Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

04 November 2012

Decline and Fall

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), an historian and no friend of the Catholic Church, offers valuable insight into the American situation in his commentary about the once-great civilization of Athens:
In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security.  They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all--security, comfort, and freedom.  When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.
Paul VI (r. 1963-1978), visible head of the Catholic Church, offers valuable insight into the American situation in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae:
Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
Several of these problems existed before the Church reaffirmed her opposition to contraception: marital infidelity, diminished moral standards, erosion of the reverence due to women, and the reduction of women (and, for that matter, men) to being instruments of pleasure.  Only five years after Humanae Vitae, America legalized abortion at any stage of pregnancy, for any or no reason.  Not only in America, but on the entire world stage, the drama has played to sell-out crowds.  It seems that political polarization becomes more acute with every election.  With the prospect of mandated coverage of contraception, the stakes have never seemed higher.

The Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania recently released this statement upon the threshold of the upcoming election.  Granted that the bishops cannot and would not endorse particular parties or candidates, they certainly reserve the right--and cherish the duty--to inform consciences with truth that guides the responsible voter to transcend party lines.  Our Metropolitan Archbishop, Charles Chaput, O.F.M.Cap., has contributed much to this effort.

As Catholic voters we must ask, "What do we really want, what do we really treasure, as a society?  More properly, whom do we treasure, and what are we willing to do for them?"  Our votes encapsulate our interests for the nation and our reverence for the culture.  In a word, they embody our true estimation of the human person--of our very selves.

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