E’VE HEARD for a long time that the solution to society’s problems, including the problems of Catholics in today’s United States of America, is that everyone should “live and let live”—that we should all be classical liberals who rejoice in a land where people are free to live as they choose, as long as they allow others to live as the others choose to live, and as long as nobody hurts anybody. This sounds nice in theory, but how does it work in practice?
The reality of the situation is that the practice of religion (and, mutatis mutandis, the violent opposition to religion that is modern atheism) is necessarily public and political. For example, if all Catholics are to worship on a given day, they must have part or all of the day off of work; and if there is to be a procession, a main road might need to be shut down during it. The former will make companies less efficient or less profitable or both; the latter will impinge on traffic, perhaps on trade, certainly it may seem an imposition on the unbelieving or the unenthusiastic. Modern atheism, for its part, is no less public and political: it tries to get rid of all religious symbols, like crosses and manger scenes, and if it could, it would abolish Sundays and Holy Days (indeed, this has already largely occurred). If they had their way, there would be no room and no respect left for Christianity in the public square. In this sense, the liberal isn’t one who thinks all views should be allowed to flourish; he believes that the only view that can be allowed is the one that says no view is sufficiently known as true for it to have precedence or prerogatives vis-à-vis the people.
Let us take another comparison: music. When someone plays music in his car (especially with extra speakers and windows open, driving down Main Street), or through his earbuds, or in a restaurant, he makes everyone around him listen to what he is listening to. His “free choice” to listen imposes on the others a situation they did not freely choose. He is forcing them to submit to his freedom. So, “giving everyone freedom” is illusory; one man’s exercise of freedom may and likely will impinge on another’s rights.
We see this playing out dramatically with the aggressive homosexual lobby. If “gay marriage” is legalized, then what happens to the freedom of bakers, decorators, clothiers, musicians, and churches to follow their Christian (and natural law-based) conscience, whereby they would choose only to be involved in heterosexual weddings? Sorry, folks, you have no freedom anymore; liberalism has taken it away. You must now do just what the State tells you, no more, no less.
The most serious example, of course, is the denial of the unborn child’s human right to the care of a mother and father and to legal protection, as Joseph Ratzinger discusses in his superb essay “Truth and Freedom.” Because of liberalism’s intolerant creed, the woman’s freedom means everything, the child’s life, rights, and eventual freedom mean nothing. Only a demonic parody of freedom must destroy and abolish another person’s freedom in order to secure itself.
If the social space is not Catholic, it will be filled, over time, with pagan and anti-Catholic elements. Society, like nature, abhors a vacuum. There is no such thing as a religiously-neutral public square. It will be either religious or irreligious, either Christian or anti-Christian.
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