"Nothing is more tragic in an individual who once was wise than to lose his memory, and nothing is more tragic to a civilization than the loss of its tradition."
-Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
At present, to discuss the relevance of religion in the governance of society is not just considered boorish but unconstitutional. Thus, religious thought is trivialized and excluded from public debate. This exclusion is detrimental to the common good and general welfare. The Left instigated much of this exclusion by seriously distorting the Constitutional order. Only those who campaign for the Founders’ vision can effectively counter these distortions. Sadly, this contingent, in any notable number, has yet to come to the fore.
Today an atheist’s view of religion is thought to be neutral while a believer’s view is considered bias. The tragedy of contemporary culture is it no longer consents to be influenced by any authority outside of itself—certainly not the Supernatural.
In recent times, various subcultures contend there is no longer a common American culture and maintain that the balkanization of the former culture has not yet reached its limits. Moreover, the current aegis of diversity endeavors to accommodate the feelings of certain segments of the population by eliminating legitimate terms and customs that purportedly give offense. This has reduced society to a sameness of individuals whose differences have been transmogrified. Thus, diversity has been altered into an insipid uniformity that defeats the very concept of a diverse society.
By devaluing traditional values, (In God We Trust) society has dismantled the familiar and historical "American way of life" that began with recipes from many different cultures and religious traditions. The ingredients were then mixed in the melting pot of American tastes and priorities. The problem today is not too many cooks in the kitchen, but that nobody is paying attention to the broth. The heavy-handedness of some cultural minorities has seasoned the broth with condiments not palatable to most Americans. The secret of a savory communal stew is the ability to blend in without losing one's distinct flavor. Only when the time-honored values are reinstated and the acknowledgements of the nation’s dependence upon God can this country expect to once again savor the essence of its national heritage.
The Second Vatican Council wanted the laity to be stalwarts of the faith in the workplace and the public square. So far, most have bungled that role and are as culpable as the hierarchy for many of the problems in the Church and society today. The laity must accept their responsibility to promote and protect the common good of the Church and the republic. Yet many of the faithful are lost in the miasma of politically correct applications of tolerance and civility. While waiting for this aberrant fog to lift the quality of the culture continues to decline. Catholic tradition believes the public arena demands prudence, moral responsibility and the practice of virtue to attain civil harmony. A committed laity, not the hierarchy, must bring the Catholic perspective into the civil debate.
American Catholics must insist their representatives treat their religious principles with respect and equity. Approximately, twenty-five percent of both houses of the United States Congress are baptized Catholics; most of which choose not to bring their Catholic values to the debate. Other elected officials have no such reservations. Without compunction, they bring their personal belief systems to the floor, which are often repugnant to their Catholic constituents. Politicians know how to bow to pressure, as they have shown with the Women’s Movement, the Gay and Lesbian lobby and other special-interest groups.
Now that Catholics find themselves engaged in cultural wars not of their choosing, the laity must man the front lines. The battles are about mores, ethics, traditions and common sense. Catholics cannot surrender the tenets of their faith to merely accommodate civility and modernity; to do so, energizes amoral subcultures to believe all things are permitted. Common sense tells us that unrestrained indulgence leads to the loss of proportion and any kind of boundaries. When a nation discards its traditions, it emasculates its forefathers and denies their rich legacy to its posterity.
The laity must understand faith is not blind acceptance and obedience, but an act in accord with reason. Still, belief does not constitute faith; without works it is hollow. Catholics exercising their rights, as citizens, want to support the common good through moral principles; not create a theocracy.
In every generation, those who spawn modern thought are always ready to repudiate the truth. When a democracy that casts away morality and truth and no longer permits their defenders to participate in the process; democracy ceases to exist. When good men speak of moral probity in the public forum, public officials change the subject. Those who differentiate black from white are seen as intolerant. The moral hue of choice is non-judgmental gray. Moral indignation must be restored to the debate.
Alexis de Tocqueville in his, Democracy in America, reminded Americans, "Freedom sees religion as the companion of its struggles and triumphs, the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its rights." He further added, "Religion is considered the guardian of mores, and mores are regarded as the guarantee of the laws and a pledge for the maintenance of freedom itself." The demands of morality require each generation to continue to make installment payments on the freedom purchased by the down payment of their forefathers. Within a free society, there is no sanctuary from the demands of morality.
In summoning up the courage to articulate and defend Catholic beliefs, it should be noted, Socrates said, "One must risk appearing arrogant to speak the truth." Also, Fulton Sheen’s assertion may provide the much needed motivation for today’s Catholics to act, "Truth by its nature is not tolerant; it must reject error." In this licentious age, the void between a Catholic’s personal faith and his lack of public input may just border on hypocrisy. The common good demands individuals sacrifice their level of comfort for the good of the nation. Hence, not only is the culture in peril, but also indifferent souls.
Dan Shea EGL-2