Sticking with Principles Isn’t Retreat

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With an eye on the moral-legal weather vane, Wesley Smith notes the move afoot in Canada to force Catholic hospitals to kill people who want to be killed.  Quoting the Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms provision on “conscience and religion,” he writes (emphasis his):

That’s an explicit and enumerated right.

If that right is to retain any heft, Catholic and other religiously-affiliated institutions should promise to close their doors before buckling under to the boot of the state.

That would leave Canadians with a choice: Do they want more good hospitals available, some of which won’t allow euthanasia, or would they prefer fewer facilities all of which willingly allow homicide.

Progressives’ political calculation on such matters puts morally traditional institutions in a difficult position.  The progressives rightly understand that Catholics (for instance) engage in these activities because we feel called to do so in order to help others and because we understand that only a visible light can attract wanderers (i.e., only public behavior can attract converts).

As a strategy, therefore, the Left seeks to corrupt those activities or to drive Catholics out.  We can keep doing them, but only if we continue to shrink the observable difference between our practices and those of the secular world.  As Smith’s example illustrates, the preferred method is to further make Catholics do things that seem to prove some teaching or other of the Church’s negotiable.

The other option is for traditionalists to do as Smith suggests and close up shop.  Such an action, while powerful as a threat, also opens us to the accusation that we care about some controversial social policy more than helping people, including clients, employees, and communities.

Unfortunately, we’re getting to the point that this is the better option.  The tests will become harder and the demands for compromise more thorough and more forceful.  If we’re to salvage the principles that define us, moving sooner is better than waiting for resistance to become even more difficult.

That doesn’t mean going about our lives, though.  It means moving back a step and making the charitable activities more fundamental.  Take the lesson of Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  If Catholics can’t operate a hospital, per se, then we should find some way to help those whom hospitals won’t take or for whom they can’t do anything.  We should go out in the community and help people to do such things as keep them out of hospitals, and so on.

That is, if we don’t replace charitable occupations with some other activity of life, but with more charity, it will be clear that we didn’t choose our pro-life, pro-marriage, or pro-whatever stance over helping people, but were pushed away from doing more good because progressives have made society into a moral trap.



  • Rhett Hardwick

    “we care about some controversial social policy more than helping people, including clients, employees, and communities.”

    I suppose the first thing Catholics have to ask themselves is what is fundamental to our beliefs. On the other hand, I don’t think “freedom of religion” is limited to protecting only fundamentals. What is the case for “turning the other cheek”?

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