -- you must pull the trigger, wield the knife.

So it's a fight and make no mistake. And yet to return to the words of our Holy Father: At the heart of liberalism is the Christian image of God, and rediscovering that is the key to overcoming the current crisis.

By ourselves, we are nothing -- but we are not alone. Christ crucified was as alone and abandoned as a man can be: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? (Mark 15:33-34,37-39 RSV) Now Christ is resurrected, and we will never need be alone again. So although it may seem that now "there was darkness over the whole land", yet we will persevere.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor 1:22-25)

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