The Speed of Change in the Republic of Rights

“I grew up in Kansas. When I began my book Render Unto Caesar in 2006, I had in my mind the America I always knew—or thought I knew. But that America, I admit, has been passing for fifty years, and probably longer.”
—Charles Chaput, September 2010

The Catholic thinkers, in the past century or so, argued that the Church’s tenets and principles are basically compatible with the intellectual framework of the Founding Fathers. Indeed, contrariwise, they argued that the American Founders discovered their basic principles, knowingly or not, from the Catholic tradition. One can dispute this assumption. Many of the founding principles, on further examination, were modern in origin even though they could look like holdovers from the earlier traditions of ethics, law, and metaphysics. Moreover, the present understanding of American culture has little to do either with the founding fathers or classical tradition.

Nothing is more volatile than the word “rights” and basing one’s political philosophy on its shifting premises. The intellectual “justification” for current and increasing attacks on the Church, insofar as they have any substance, is founded on this charge: the Church is against human “rights.” The word’s modern usage is from Hobbes, not Aquinas. It means that, because of individual autonomy, for whatever I need or want, I have a “right.” Since everyone else has the same “right,” yet disparate “rights” conflict, government is set up to adjudicate who gets what. The government’s own criterion for enforcing this or that “right” is based on the same principle: whatever it decides is law. The failure to notice the dangers of such an understanding of “rights” is coming home to haunt us.

Many writers and thinkers are struck by the rapidity with which the Catholic Church itself, from being relatively comfortable in Zion, has suddenly come under fire as the object of ever-increasing government control and cultural ostracism. It finds itself having to resort to “freedom of religion” and “freedom of speech” in a world in which such “freedoms” are either ignored or simply contradicted. The reason for this change is that the Church is now perceived as the principal obstacle to establishing a fully “rights-oriented” political society. This is evidently the goal of the Obama administration as revealed in its ever more invasive “decrees.” In this “rights” republic, in lieu of any dramatic action of the Supreme Court, the sole arbiter and definer of what “rights” mean is the state and what it decrees and enforces.

Many Catholics profess to be surprised by this sudden drawing of the logical conclusion to what Mary Ann Glendon called “rights talk.” Many Catholics so want “rights” to mean what they claim it means that they blind themselves to what the intellectual history of the word does mean and imply by this enigmatic term. All through recent decades, the provisions of freedom of speech and freedom of religion have been used against the Church. It was held to be against free speech and free religion. The irony today is that it is the Church that finds itself appealing to these standards over against an administration which claims the same standards. The decrees that the Church finds contrary to “rights” are precisely the ones said to be based on “rights”—abortion, contraception, sterilization, gay marriage, the works.

Numerous writers in recent years have pointed to the decay of the American family. Since the time of Aristotle’s response to Plato’s famous proposal of communality of wives and children, the family has been looked on as a bulwark, not enemy, of the political order. But there has always been in modern utopian and Marxist thought a strand that saw the elimination of the family as the key to a successful social order. What would take the place of the family?–schools, health agencies, bureaucratic employment institutions, welfare under another name. Most of these extreme notions are proposed in the name of common good and human dignity.

We’re All Rome Now

In his essay on Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, Allan Bloom remarked: “The corruption of the people is the key to the mastery of Rome.” We need only to change the name of the capitol city to suspect that this observation applies to almost every democratic entity, including our own. And what is striking is that it is precisely a corruption that in almost every way concerns, touches upon, or affects the family by the institution of policies that are put forth in the name of modern “rights.”

I began these remarks by citing a brief comment of Archbishop Chaput. What struck him was the rapidity of the change in this country from the land that he “thought” that he knew. It is said by several historians of civilization that once the core principles of a culture are corrupted, the decline of that society is precipitous. The will to acknowledge the problem or the failure to see the consequence of “rights” once put into effect portend a paralysis of the good.

Since much of the culture has now accepted as “human rights” the issues that the Church has taken a firm stand against as themselves unnatural and immoral, it follows that the effects of these “rights” will henceforth dominate the public order. Single parent families, in virto families of one or another parent, free “health” service to effect abortion, contraception, euthanasia, and fetal experiment will all be available. Opposition to these issues will not be seen as “free speech,” but as “hate language.” No discussion will be allowed largely because the government understands implicitly the tenuousness and lack of validity to its own positions. The government will claim the “right” to define what religion is.

Many, if not most, religions will go along with this cultural pressure and fact. To oppose it invites marginalization and probably legal persecution. In any case, in the name of “human rights,” the government will assume control of both the public and familial orders. No longer will we find any recognition of an order of truth that is independent of the state’s own definition of itself.

Is this concern for the rapid decline of the culture far-fetched? I think not. Even a year ago, few would have suspected the rapidity with which the Church has become an object of direct political concern over its own teachings and doctrines. It will get worse if the present government and its general principles remain in power. This observation goes against the grain of many, especially of those who agree with the government’s principles and decrees. But the logic of decline and fall is already in place. We cannot stop erroneous principles from taking effect except by acknowledging their falsity. Otherwise, they carry themselves and those who hold them to their logical conclusion.

The Speed of Change

It can be delayed, but not stopped until we recognize where the problem lies. It lies in the rejection, implicit or explicit, of the nature and centrality of the family. In a sense, we have here an ancient issue. But it is now ever so present. The Catholic Church is admired for what it stands for. The Catholic Church is hated for what it stands for. The reason for this paradox lies in the logic of reason.

Etienne Gilson remarked that once we lay down our first principles, we no longer think as we may but we think as we can. We are seeing the “logic” of “rights” being carried out before our very eyes. The undermining and elimination of the family are no accidents. They follow from certain premises, the premises that place our private good at the center of reality. The rapidity of change means, I suspect, that “it is later than we think.” We are not at the beginning of the change but, as Archbishop Chaput intimated, at the end. That is why is seems so rapid. Little is left to oppose it.

Rev. James V. Schall, S.J.


Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., taught political science at Georgetown University for many years. He is the author of The Mind That Is Catholic from Catholic University of America Press; Remembering Belloc from St. Augustine Press; and Reasonable Pleasures from Ignatius Press. His newest books include A Line Through the Human Heart: On Sinning and Being Forgiven (2016) and On the Principles of Taxing Beer and Other Brief Philosophical Essays (2017). His most recent books are Catholicism and Intelligence (Emmaus Road, 2017) and The Universe We Think In (CUA Press, 2018).

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    The contradiction at the heart of liberalism lies in its simultaneous assertion of popular sovereignty and universal human rights. 

    In the brief interlude between the absolutist state of the Ancien Régime and modern mass democracies, this was achieved by the separation of the public sphere of state activity and the private sphere of civil society.  The state provided a legally codified order within which social customs, economic competition, religious beliefs, and so on, could be pursued without interference.

    But, when the social consensus on which the distinction rested breaks down, liberalism has no way of defining or defending the boundaries of this sphere; everything becomes potentially political.

    Rousseau saw this very well.  “Each man alienates, I admit, by the social compact, only such part of his powers, goods and liberty as it is important for the community to control; but it must also be granted that the Sovereign is sole judge of what is important,” for “ if the
    individuals retained certain rights, as there would be no common superior to decide between them and the public, each, being on one point his own judge, would ask to be so on all; the state of nature would thus continue, and the association would necessarily become inoperative or tyrannical.”

    His conclusion is well known, “whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body.  This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free; [« ce qui ne signifie autre chose sinon qu’on le forcera d’être libre »] for this is the condition which, by giving each citizen to his country, secures him against all personal dependence.”

    • TLimon

      Regarding the social contract, I think Rousseau is more akin to Locke than to Hobbes.  I am not sure that Rousseau would agree that the acquiescence of certain liberties as a basis of one’s consideration to the state necessarily means that the state then becomes an omnipotent codifier of socially normative behavior. 

      That said, I think may be stating the point rather than a true exception.  Such a position as I just stated leans toward a classical liberal concept of the state as night watchman.  The anarcho-capitalist  state has some merit until it waxes toward modern notions of liberalism which, as you pointed out, seeks to expand the universal right of freedom defined by modern liberalism and a greater tendency to reach for the state in order to enforce them.   

      However, if I read correctly, it seems like the trust of your argument is a concern about maintaining the organic synthesis necessary to  keep a resemblance of coherent culture.  I, too, am concerned about this.  The voices of western culture are quickly becoming a cacophony of noise and disparate sound, no harmony.  We flirt with tribalism here and we must be careful.  The innocent nation state made homogenous by circumstance is different than the state that wishes to return to homogeneity through purification of the heterogeneous.   

  • jmm483

    Two bills in Congress, HR 998 and S 555, highlight the truth in Rev. Schall’s essay.  They are titled the Homosexual Non-Discrimination Act.  The administration has concluded that “family” and faith have failed us and must be replaced by an all encompassing and powerful government that will legislate our moral code.  It seems to me that Orthodox, pro-family, pro-life Christians will either have to defeat this by convincing argument or risk becoming a cloistered sect of society.  What are our other options?

    • Meggie

      “The administration has concluded that “family” and faith have failed us and must be replaced by an all encompassing and powerful government that will legislate our moral code. ”

      jmm483, I think the reality is that most people are heterosexual and monogamous, but don’t want to legislate the moral behavior of others. My husband and I have a very happy marriage and live, I suppose, what would be considered moral lives in a purely sexual sense. However, we do not want our moral code legislated, and we do not want to live in a theocracy. We both believe people should have freedom in their personal choices of sexual behavior, and neither of us believes the government should be in the business of controlling that area of peoples’ lives or limiting marriage partners. We don’t need to defeat anybody or be cloistered. We can love our neighbors, even those considered “sinners. We’re all sinners is some way, and if we all looked spent more time examining our own souls and less examining those of others, perhaps we’d all be better off. 

      • J G

         Someones “moral code” always gets legislated. Why should it be the liberal secularists moral code or in other words the tyranny of relativism? You show the thinking that Dr. Schall was talking about.

        • Meggie

          There are moral codes that one should apply exclusively to oneself and that should remain outside the purview of government. It’s not appropriate to legislate these. It’s good to see that some of them are now being DE-legislated, e.g., DADT, marriage inequality, etc. One can oppose expanding government by expecting it to police private behavior without actually condoning the targeted behavior. Indeed, there appears to be a direct relationship between wanting to establish some sort of theocracy and neurotic, compulsive expression of the condemned behavior, as we keep seeing in the case of those sad moralizing souls who get caught in compromising situations. Then there are moral codes that advance the common good, and here the benefit of effective and ethical government comes in. Health care for all, minimum living standards, freedom to succeed, economic mobility, educational opportunity, safety standards, law and order, etc., can and should be legislated by the community through its government. 

          • TLimon

            I believe you are conflating two distinct issues at play.  One, that there are certain activities that should be outside the purview of government.  See Pierce v. Society and progeny.  Two, that marriage equality is one of those constitutional privacy concerns.   If anything, marriage equality is an equal protection issue. Even if we were to concede the first point, the second point does not necessarily follow. 

            I will grant you that there is a strong argument from Aquinas’ Treatise on Law regarding human laws that would seem to support sexual privacy a la Lawrence v. Texas (where the court granted privacy interest in one’s sexual privacy in one’s home).  The reason being that sodomy does not harm any other person. 

            That said, marriage is another ball of wax.   Through the lens of American Common law, discourse gravitates toward these arguments regarding the state’s position to the family: (1) Aristotle’s argument that the state is prior to the family (2) The functionalist position that the families are the building blocks, the atoms if you will, of society.

            It hardly matters which argument you accept.  The fact remains that the family enjoys a certain public quality.  Actually, we can go even further and argue that the family life is integral to the state.  And if we must diswed the state from the nation, as our constitution stipulates, then the family is integral to the nation and should of a compelling interest of the government. 

            Are there counterarguments?  Yes, of course.  We can argue that the family has changed and we should make law to recognize this change.  The positive law at work.  However, this does not abide the Catholic position.  We have the natural law.  Circumstances may change but the fundamental characteristic of the family does not.  I would caution you to fun toward the seemingly easy positivist solution.  The thing about walls, as Chesterton commented, and I paraphrase, “is that you should not take them down until you know why they were put up to begin with.”  Making kindly adjustments to the historical family is ill advised.  Talk of morality and inculcation of virtues aside, the current demographic mess that much of the “developed” world is enduring or about to endure can attest to the devastation wrought by our arrogant human interventions. 

            On a side note, the connection between stating moral positions regarding certain sexual activities and neurotic engagement in those same activities is a very tired thing.  Christianity, on some level, makes hypocrites of all.  We all fail but our failures do not make us unable to see objective truth nor should it hinder us from attempting to aspire toward the virtuous.  I will admit my shortcoming but I will not exchange my “walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage.”  Pink Floyd, shout out!     

            I apologize if I seem too contrarian.  I agree with some of your posts, namely those regarding economic social justice.  However, I find it more and more difficult to abide to social libertarianism.  The personal/private divide is historically very young, dating back to industrialization and “The Path of the Law” in the context of jurisprudence. 

            Culture is too interconnected, too organic.  If we were meant to be silos, then the symbol of Christianity would be a pillar not a cross.  Our horizontal dimension, as you seem to fully recognize in relation to our economic order, is our social dimension.  Our horizontal dimension is where we love our neighbor.  It’s not too great  a stretch that the government should be geared to the common good in order for us to love better. This may be true when we use government to help culture/society guard family relationships against forms destructive to morals and virtue. 

            I do not assert that our legislation will make us more virtuous or moral, but we would have a culture with greater knowledge or truth.  And that through our recognition of truth and justice, that while we all may falter, that we may at least know our way back home.  Or, paraphrasing Pope Benedict XVI, “that we should not make advances and create light only to blot out the light of the stars in the sky.”  As  many an ancient mariner knew, those stars do navigate us to our destination.

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              Aristotle never said the state was prior to the family.

              [1242b][1] διὸ ἐν οἰκίᾳ πρῶτον ἀρχαὶ καὶ πηγαὶ
              φιλίας καὶ πολιτείας καὶ δικαίου.

              Hence in the household are first found the origins and
              springs of friendship, of political organization and of justice.

              Aristotle Eudemian
              Ethics Book 7

              • TLimon

                Your point is well taken, MPS.   I think you may partially right and I may not be necessarily wrong.  Perhaps I should have elaborated a little more. 

                In Aristotle’s Politics, Aristotle suggests that people gravitate toward familial relationships because man is politikon zoon (your Greek is better than mine.)  That is to say that we are meant to live in community.  As such, the state is comporting with nature (or human teleology) and the family is an intermediary step on its way to the state.  In this narrow way, the seeds of the state are prior to family. 

                I do not have the time to look up right now, but I am pretty certain that this is the trust of Aristotle’s argument.  I would add that I do not think this point is ruinous to my initial thesis.    

                • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                  I agree with you that, for Aristotle, the seeds of the state are in human nature itself and that its “origins and springs” are found in the family.

                  The Enlightenment notion that human nature could be adequately defined, without reference to external relationships was as alien to Aristotle as it was to any other ancient writer.  Given  that human beings do not spawn like salmon and their young require nurture. the family  is a necessary part of human ecology.

                  In that sense, he certainly did regard the family as the school of civic virtue

            • Meggie

              Thank you so much for your very articulate, fair-minded, charitable, intelligent, and well-argued post, TLimon! I promise to give it considerable thought. In fact, I need to do so before I could presume to respond. Best, Meggie

              • TLimon

                Thank you for a spirited exchange of ideas.  Very best.

          • J G

             So who gets to decide which ones apply to oneself and not to others? The government? That is why we see them attacking those who disagree with the destruction of marriage and family. The liberals are establishing their own theocracy. The government is limited by the COTUS and it says nothing about free stuff for everybody. It does guarantee religious liberty, or it did until Obama came along.

      • 2012 Christian

        Meggie, As I pointed out in my first post, the Dems have gone far beyond leveling the playing field among “lifestyle choices.”  Instead, the Democrats–to preserve themselves in power–are waging war on heterosexual marriage by, among other things, providing tax blandishments for couples to remain unmarried. 

        All your talk about not wanting to legislate morality misses the point.  The Democrats are legislating this attack on traditional marriage because they want as few individuals voting who are not dependent on their largesse as can be.  When husbands look to wives and wives to husbands for mutual support and unpaid services, that not only reduces tax revenues, but it crowds out the ever-willing state which would give taxpayers help if they fit certain criteria that tend to disappear if the individuals dare to look to one another for support.  IOW, the Dems want to eliminate people who take seriously R. Reagan’s trenchant observation that the most dangerous statement he ever heard was: “we’re from the Government and we’re here to help you.”  In the Democrats’ Paradise, everyone will be on the dole and grateful to for the pittance they get!!

        • Meggie

          ” Instead, the Democrats–to preserve themselves in power–are waging war on heterosexual marriage by, among other things, providing tax blandishments for couples to remain unmarried. ”

          Technically, this is not entirely true. Some married people who file joint tax returns pay lower federal tax rates than those who are unmarried. The more disparate the income between the two spouses, the greater the tax break, so the tax structure benefits families where one parent stays home to provide child care and the other works. Family values are inherent in the tax structure. Couples with similar incomes, however, do indeed end up in a higher tax bracket. A married person generating no taxable income can use his or her spouse’s income to fund an IRA. Certain retirement benefits can be inherited by a spouse. Married couples can be covered by a spouse’s health care. If the marriage penalty tax myth were true, why would gays and lesbians be trying so hard to gain marriage equality? 

          “In the Democrats’ Paradise, everyone will be on the dole and grateful to for the pittance they get!!”

          This is totally untrue. Both my husband and I vote Democrat, and we certainly don’t want to go on the dole or lose the high income we currently enjoy. All the Democrats I know feel the same way. I don’t know of any Democrat who wants to increase the ranks of the unemployed and dependent. What we do want to see from our government is legislation in a direction we consider fair, humane, ethical, and intelligent: less investment in war, universal health care for all, more grants for college students, focus on improving education, greater investment in infrastructure and R&D, a scientifically based response to global warming, and freedom from government coercion in terms of personal choices (we support same same-sex marriage, for example.) Many of our preferences would actually work toward a more affluent society without huge tax burdens. Universal health insurance, for example, only works when we all pay into it, even when we’re young and healthy and don’t need it. People without insurance generally have no preventative care so they’re more likely to develop expensive-to-treat conditions, for which they rely on ERs for treatment. These people very rarely pay full price for their care. Don’t think that those of us who pay our premiums aren’t indirectly subsidizing them. If ERs are required to treat everybody, then everybody should be required to make a regular contribution to public health care. 

          • Jbeck196

            You make it clear what you want the government to do, but your analysis breaksdown when you say “Many of our preferences would actually work toward a more affluent society without huge tax burdens.”  The bigger the government gets the more taxes it takes.  What you describe is the current state of affairs in Europe but as we see in the news the model is not substainable.  And lest you think the money can be found in defense cuts, most European nations don’t have large military budgets but still can’t afford the network of government services.  You can get what you want but a prosperous society with low taxes will not be part of the equation.

            • Meggie

              Jbeck196, I don’t think we would emulate the European model here in the US (and, having lived in Europe for five years, I don’t think the European model is all that bad.) The US is the “can do” society. We’re hard-working, ambitious, and generally more materialistic than our European friends. The policies of the Democratic are very conservative by European standards. If we let our infrastructure fail to the point we lose upward mobility and opportunity, as we have been doing, we all get poorer. Solutions can be both pro-social and pro-economic. Our health care system is very, very expensive for what we get out of it. We’re paying much more for much less than other first world countries. Our current system is vulnerable to abuse by the millions of uninsured who get their health care at the ER (believe me, the insured pick up the tab for them.) There are solutions that would deliver better care for less. If we invest money in Pell grants, we ultimately generate more public money in the long run as we produce more high-earning engineers, doctors, etc. I think our taxes our currently too low, given our current situation. Bear in mind that taxes under Obama are lower than they were under Reagan. The legacy of the Bush tax cuts, corporate welfare, and deregulation have hurt our economy very badly, ultimately causing the current recession. Bush was a big government disaster with his reckless government spending and the way he grew the federal government as a share of GDP. The economy is finally recovering from what the Republicans did to it. I don’t think they need another chance to hurt our economy or our people again any time soon. 

              • Jbeck196

                So you are in favor of bigger government and higher taxes?  Just wanted to clarify because it seemd as ifyou were saying that we could have big government and low taxes.  Just so you know President Obama has spent a lot of money, more than Bush over the past three years, and when he had the chance to end the Bush tax cuts he didn’t do it.  Why is that?  I thought Democrats wanted higher taxes?

                • Meggie

                  I’m in favor of SMART government that acts in pursuit of the common good, along with appropriate but not overly-burdensome taxes. Wasteful wars are not a smart use of government money, imo, while investment in alternative energy R&D is. As Benedict XVI writes, “… , it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution.” The current pope has been quite vocal in his criticism of both communism and unrestrained capitalism. I agree we need a balance. The knee-jerk belief that all Democrats want to grow government and raise taxes is contradicted by the experiences of recent decades. Clinton shrunk government; Bush II expanded it. Bush II blew through a surplus to create a debt and left the country on the brink of true depression. The stimulus, expensive as it was, brought us back from potential disaster, and we are slowly recovering. The Bush tax cuts did nothing to boost the economy, and Obama is proposing the Buffet rule as an alternative. We’ll hear a lot more about both over the rest of this election year. 

              • To suggest that a community — I am not talking about a national government, which shouldn’t have any business doing anything but what the people, their communities, and the states cannot conceivably do for themselves — can have nothing to say about the sexual behavior of its members is simply to assert that a community must commit suicide.

                Look — what the heck is there so sacrosanct about sexual proclivities?  We have law and the even more important custom to encourage virtue and, more commonly and more effectively, discourage vice, in every arena of human activity.  Why should sex be any different?  Is it because sexual activity is private?  The hell it is!  It is that which brings children into being.  There is not a single example of any culture in the history of the world — until our own sorry anti-culture — wherein people believed that the sex drive wasn’t something to be hedged round with customs, prohibitions, and so forth. 

                The sexual libertarians — the proponents of laissez-foutre — are every bit as destructive as the radical economic libertarians were in the time of Disraeli, and perhaps more so, because their destruction reaches not simply what people own but what people are.  But the sexual libertarians will simply not address the question of the common good.  They are affirming a “right” to behave sexually as they please, within some very broad and elastic bounds, without once justifying their actions on any grounds whatsoever, and without considering the common good.

                And I’m afraid that “theocracy” is, now, just a garbage pail insult.  If I’m to believe the sexual libertairians, every single culture except their own — which is not a culture in any case, but the evisceration of culture — was theocratic.  America before Woodstock was a theocracy.  That is what some people refer to as the leavings of a bull in the pasture.

                • Brian A. Cook

                   What about Sharia?  Liberals point to that as a concrete example of micromanagement.  I type this simply to point out what people who disagree with you point out.

                • Meggie

                  Tony Esolen, you’re at it again creating straw men. Who suggested that “encouraging virtue” should not be a custom amongst communities? The very essence of community is to support one another in virtue. In my opinion, the virtues of love, charity, honesty, responsibility, and neighborliness are paramount within every community. In personal relationships, I admire the virtues of love, commitment, generosity, and loyalty and like to see these values promoted and, more importantly, lived. The danger of theocracy is that it leads to Inquisitorial power for a subset of community. You seem to assume that, without a caste of vituperative, finger-wagging Peeping Toms keeping tabs on everyone, the world is going to degenerate. You underestimate the world and its goodness. Yes, marriage equality is now widely accepted. The freedom to select a marriage partner is not the same as “sexual libertarianism.” The whole idea of marriage is that it is a committed partnership. It “hedges the sex drive round with customs and prohibitions.” Unfaithfulness, abuse, neglect, selfishness and other behaviors that undermine commitment remain unpopular within nearly every community. 

                • Vishal Mehra

                   “as destructive as the radical economic libertarians were in the time of Disraeli”

                  I am curious. What destruction did the libertarians wreck in 19C England?

                  Would you say that the sexual libertarians are as destructive as Bolsheviks?

                • Tiredofthechickenlittles

                  Tony Esolen is the kind of guy that would outlaw lying should we ever discover how to scientifically read minds.  A dangerous, and foolish idea. 

                  There is no way to POLICE whatever law you would enact.  Not justly anyway. 

                  Not only do I disagree with your premise that homosexuality is evil, I think your attitude toward how the law should enforce virtue to be draconian.

    • MarkRutledge

      Amen, jmm.  I choose to defeat this by convincing argument, and we* have* convincing arguments.  Alas, too many Christians know what is right in their hearts but cannot articulate their thoughts into a coherent narrative.  We must evangelize our own so that a simple, distilled case can be made for authentic freedom.

      • Bob

        …….and we are called from the upper room to go and evangelize to all people and all nations. Christian charity is pointing out what sin is. We are mostly called to white martyrdom, to witness to the faith of Christ given to us. We are to educate ourselves thoroughly in the faith, and enter in to those uncomfortable situations and conversations where such things as sodomy, birth control,, gay lifestyle, fornication, abortion, are against God’s books of nature and scripture. When you find yourself in that cocktail party situation of someone attacking your Catholic faith and moral beliefs, be prepared to defend “the hope that has been given you.” Realize that the Holy Spirit has put you in that uncomfortable situation and do not come up weak! Be prepared for the mocking, eye-rolling “you clueless Catholics” comments and realize that this is the living out of your baptismal promise! When you drive by Planned Parenthood and you see the protesters out in front on the days they do abortions and a voice inside you says “you should be there with your rosary also”……..listen to it! It’s the Holy Spirit talking to you! The evil one is telling you “oh, I’m too busy to go protest!” Or “what if someone I know sees me out praying the rosary at an abortion clinic, how embarrasing!” reject the voice of Satan, and accept the voice of the Holy Spirit, you will be amazed at the strength and courage the Spirit will give you! If you are laughed at, and therefore persecuted, be thankful because you are doing the work of sainthood!!!! We are called the Church Militant for a reason. In our current deplorable, secular, atheistic society, we Catholics are called to witness to our faith and become saints.

    • Clement_W

      I think that the Current Administration is the natural progression of where society in the United States with the rest of the Western Culture has been on for a very, very long time. The ‘Liberal’ agenda is, if you look at it very closely, is due to the failure of “believers” to follow the New Commandment that Jesus Christ brought “Thow shalt love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind all your strength AND love your neighbor as yourself”. The vaccuum that developed as a result of our not obeying the Spirit of this commandment is naturally being filled with a substitute to try to acheive the same goal, but, with unintended consequences in the beginning progressing to the “Progressive Movement”.

      For example, The Buffett Rule, the topic of the day, applied according to the New Commandment would be satisfied if Mr. Buffett with most of his wealth had invested in a labor intensive industry istead of sharing his ‘pain’ by spreading it to his affluent ‘millionaires’, not just his fellow Billionaires. Only an example mind you. If this had been happening past the Apostolic times, there would not have been the 1%ers; the Occupy Movement, The Democratic Party, The Republican Party or any number of wars, massacres, colonialism, the Holocaust, the Gulag etc., etc.

    • Daishinmyou

      I like the idea of catholics becoming a cloistered sect of society. No more brain-washing, or as the pope is fond of saying “the new evangelization”. 

  • 2012 Christian

    The first thing we need to stop talking about is “the state”, “the government” and “much of culture.”  Rather, we should talk about the Obama Administration and the Democrat Party and (instead of much of the culture) “a temporary coalition of individuals and interests cobbled together for governing.”  The key to understanding the Democrats’ current agenda is not so much Hobbes or any other political philospher but Maslow and his hierarchy of needs.  Democrats peddle a particular “brand of governance” that promises to address the needs of targeted and self-identified “victims” who have “rights” that are unaddressed by the long-established “culture.”  By successfully identifying smaller groups of such intensely interested victims (minorities racial, sexual, religious and/or linguistic) who will vote nearly monolithically, Democrats have largely been able to ignore larger demographic groups (White Catholics and White Protestants) because they have historically split their votes based on old loyalties and somewhat along class lines.

     Since demography is destiny and old party loyalties have eroded quickly, though, an overlay message of “women’s rights,” has been necessary to prevent the larger White Christian groups from coalescing and  negating Democrat control over the minorities.   That Democrat tactic is not the fruit of rights thinking.  Rather, it is nothing new: it is instead the oldest tool of tyranny: “divide and conquer.”  The divide between white married women and white unmarried women shows up in polls; married women actually still do see their interests more aligned with their families than with the Democrat Party and thus are less inclined to go along with its blandishments. 

    The Democrats, with measures such as Head of Household filing status and the Earned Income and Child-Related Credits, have supported the economic interests of women living on their own and thus acquired the loyalty of an outsized proportion of unmarried women.  To break up the pesky attachment married women still have to living and sharing their lives with husbands, the Democrats even slant their current and going forward tax proposals to create a penalty on marriage (see, e.g., the tax tables which impose a 33% marginal tax rate on a married couple with 2 kids earning $212,000 split evenly but only 25% marginal rate on each if they each file as heads of separate households and split the kids for tax purposes.  Each would also get a larger standard deduction as HHes, btw).  Going forward, the Democrats would punish “rich” single individuals only if they earn more than $200K but a married couple would be deemed rich and therefore attackable if they earned $250K together.  So one becomes a rich couple and attackable if one has the temerity of staying married when one earns more than $125,000! 

    Moral: We shouldn’t get lost in “rights talk” and should instead frame a message that effectively addresses the way the Democrats are playing the old Emperors’ game of “Divide et Impera.”

  • Brian A. Cook

    Actually, the Church has been accused of  being anti-democratic and anti-humanist for many decades, has it not?  Furthermore, haven’t many Catholics throughout history been anti-democratic and anti-humanist?  Haven’t there been Catholic despots?   Haven’t many Catholics exterminated dissenters?  Haven’t these realities repulsed people?

    • J G

       The Church has often been falsely accused by those who claim to be humanists. Didn’t some of them turn Notre Dame into a temple of reason while they chopped off heads to the cheers of the mob?

      • Brian A. Cook

        I refuse to believe that Catholics are entirely and purely innocent.  I won’t deny that some of them exterminated dissenters, but what I’m trying to get at is that many Catholics have done likewise throughout history, all the way to the past century.  Look at right-wing dictatorships in Spain and many South American nations. 

        • J G

           Consider the left wing secular dictatorships. North Korea is godless. The old USSR was secular. Currently China is no friend of the Church. Over 100 million people have been murdered by the godless in just the last century. This overwhelms anything Catholics have done.

          • Brian A. Cook

            But still, does that completely let Catholics off the hook?  Aren’t they supposed to rise above that?  How are people supposed to know that Catholicism does NOT logically lead to violent right-wing dictatorships?

            • J G

               Because it hasn’t. Cuba is a Left wing violent dictatorship. I find Left wing dictatorships worse then the right wing ones.

        • theorist

           If you think that right-wing dictatorships in south america are unpopular because of their death tolls, then you should know that if this is the reason for their unpopularity, then most people’s reason is mistaken for  the dictator of chile, pinochet, killed significantly less people than our own abraham lincoln. And yet we seem to have a better reputation among ourselves.

          Why if we judge regimes by body count, then even serial killers would be better than 99% of history’s regimes -which is impossible.

  • Clement_W

    I have seen and read numerous articles and opinions regarding the ‘Freedom of Religion’; ‘assault on the Catholic Church’ etc. etc since the ObamaCare ‘Mandate’ has become the hot topic of 2012. I do not understand why we are bemoaning this when God had foretold in great detail what has happened in the Old Testament in 1 Samuel Chapter 8 and verse 18 says “On that day you will cry out because of the king whom you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you on that day”.  It seems logical and reasonable that, particularly in this Easter season, we should get on our knees and with all humility, call on the Risen Lord of the New Testament to come to our aid to bring us back from the edge of the precipice!

    • 2012 Christian

      There have been dozens of usurpations by kings such as  the thefts by the Lutheran rulers of North Germany and Scandinavia or Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries and William and Mary’s revocation of James II’s Toleration Declaration.  I hardly think the Samuel reference is relevant to Obamacare.

      • Clement_W

        Perhaps you have not heard of the term “King Makers” or “President” and “General Secretary” of the USSR? Just because we vote for Leaders, Presidents, Senators, Representatives does not mean that that our leaders is not in effect Kings. If you are a literalist about what you read in the Bible, then I apologize. I happen to believe that Jesus Christ has kept His promise to send us the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit to bring to us the Gifts of Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom, Counsel, Strength/Fortitude, Piety/Humility and ‘Fear of the Lord’/Awe and reverence of the Lord.

      • Clement_W

        After posting my previous response to you, I have been thinkng about your response to my priginal post. Returning to 1 Samuel 8, here is the answer verses 7 through 9:”7  The LORD said: Listen to whatever the people say. You are not the one they are rejecting. They are rejecting me as their king. 8  They are acting toward you just as they have acted from the day I brought them up from Egypt to this very day, deserting me to serve other gods. 9  Now listen to them; but at the same time, give them a solemn warning and inform them of the rights of the king who will rule them. ” Please note: It would be impractical to post the entire chapter.

        The Kings that you mention prove further that the warning given by the Lord to the people demanding a Human King they could see in preference to the Kingship of God Himself whom they could not.
        Ps. 95
        7 For he is our God,
        we are the people he shepherds,
        the sheep in his hands.
        Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
        8 Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah,
        as on the day of Massah in the desert.
        9 There your ancestors tested me;
        they tried me though they had seen my works.
        10 Forty years I loathed that generation;
        I said: “This people’s heart goes astray;
        they do not know my ways.”
        11 Therefore I swore in my anger:
        “They shall never enter my rest.”

        But God relented and sent His Only-Begotten Son Jesus Christ who was visible to set things right again

  • Pingback: Anglican Mainstream South Africa » Blog Archive » The Speed of Change in the Republic of Rights()

  • Cord_Hamrick

    There is a counterattack against this shift, although it is found almost exclusively among conservative Republicans.

    You see it among those who insist on defining the term “right” in terms of Natural Rights and these in terms of Natural Law. They thus hearken back to Aquinas and not Hobbes. This is a big robust trend in conservative thought — and is nonexistent on the left.

  • Remnant7X7

    Thank you for your straight talk article. Everywhere I turn I see Catholics not following the magisterium.  It may be that only a remnant of believers remain even within the Church.  We must allow the Holy Spirit to evangelize though us within the Church as well as outside.  I pray that the remnant of the Church is completely relient on Jesus.  Historically, the Jews would follow God’s law and then get full of self and withdraw from following it.  They would stumble or an invader would conquer them.  We seem to be following that history.  The Church was weakened in complacency to the Enlightenment and now Post-modernism.   We must pray daily for in filling of the Holy Spirit to spiritually survive the onslaught that approaches and that as God’s people we defend Mother Church.

  • poetcomic1

      This is the ‘end game’ of the Protestant Reformation in the West. 

  • MPSchneiderLC

    Nice article. I think a few commentors missed the point by arguing about how much the government should tax and how much it should be involved. Fr Schall’s point was the values that underlie the action of a governement which is beyond your simple more-less calculation. There is a wide range of intervention that can be taken based on Catholic morals and social principles.

  • hombre111

    Very thought provoking.   Fr. Schall is right:  This has been going on for more than fifty years.  In fact, it was Toqueville who found a name for a trait that would become the central feature of American life, at least for so many:  Individualism.   But I think the author overstates the case when he says that for whatever I want or think I need, I have a right.   The real discussion is not about a bewildering bucket full of claimed or pretended “rights,” each given the same value.   The loud issue about rights is really rather limited:   womens’ rights and  gay rights.   

    And it is worth noting that America is not involved in an argument between the Church and a bunch of godless fools who can’t and won’t see the light.   There are many thoughtful, prayerful, and highly moral people involved in this discussion who simply are not convinced by the Church’s arguments, especially its arguments over birth control and gay rights.   And many thoughtful and highly moral people come to the abortion dilemma and find times so ambiguous that a single one-size-fits-all argument seems simplistic. 

    Yes, America is in a spiritual crisis.   But there are so many factors involved that Fr. Schall’s essay seems too simple, too indifferent to other very potent forces at work against the well-being of America’s families.

  • Alecto

    Many who opposed FDR’s or Wilson’s policies issued these same warnings.  After all, Margaret Sanger made inroads into our society a century ago.  It is ironic that secular progressives like Sanger have established such a foothold advancing their collective agenda through their false teaching on individual rights.   Rights are not entitlements and entitlements are not contemplated under the American constitutional framework.  Rights, as we understand them, come from God as stated in the Declaration of Independence.  That is why they cannot be abridged.  As Catholics we know that everything which comes from God, can only be legitimately taken by him.  Contrast that with entitlements which are created by government, and can be given or taken away at its pleasure. 

    True “rights” come with associated duties.  It makes sense to view them this way as everything God gives comes with an obligation.  This is another basis for rejecting notions of gay marriage, abortion, even in my humblest opinion, free public education as “rights”.  Not only does abortion infringe on the rights of others, it exists outside our framework of rights because there is no accompanying duty, qualification, condition or obligation as there is with property ownership, free speech, assembly, etc….  The Vatican contributes to the obfuscation and dimishment of rights when it promulgates the absurd idea of “water rights”.

    The Constitution never mentions “freedom of religion”.  The exact words in the First Amendment are:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”  That is quite different from secular progressives false and narrow characterization of the right to freedom of religion.  When the right is the freedom to exercise one’s religion, that right contemplates a breadth and depth beyond “freedom of religion”.  It assumes not a static ideology, but the full range of actions in which individuals engage in order to demonstrate their faith in a particular religion, no? Part of the battle here is conceding to the opposition the ability to frame issues and language.  People!  Words have meaning!  Now more than ever it is imperative for us to frame the issues and for people of faith to use our language, and reject theirs. 

    Finally, now more than ever I believe it is crucial to pray, pray always and pray unceasingly.  To me that is the only real weapon we have.  Along with penance, it is the only thing that can defeat the evil of secular progressivism.  I believe in the message at Fatima and I wish the Catholic church would encourage more prayer and devotion in all of its public messages and stop this nonsense of trying to be politically relevant. 

    • Alecto

      That should read “diminishment” – apologies.

  • Vishal Mehra

    The central error in the liberalism is that it views the neighbor as someone to fear, rather than someone to love.

    Now how can this fearsome being, my neighbor  be tackled?
    I could try to control him–the collectivization response or I could separate from him–the libertarian response.  

    Both deny the love that should exist between the neighbors and which alone builds up the City.

    Thus the liberals view society as an arrangement for mutual benefits like an animal herd.
    The political nature of man is denied and common good is reduced to a sum over private goods.

    Dostoevsky had the measure of liberals and their dreams of building the Crystal Palace by pursuit of ‘enlightened self-interest’ in Notes from Underground and Dreams of a Ridiculous Man:

    Then there arose men who began to think how to bring all people together again, so that everybody, while still loving himself best of all, might not interfere with others, and all might live together in something like a harmonious society. Regular wars sprang up over this idea. All the combatants at the same time firmly believed that science, wisdom and the instinct of self-preservation would force men at last to unite into a harmonious and rational society; and so, meanwhile, to hasten matters, ‘the wise’ endeavoured to exterminate as rapidly as possible all who were ‘not wise’ and did not understand their idea, that the latter might not hinder its triumph. But the instinct of
    self-preservation grew rapidly weaker; there arose men,haughty and sensual, who demanded all or nothing. In order to obtain everything they resorted to crime, and if they did not succeed – to suicide. There arose religions with a cult of
    non-existence and self-destruction for the sake of the everlasting peace of annihilation

    Oh, tell me, who was it first announced, who was it first proclaimed, that man only does nasty things because he does not know his own interests; and that if he were enlightened, if his eyes were opened to his real normal interests, man would at once cease to do nasty things, would at once become good and noble because, being enlightened and understanding his real advantage, he would see his own advantage in the good and nothing else, and we all know that not one man can, consciously, act against his own interests, consequently, so to say, through necessity, he would begin doing good? Oh, the babe! Oh, the pure, innocent child!

  • donald951

    “Modern Family” (pictured) is a sit-com in which the situation is that this is a “modern” family–grandpa’s current wife is younger than his daughter, etc.  (I don’t know what the writers mean by this, though.)

  • arthurkraftii

    2012 you are right. The majority of my catholic friends are very strong prolife and anti democratic party. but these are chosen friends. When I go to Knights Of Columbus Meetings, who are the Chruchs’ “battle group”  they do not want to talk about politics and a lot proclaim them selves democrats. and say they vote  Pro life and for the church. I carry voting records ffor the last 20 years or so (available at NPL.ORG) there are 3 or 4 dem’s that have voted pro-life in that period of time. It is like being a apologist to our on people. As many have said and I believe F. Sheen also as the church goes so does the world. 
    I pray that this taste of leftist social Darwinism is adequete to scare and steer this country back.

  • Oneill

    Two things caused me to change a lot of my former beliefs in the American State.  The election of the Obama government replete with widespread corruption and amorality and the timeline when the number of pregnant women in New York City who ended their pregnancies with abortion passed the forty percent level.  It is difficult for me to have any loyalty to the New American State and its culture; I no longer feel any connection to what passes for “America today”  In the nineteenth century Catholics were told that they could not be loyal Americans and Catholics at the same time; maybe they were right.  America delenda est.

  • Daishinmyoyu

    The catholic church has been at the center of “making the rules” for centuries. I personally am happy (for the moment) that it is losing its hold on people’s minds and hearts. Many don’t seem to understand why. For me it’s because the institutional church looks nothing like the ideal of Christ. It is run mostly by men who have little or no interest in understanding the rest of humanity. And I know that by how this leadership has reacted to the church’s various problems in the last 30 years. The leadership is not like Jesus. That’s it.