The request of the Philippine bishops that the government bar the performances of Lady Gaga there raises a number of interesting questions. How far should freedom of expression extend? What is the role of government in the protection and promotion of morality and religion? Should the Church look to government to exercise control where her own influence is insufficient?
These questions are not easy to answer, and they depend largely on a prudential examination of the circumstances in each case. I suspect we all have first reactions to both the idea of restriction and the circumstances surrounding each restriction. But certain things become clearer at the extremes. Few would uphold the freedom to yell “Fire!” in a crowded room, just as few would argue that all entertainment should be governmentally or ecclesiastically approved. In reality, much of what is permitted or prohibited depends on broad cultural norms. The performances in question here are, after all, already sold out.
Unfortunately, broad cultural norms only sometimes preserve or foster the common good. There needs to be a way to move beyond the assumption of the rightness of our culture’s current values to a careful consideration of the good. Such efforts will always be imperfect, just as they will always embrace a range of options rather than pointing to a single clear and specific path. But the need and the effort are essential to a healthy society.
Now, traditionally, both religion and the natural law have provided people with a way to transcend fluctuating cultural values in favor of a more detached judgment. This puts at an extreme disadvantage any culture which both denies God and believes that the human intellect has transcended nature. After all, last I checked, it was still impossible for a man to lift himself up by his own boot straps. What is needed is a firm grip on reality. By contrast, “gaga” means either senile or crazy. We desperately need another option.
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Posted by: Justin8110 -
May. 22, 2012 4:22 PM ET USA
As you say we live in an culture that "both denies God and believes that the human intellect has transcended nature" which means that hearts and minds must be changed on the level of sound philosophy first. Ideally we'd have a State whose service to the "common good" includes helping souls get to Heaven. This might mean censoring things that are harmful to souls such as the music and lyrics of people like Lady Gaga. Traditionally error had no rights within certain limits.