Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Irish Presidential Election and Rendering to Caesar

The election for the presidency of Ireland is over, and it appears that the votes of one million people of those eligible to vote in the election resulted in the appointment of a former member of the Labour Party Michael D Higgins to that exalted position.
 Picture shows president elect Michael D Higgins
On many occasions in the past, I have quoted the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput (now archbishop of Philadelphia, U.S.A.).   In August 2010 the Archbishop addressed those attending the 15th Symposium for the Canon Law Association of Slovakia.   He commented that many Catholics in the U.S. and Western Europe today do not understand the costs of Christian witness under fifty years of Nazi and Soviet regimes.  He continued:
‘[…] Many are indifferent to the process in our countries that social scientists like to call “secularisation” – but which, in practice, involves repudiating the Christian roots and soul of our civilization. […]
‘The Enlightenment-derived worldview that gave rise to the great murder ideologies of the last century remains very much alive.  Its language is softer, its intentions seem kinder, and its face is friendlier.  But its underlying impulse hasn’t changed – i.e., the dream of building a society apart from God; a world where men and women might live wholly sufficient unto themselves, satisfying their needs and desires through their own ingenuity.
‘This vision presumes a frankly “post-Christian” world ruled by rationality, technology and good social engineering.  Religion has a place in this worldview, but only as an individual lifestyle accessory.  People are free to worship and believe whatever they want, so long as they keep their beliefs to themselves and do not presume to intrude their religious idiosyncrasies on the workings of government, the economy, or culture. …
‘In the United States, … government agencies now increasingly seek to dictate how Church ministries should operate, and to force them into practices that would destroy their Catholic identity.  Efforts have been made to discourage or criminalize the expression of certain Catholic beliefs as “hate speech.”  Our courts and legislatures now routinely take actions that undermine marriage and family life, and seek to scrub our public life of Christian symbolism and signs of influence.
‘In Europe, we see similar trends, although marked by a more open contempt for Christianity.  Church leaders have been reviled in the media and even in the courts for simply expressing Catholic teaching.  Some years ago … one of the leading Catholic politicians of our generation, Rocco Buttiglione, was denied a leadership post in the European Union because of his Catholic beliefs. […]
‘Downplaying the West’s Christian past is sometimes done with the best intentions, from a desire to promote peaceful co-existence in a pluralistic society.  But more frequently it’s done to marginalize Christians and to neutralize the Church’s public witness….
‘In practice, … we see that without a belief in fixed moral principles and transcendent truths, our political institutions and language become instruments in the service of a new barbarism.  In the name of tolerance we come to tolerate the cruellest intolerance; respect for other cultures comes to dictate disparagement of our own; the teaching of “live and let” justifies the strong living at the expense of the weak.
‘This diagnosis helps us understand one of the foundational injustices in the West today – the crime of abortion.
‘I realize that the abortion license is a matter of current law in almost every nation in the West.  In some cases, this license reflects the will of the majority and is enforced through legal and democratic means.  And I’m aware that many people, even in the Church, find it strange that we Catholics in America still make the sanctity of unborn life so central to our public witness.
‘Let me tell you why I believe abortion is the crucial issue of our age.
‘First, because abortion … is about living within the truth.  The right to life is the foundation of every other human right.  If that right is not inviolate, then no right can be guaranteed. […]
‘From the earliest days of the Church, to be Catholic has meant refusing in any way to participate in the crime of abortion – either by seeking an abortion, performing one, or making this crime possible through actions or inactions in the political or judicial realm.  […]
‘In our day – when the sanctity of life is threatened not only by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, but also by embryonic research and eugenic temptations to eliminate the weak, the disabled and the infirm elderly – this aspect of Catholic identity becomes even more vital to our discipleship.
‘My point in mentioning abortion is this: Its widespread acceptance in the West shows us that without a grounding in God or a higher truth, our democratic institutions can very easily become weapons against our own human dignity. […]
‘The Catholic beliefs that most deeply irritate the orthodoxies of the West are those concerning abortion, sexuality and the marriage of man and woman.  This is no accident.  These Christian beliefs express the truth about human fertility, meaning and destiny. …
‘But we can never render unto Caesar what belongs to God.  We need to obey God first; the obligations of political authority always come second.  We cannot collaborate with evil without gradually becoming evil ourselves. […]
‘We need to fight the evils we see.  And most importantly, we must not delude ourselves into thinking that by going along with the voices of secularism and de-Christianization we can somehow mitigate or change things.   Only the Truth can set men free. […]
‘And let us support each other – whatever the cost – so that when we make our accounting to the Lord, we will be numbered among the faithful and courageous, and not the cowardly or the evasive, or those who compromised until there was nothing left of their convictions, or those who were silent when they should have spoken the right word at the right time. […]’
Although this is a fairly lengthy extract from the Archbishop’s address I hope that I have not taken any of it out of the context of the whole.  However, I consider that what is quoted above makes for very relevant reading in these times.