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Catholic Culture Dedication

Neutrality is not an option

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 23, 2022

In his latest post here my colleague Jeff Mirus admits his misgivings about my own recent piece, in which I decry “A Congressional assault on religious freedom.” Since Jeff and I generally see things the same way, I take special notice when we do not; it’s a matter worth exploring.

Sure enough, there is no outright conflict in this case. Jeff does not dispute my central point. “I certainly do not disagree,” he says. But he goes on to say that “neither am I very fond of the argument.” As he explains, the threat to religious freedom is not the most compelling argument against the Respect for Marriage Act. Instead, he suggests, we should drive home the argument that “good government requires recognition of reality, period, full stop.”

Now it is my turn to say that I certainly do not disagree. If I were making the political case against this absurd and destructive piece of legislation, I would focus precisely on the way it clashes with reality. But when I wrote my piece, I was actually not arguing against passage of that bill. I had a different objective in mind.

In that piece—as indeed in most of what I have written for the past thirty years of so—my goal was to wake people up. I aimed, as I always aim, to convince good, honest people, who might not have been paying careful attention to developments in the culture that surrounds them, that our situation is grave. We live today in a society plunging toward utter collapse, witnessing what Yeats described in “The Second Coming”:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

We have seen the “passionate intensity” of the sexual revolution. We have no reason to believe that their appetite for radical change will be sated by the Respect for Marriage Act. They will want more—and soon. They will cynically profess their “respect” for your religious beliefs—just as long as you confine those beliefs to purely private expressions on Sunday mornings. But while they demand tolerance, they will not tolerate you if you openly profess your faith.

Recently I heard a conservative television commentator say of the sexual revolutionaries that “they’re coming for your children.” That, I think, was a particularly dull observation. They came for your children years ago; did you only just now notice? (And we adults, to our shame, allowed our children to be used a guinea pigs in a massive, irresponsible social experiment.) Now they are coming for you. So I wrote—again—to sound the alarm.

Today we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Miguel Pro, who was killed for carrying out his priestly ministry, as quietly and secretly as possible, in a country that had been, only a few years earlier, overwhelmingly Catholic. The political tide can shift very quickly, when hostility toward the faith morphs into overt persecution. It can happen quickly; it is happening quickly.

In a chat after Mass this morning, a friend remarked that at this point in the American culture wars, if you don’t recognize that we’re in the midst of a serious spiritual combat, you may already be on the wrong side. There is a battle going on around us; neutrality is no longer an option.

Now if you recognize the urgency of the struggle, and have resolved to take your part in the battle, then by all means, use the best political tactic—which, as Jeff rightly argues, is a reliance on the truth, an insistence on reality. St. Miguel Pro did that, when he died proclaiming the Kingship of Christ. (”Viva Cristo Rey!”) The photo of his death—standing boldly, facing the firing squad, with his arms spread to form a cross—inspired countless Catholics, reviving their faith.

Speak the truth, and others will be inspired. Pop psychologists tell us that when one person tells an unpopular truth, others feel that they have “permission” to do the same. The truth has special power to persuade; the natural law rings familiar chords in the human heart. If enough people speak the truth—if the best do not “lack all conviction”—we may yet turn our society back from its plunge into the abyss.

Granted, to speak the truth now, in the current political climate, is to invite the outrage of fashionable public opinion. Anyone who suggests respect for ancient truths and natural law will cause shock, if the arbiters of a politically-correct establishment have their way. So be it. Maybe now we are the revolutionaries, hoping to overturn a decadent culture. If so, Épater la Bourgeoisie!

In short, my point in writing that column last week was not to suggest a particular line of political argumentation, but simply to coax readers off the sidelines. Because you cannot sit out this battle indefinitely; sooner or later the struggle will come to your door. And if you know you’re going to be hanged as a horse thief anyway, you might as well steal a horse.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Retired01 - Nov. 25, 2022 11:01 AM ET USA

    Arguments work with individuals who are honestly searching for the truth. The sexual revolutionaries and their friends are not interested in the truth. Thus, they are not interested in arguments they are only interested in power and control.

  • Posted by: loumiamo4057 - Nov. 24, 2022 6:47 AM ET USA

    Today's deep State Elites are the children the cabal came for after World War II.

  • Posted by: loumiamo4057 - Nov. 24, 2022 6:44 AM ET USA

    Great last sentence. As for the coming of our children, that began with the WW2 generation, which allowed the nascency of the cabal. It slipped under the radar because it was new then, & because Americans had been groomed for 4 years to blindly follow orders & the result was victory. Without the inaction of the WW2 generation our culture might be different today. Why do you think a deep stater like Brokaw called them the greatest generation when victory was their only accomplishment?