Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

The Treason of the Professions

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 11, 2023

My friend A, a lawyer, tells me that he is dismayed by what it happening to his profession. The weaponization of the justice system, the flagrant favoritism showed by prosecutors, the growing tendency of judges to enforce their own preferences all trouble him.

It has probably always been the case, A concedes, that a wealthy man can expect better treatment from the courts than his poor neighbor. But now the inequalities are grotesque. Petty criminals are convicted and jailed while powerful politicians are shielded from prosecution (unless the prosecutor is a political enemy, in which case they may be indicted for felony jaywalking). Woke district attorneys decline to press charges against shoplifters and drug dealers, while sending SWAT teams to arrest harmless matrons for praying outside abortion clinics or speaking up at school-board meetings.

My friend B, a doctor, is also dismayed. For years he has been appalled by the practitioners who slaughtered unborn babies in a clear violation of the Hippocratic Oath, by the hospitals that employed the abortionists and the medical schools that trained them. But at least Christian physicians and nurses could stay clear of the practice. No longer; the demands to cooperate with the abortion industry are steadily more intrusive, threatening to cost him his certification.

And of course abortion is not the only atrocity perpetrated under the guise of “health care.” Some of B’s professional colleagues are now assisting suicides; others are mutilating troubled teenagers and calling it “gender-affirming” treatment. Hospitals are pressuring doctors to ramp up the use of painkillers for terminal patients, easing them into death. Pharmaceutical corporations are urging universal vaccination rather than treatment of the sick. Insurers want hospitals and clinics to promote lucrative surgeries rather than simpler but less profitable treatments.

The health-care system too has become politicized, B tells me with regret. He recalls that not too very long ago, when the AIDS crisis arose, doctors would meet with public-health officials to exchange ideas about what might have been causing that epidemic and how it could be curbed. Doctors were encouraged to offer any ideas, any hypotheses, about how AIDS should be addressed. But when the Covid epidemic hit, the attitude was quite different, he reports. Doctors were told what they should say and do; questions were discouraged and contrary opinions were punished.

My friend C, a professor at a nearby university, is dismayed, too. He has dedicated his life to the pursuit of truth. Now he works at an institution that does not believe truth exists, alongside other professors who teach that every individual creates his own truths.

Until recently C was protected by the institution’s commitment to academic freedom; while his views became increasingly unpopular on campus, he was free to state those views with impunity. But now even his tenured position could be taken from him if he is found in violation of the school’s “hate speech” code, which punishes the expression of views that some members of the scholarly community deem offensive. (The expression of views that offend Christians or conservatives are never considered actionable.)

Worse still, the university is now proposing that all incoming students should sign a statement confirming their willingness to accept other students’ “gender identities.” So when they arrive on campus, at an institution created to serve the truth, young scholars would be required to assent to the falsehood that a man can become a woman, or a woman a man. They would then be bearing false witness, C observes— in a clear violation of the Decalogue that has become so unfashionable in academe.

What can I say to my friends A, B, and C? Only that I can sympathize. I describe myself as a journalist, and have watched with consternation as the standards of that profession have crumbled. Newspapers that once took pride in solidly objective reporting are now openly partisan, editorializing in every news story, suppressing information that does not fit their favored narratives. Wire services instruct their writers to adopt the language of “progressive” causes. Television networks compete to shed heat rather than light. Social-media outlets— which, in the early days of the web, promised to offer a near-infinite variety of perspectives— now connive with government agencies to suppress minority viewpoints.

Nearly a century ago the French essayist Julien Benda published a provocative book, La Trahison des Clercs, denouncing the politicization of intellectual life. (The book is now available in a new English translation, The Treason of the Intellectuals.) “Our century,” Benda wrote, “will properly be called the century of the intellectual organization of political hatred.” The blood-soaked history of the 20th century lends weight to that prediction. Now I wonder whether the professions, abandoning their traditional standards and succumbing to their own organization of political hatreds, will bring fresh horrors to the 21st century.

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 See full bio.

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  • Posted by: ewaughok - Aug. 17, 2023 1:39 AM ET USA

    Thank you Mr. Lawler for detailing these examples. The document or present slide into oligarchy, that is, the rule of the masses by a power-wielding elite. Of course, the Church has seen this before, indeed many times before! From pagan kingdoms in late antiquity, Muslim polities, Protestant Reformer’s tyrannies (e.g., Henry VIII), atheistic kleptocracy (e.g., Jacobin France), and the pack of 20th century fascist and communist dictatorships. But these have come and gone, while the Church remains

  • Posted by: rfr46 - Aug. 14, 2023 11:45 AM ET USA

    One can add to your list the corruption of science and intimidation of those who do not accept the so-called "settled science." But all such corruption would not matter so much if the new barbarians were not using brutal measures to suppress opposition to the new pieties.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Aug. 13, 2023 11:51 AM ET USA

    Thank God I retired 12 years ago. I had one of those jobs that have been thoroughly politicized these days.