In the popular mind, brutal regimes are often associated with what is called the ‘right wing’ of the political spectrum. It is good to remember that the most tragic and wildly inhumane tyrannies of the 20th century were from the ‘left wing’ of politics. Both the National Socialist Party (Nazi Germany) and the communists of China and the Soviet Union were left wing reforms gone berserk. Something went wrong from the restoration of the German nation to the annihilation of Jews and others in death camps. Likewise, the establishment of a workers paradise is a far cry from gulags and state child farms of the Stalin era. This is not to indict the radical left any more than the radical right, but it is to remind us that tyranny can slip into history at either end of the political spectrum and that ‘eternal vigilance’ is always warranted.
Gamblers talk about watching for ‘tells’ in other gamblers, little signs and behaviors which indicate what the next bet may be. Tyrants also have ‘tells’ all their own. For instance, they apply both carrots and sticks to the free press, rewarding the ‘good press” for telling their story the way they want it told and at the same time finding ways to punish those who dare to challenge them. Likewise, tyrants tend to change the meaning of words so that the obvious meaning is now suppressed and new code words emerge. George Orwell predicted as much in his famous send-up of communism, Animal Farm. In the current liberal political climate, one which congratulates itself on ushering in an ‘age of enlightenment’ with Barack Obama, “tolerance” is such a code word. It means that all moral codes are to be accepted, unless they disagree with the moral code of the regime. Homosexuality is to be celebrated as natural and good in this tolerant society. Any opinion to the contrary is not to be tolerated and an aggressive campaign to eradicate such opinions will be emerge. We have seen the Obama administration put the Catholic Church in its crosshairs, refusing to allow even exceptions of conscience or religion to their ‘new normal’ of homosexual standards. The attempts to protect Catholic moral teaching which is as old and prestigious as western civilization itself have been labeled ‘hate speech’ and ‘the legalization of discrimination.’ These attempts to protect the Church and others of good conscience have been chased out of the public square of state legislatures in Arizona and Ohio. These are the signs of creeping tyranny. Catholics understand that the Church has suffered persecution in the past more often than it has not. We understand where these decisions lead and that pressure to change divine law is fruitless. But we are clear about the nature of what is happening here and the directions these political currents are leading. We see what is creeping into view.
The late, great essayist and commentator, Father Richard John Neuhaus had an observation which he called, “Neuhaus’ Law.” In his own words it went like this. Writing about conflicting opinions within the Church he identified a dynamic that is no less true in political discourse:
“I’ll presume to call it Neuhaus’ Law, or at least one of his several laws: Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed. Some otherwise bright people have indicated their puzzlement with that axiom but it seems to me, well, axiomatic. Orthodoxy, no matter how politely expressed, suggests that there is a right and a wrong, a true and a false, about things. When orthodoxy is optional, it is admitted under a rule of liberal tolerance that cannot help but be intolerant of talk about right and wrong, true and false. It is therefore a conditional admission, depending upon orthodoxy’s good behavior. The orthodox may be permitted to believe this or that and to do this or that as a matter of sufferance, allowing them to indulge their inclination, preference, or personal taste. But it is an intolerable violation of the etiquette by which one is tolerated if one has the effrontery to propose that this or that is normative for others. “
For the complete quote and discussion, see First Things, March, 2009. http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/03/the-unhappy-fate-of-optional-orthodoxy.
This intolerant insistence upon tolerance of sin is no less obvious in the pro-life / pro-abortion debates. What could be more tolerant than to be “pro-choice?” The words hide the meaning of the choice and the killing that is involved. But, again, the goal is not to establish an abortion alternative. It is to erradicate the pro-life position altogether. The hostility directed to crisis pregnancy centers and other pro-life services is evident daily. There can be no tolerance of the pro-life position. A scorched earth strategy is the only one Planned Parenthood, the Obama administration and its minions can imagine. Thus, when it would be easy to allow religious persons with objections to abortion, euthanasia, birth control or sterilization to opt out of portions of the state mandate insurance structure, the HHS mandate instead attempts to make the Church and other citizens of good conscience heel to the ideology of the regime. This is a ‘tell!’ Here is more than politics as usual. Tyranny is creeping into the national experience. This is how it begins.
Germans elected their tyrant in choosing the National Socialist Party. Bolshevik means ‘majority,’ an indication that the tyrant Lenin was elected. Democracy is not an insulation against these abuses. There are many ways on the left and the right for tyranny to find power. Watching for these ‘tells’ is a part of being vigilant. Will Catholics be allowed to preach the truth about homosexuality or will our priests and deacons find themselves charged with ‘hate speech/crimes?” Will our schools be able to resist teaching curriculum that lies about the nature of abortion and human sexuality? What will the common core usher in to our children’s classrooms? Catholic adoption agencies have already been closed in Illinois and Boston for refusing to place children with homosexual ‘couples.’ Will our hospitals be able to practice medicine without resorting to immoral practices such as those that led tot he death of Terri Schiavo, the refusal to give a dying person water and/or nourishment? There are still heroic stands to be made and the tale that grace tells is not yet fully told. This brush with tyranny may only be a cautionary tale and not an utter societal travesty. Vigilant Catholics may make the difference!