There is a helpful perspective on the tyranny watch front: the United States of America was constructed largely in reaction to tyranny. Because of this, there are some built in inoculations against the tyranny virus in the structure of our government. The Bill of Rights and the Amendments to the Constitution are protections of individual rights, the rights of minorities and limits on the power of the government. This does not guarantee that tyranny will never triumph in our land, but it does make Americans especially sensitive to it. Freedom of Religion (freedom to practice your beliefs of conscience, whatever they may be), has been called, ‘the first freedom.’ The Pilgrims arrived on these shores to escape just the kind of intolerance that we see rear its ugly head against Catholics and other religious persons. This is not freedom from religion, as some would have you believe, but freedom for religion. The separation of church and state protects citizens from a state sponsored religion and keeps the state out of religious practices. It is not designed to marginalized religious practice, as any good constitutional lawyer would explain to the Obama administration.
Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press are further resistance to a tyrannical government. As we watch this president develop ‘house favorites’ in the press (The New York Times, ABC News) even while he vilifies conservative radio and television, we realize the political wisdom and mature courage it took for true statesmen and philosophers of the past to triumph over political pettiness and opine: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. (Voltaire)” This sense of freedom is in the DNA of Americans and provides a hope that tyranny, even when fully empowered by the tools of government, will not take deep root here. President Theodore Roosevelt understood what the current White House does not: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” It is also an ancient Catholic instinct. We are to love the truth more than ourselves. Catherine of Sienna would say, “Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.” These are the BEST aspects of the American and the Roman Catholic political traditions!
Poland and Europe, it seems, might be a different matter. The tradition of the freedom of conscience is more likely in need of defense where the tradition is weaker. A doctor in Poland has recently been ordered to perform an abortion against his will and conscience by a court that insists that the patient has a right to have this doctor, or any doctor, perform an abortion on demand in that country. For the whole story, see here: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/polish-government-orders-catholic-doctor-to-perform-abortion.
In the past, accounts of the crushing of individual conscience have been accounts from communist countries or the cruel dictatorships of the Third World. Now the wolf is at our door with the HHS Mandate’s attempt to force the Catholic Church to do what it cannot do, abort unborn children and provide immoral medical procedures to those who turn to it for help. The refusal of the Obama administration to negotiate in good faith with the Bishop’s conference on the mandate and its insistence on attempting to break the will of the Church grates against Catholic instincts. But it also grates against our American instincts and our First Freedom, the Freedom of Religion. It is in our DNA to be a ‘city on a hill’ for the rest of the world to behold, a shining example of what it means to be a free people. We have it in our reach to pass this test and regain that stature as the country that respects conscience and honors the place where grace changes the human heart.