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post-factum fearlessness

By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 25, 2005

Announcements of the death of Rosa Parks put me in mind of Joseph Sobran's perceptive, if sardonic, remarks about one of her tardy admirers (from a May 2000 column):

Clinton is a perfect specimen of bogus courage -- the sort of guy who says things that are now safe and even fashionable with an air of jut-jawed determination that suggests he would have said them when they were not only unfashionable, but dangerous to espouse. In fact he has even told us that when he was nine years old, he and his little friends, in solidarity with Rosa Parks, rode in the backs of buses in Arkansas! Clinton is only a parody of many other liberals who want us to believe that their willingness to conform to today's fashions is proof that they would have had the courage to defy yesterday's fashions. Somehow I find it hard to believe that today's coward would have been yesterday's hero, if only he'd had the chance. More likely he would have been, like most people, a timid conformist in any circumstances.

One of the moral advantages to being a Catholic is that it makes one perpetually unfashionable. Because Catholic teaching is based on immutable truths, it will always bring those who profess these truths into conflict with the mutable world around them. Not all conflicts are life- or career-threatening, nor does the fashionable world always pick the same fights with the same doctrines. In one age the Church's teaching on duelling makes her suspect, in another age her teaching on labor, in another her teaching on marriage and sexual love. At all times, of course, some Catholics have tended to conformism, trying to shush the unfashionable teachings so as to become more acceptable to the people that count. Yet just as, after Hitler's defeat, many Europeans who submitted passively to Nazism "decided retrospectively that they had been in the Resistance" (David Warren's phrase), those invisible when a moral danger is present tend to become vocal when it is past.

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  • Posted by: - Oct. 25, 2005 3:05 PM ET USA

    We forget that in order to be truly effective, we are often called to be the ones who are 'out of step' even in our own parishes. The bottom line, I tell our teen leaders, is that we must tell the truth taught by our Catholic Church, even if it is not popular or received well, because they will not hear it anywhere else. It is only with sufficient fortitude (a gift of the Holy Spirit) on the part of those of us who are called, will souls be saved from following these icons of bogus courage. Pray

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