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Living under the dictatorship of relativism: The cornerstone of politics is virtue

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Sep 27, 2016

Most of us in the so-called “free world” now live under a sort of consistently totalitarian dictatorship. This is exemplified in the United States by President Barack Obama who, as time began to run out for his administration, decided to govern by executive order whenever he could not get the laws he wanted through Congress. The most obvious example is his implementation of gender ideology in America’s schools.

In my local county, the school board met a few days ago to consider what changes should be made based on the new Federal gender requirements. I don’t know who was pushing to move fast on this, but our pastor alerted us to the meeting at Mass, as I’m sure was done in many other churches. So many people wanted to comment at the meeting that it lasted until 2:00 am, and a decision was made to postpone the decision.

This means either that there are enough ideologues on the board to push changes through without any semblance of community agreement or, more likely, that it has suddenly dawned on somebody that once the next president takes office in a few months, Obama’s executive orders could well become nothing but an unhappy memory. There may be no great virtue at work here; a policy of “wait and see” can be delightfully self-serving.

A longstanding trend

In the United States, a combination of cultural elitism, immoral court decisions, and the high-handed character of the Equal Economic Opportunity Commission have long created problems for those who are convinced that men and women are different, that they are complementary, that marriage is utterly nonsensical (and worse) unless it is between a man and a woman, that there are only two genders (male and female), and that both the nature and desires of healthy men and women demand respect for modesty about their sexual differences.

Our Canadian neighbor to the north has, if anything, even greater experience of the ongoing political denial of reality, and I think I am right in assuming the same trends are operative throughout Europe and Down Under—not to mention every region which depends on Western largesse. This presents particular difficulties for the Catholic Church, which holds that a proper grasp of the male-female complementarity of the human race is essential to an understanding of both the natural law and Divine Revelation—things the Church cannot change even when many of her members have “the best will in the world”.

In many ways it is not surprising that the fault lines between the State and the Catholic Church should run along the edge of sexual differences. It is the essence of our modern rebellion against God to claim that our nature is not given—and therefore not a gift. We prefer to view it as just one more aspect of our lives which we must freely determine according to our desires, as our essential human dignity demands. Paradoxically such liberty requires considerable brain-washing. Under the dictatorship of relativism, we are considered free only when we embrace the latest flight from reality championed by our cultural elites—our betters.

There can be no surprise at all, then: We face a culture which insists that deciding good and evil for ourselves is desirable because it enables us to replace God (see the temptation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:5). The latest evidence of this inversion of reality is a lawsuit against a Catholic school in Memphis, brought by a former student who was not permitted to bring a same-sex date to a school dance. The suit seeks $1,000,000 for “severe injuries and damages which include, but are not limited to disability, past and future emotional distress, past and future medical expenses and personal care services.”

Nice work if you can get it! And you can get it if you try...if you are willing to work the system spawned by our modern dictatorships of relativism.

A Catholic voice

But it really is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. At least gender ideology has given Pope Francis many opportunities to stand with the battle-hardened faithful, who have sometimes wondered whether they can count on him. Here are two encouraging examples from this past Summer:

  • In his meeting with the Polish bishops on July 27th, the Pope condemned the teaching of gender ideology in school as an example of the “ideological colonizations backed…by countries that wield a great deal of influence.”
  • On June 8th, Francis similarly warned bishops from Puerto Rico during their ad limina visit. He insisted that the distinct roles of men and women are designed for “communion and generation, always as the image and semblance of God,” and that the bishops must protect and defend the beauty of marriage.

In Poland, Francis even cited his predecessor:

Speaking with Benedict XVI, who is well and lucid, he told me: “Holiness, this is the age of sin against the Creator!” He is intelligent! God created man and woman; God made the world like this, like this, like this, and we are doing the exact opposite.

Pope Francis is not afraid to expound this theme regularly. As some 200,000 Mexicans, encouraged by their bishops, took to the streets to demonstrate their opposition to President Enrique Pena Nieto’s plan to legally recognize same-sex marriage, Francis announced:

I am very happy to associate myself with the bishops of Mexico, in supporting the commitment of the Church and of civil society in favor of the family and of life, which in this time require special pastoral and cultural attention in all the world. [Angelus Address]

A new awakening?

Over the past two centuries, those nurtured by Western culture have been carefully taught, year after year in every school, that we must hail democracy and representative institutions as the key to a healthy and happy future for mankind. Politics is very painful now, but at least we are finally learning that any form of government will quickly deteriorate if those who govern, and those who put them in power, are not bound by moral laws derived from the given nature of all reality.

It is none too soon. Now we are asked to enjoy evil in the name of liberty, and to cede moral control over our future to those who pretend that coercion is actually the cornerstone of the common good. But I hope we can no longer be fooled: The cornerstone of both liberty and the common good is virtue.

The most important thing about government is not its form but the virtue of those who govern. Good government depends on virtue. Virtue depends on grace. And grace depends on openness to God. If we are interested in forging a “new politics”, particular structures will avail us nothing. Political hope comes through conversion, for the simple reason that conversion alone enables virtue to grow.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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