Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

The End of Paralysis

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 01, 2011

For a long time, many practicing Catholics and others who hold fairly traditional values have been afraid to assert themselves in the public square, even as the social order has disintegrated around them. This is because each new assault on the natural law has been undertaken in the name of either privacy or freedom for some particular group. The argument has been that this or that change in policy, in education, in law or in rights doesn’t prevent us from living how we want to live; it just ensures that we don’t penalize those who make different decisions.

Thus (the argument runs) if contraceptive promiscuity is rampant, it doesn’t mean that we have to live that way. If abortion is legal and “safe”, it doesn’t mean we have to abort. And now, if gays are allowed to marry, it doesn’t mean that we can no longer honor marriage in the traditional way. Despite a significant unease at the growing social pressure to accept these evils, a pressure which comes close to brainwashing when applied to children in schools, many believing Catholics have been reluctant to insist that their own moral vision be enshrined in law for the simple reason that this is portrayed as penalizing those with a different point of view.

This has frequently led to a kind of paralysis on the part of many people who, though they more or less instinctively adhere to traditional values themselves, are reluctant to shape either law or custom to reflect those values. If a new law or a new right does not prohibit one’s own morality but merely opens a certain freedom to others, it somehow seems arbitrary to oppose the change. In effect, our response has been weakened by a misplaced sense of fair play.

I say “misplaced” because it is never “fair” to enshrine evil publicly just so those who wish to do evil may indulge in it without any sort of stigma. It is quite wrong to view the application of natural law to socio-political questions as a sectarian activity. In fact, such an application is the only conceivable basis for a public life which does not unjustly discriminate. Moreover, we have to recognize that the worldviews which are clashing here are mutually exclusive. While it is true that good naturally tends to restrict evil, the opposite is also true. Evil always tends to restrict and even eliminate good, and, unlike good, evil makes no allowance for either principle or prudence.

Not too many years ago, those who wished to live promiscuously, to abort their children, or to engage in a publicly sanctioned gay lifestyle would have argued that they were discriminated against. How is it, then, that people with traditional values are not seen as the victims of unjust discrimination when they cannot take advantage of most contemporary media without being subjected to a continuous cheapening of human sexuality, when they have no choice but to permit themselves and their children to be constantly pushed to accept legalized murder, when the taxes they pay are used to support activities that are definitively immoral (that is, not merely a matter of prudential judgment in specific instances), and when they cannot even express themselves freely on moral issues without the risk of being indicted for hate-speech?

Perhaps the unhappy position we now find ourselves in is best illustrated by the recent decision of the British High Court in London to uphold a local council in denying adoption to a Christian couple on the grounds that their opposition to homosexual acts makes them unsuitable guardians for children. Even a single generation ago, this judgment would have been unthinkable. A little over ten or so years ago, gay parents would not have been considered by most adoption agencies. Now it is those who regard homosexual acts as immoral who are rejected.

What we must learn to recognize is that this ruling is the logical culmination of an increasingly strident discrimination against all those who uphold traditional morality based on the natural law. In many aspects of our public life in Western nations, we have become second class citizens, increasingly forced to assent to false moral propositions in order to be welcomed in elite circles, to be served by government-associated agencies, or to be at peace in government-mandated educational programs.

Too often we have been paralyzed by the myth that public endorsement of immoral activity does no harm to those who wish to be moral. Unfortunately, in the battle for culture, paralytics cannot win.

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 See full bio.

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  • Posted by: jplaunder1846 - Mar. 03, 2011 7:24 AM ET USA

    Thanks Dr M. Like other Western societies in this post Christian era, Australia faces the same set of moral and social pressures on those who believe in traditional Christian values based on the Natural Law. Some people see the rash of natural disasters as God's wrath at human behaviour. I do not, but what I do see is the gathering pace of social disorder, social violence, psychological distress and all the social evil that man brings upon himself as a result of his hedonism and paganism.

  • Posted by: reaveyms6579 - Mar. 02, 2011 9:25 PM ET USA

    Jeff makes solid points concerning the effects of political correctness our moral thinking and practices. Government power to impose "pc" thought follows "government" doles - academic, corporate, welfare, etc. Our cultural integrity and freedom, more so than mere "fiscal sanity", are at stake.

  • Posted by: brenda22890 - Mar. 02, 2011 11:43 AM ET USA

    Exactly, Dr. Mirus. Thank you for this.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 02, 2011 8:04 AM ET USA

    But, haven't we been told that there is just so much GOOD in the non-Christian world? Hasn't the Church reached out to the secular world--not as an Old Testament prophet, of even a New Testament prophet--but in sympathetic and empathetic terms...attempting to placate based upon style if not content? Is this not the result of such a strategy?