03 November 2010

Zmirak's Election Post-Mortem Nails Catholic Position in the Secular State

No, John Zmirak doesn't write for Saint Louis Catholic (though he is welcome to do so), but I enjoy his regular column on Inside Catholic enough to encourage readers here to read him.  He has written his own take on yesterday's election results, which you can read here, but I wanted to highlight this excerpt as particularly insightful:

As Catholics living in secular America -- and not in some benevolent, pro-clerical Catholic monarchy, or a de facto Catholic state like De Valera's Ireland -- we should recognize what our Church and our families need from the government: to be left alone. By its very nature, by virtue of our country's Constitution, national government in America is secular. In the past, when Protestant culture and faith were stronger, this secularism was heavily tinged with the old certitudes that were common to Christendom. You didn't need a confessional Catholic or Protestant state to forbid gay "marriage" or adoption, to protect unborn lives, or keep prurient sex education out of public school kindergartens. Government charity, even as set up as part of FDR's New Deal, was designed to help keep families intact -- not to underwrite and perpetuate fatherless households.

None of this is true anymore. As the logic of secularism has advanced through the courts, all the residues of the old pan-Christian consensus, and indeed of natural law, have been erased. Now the State recognizes no intermediate associations of any kind; the individual asserts his "rights," which he holds in stark isolation, at the sufferance of government, with no institutions to back his claim. The State protects the "right" of minor girls to abort their children and of spouses to break their marriage contracts on a whim. (Imagine if we could repudiate credit card debts that easily -- that shows you what our society holds sacred.) The social pathology that results from the atomization of the family creates the very problems that big government generously steps in to "solve," and the process repeats itself -- grinding down every institution that is not directly subsidized and controlled by the State. Or do you think it's an accident that Catholic hospitals and schools are going bankrupt, even as the secular government expands?

While the Church might, in other contexts, support the State's providing education and even health care -- I could imagine this in Habsburg Austria, the Philippines, or maybe Malta -- in secular America, the State will follow the dictates of its governing ideology: Utilitarianism, the promise of the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest number of voters. There is zero prospect of bending the State to our will, of restoring to our public institutions the ancient Christian certitudes. Even in deeply conservative communities, the will of localities will always be tortured by the courts to accord with the legal philosophy that dominates New England law schools and New York law firms; hence, school prayer enacted in Alabama will always be struck down in Washington, and so on. Atomize, homogenize -- then tyrannize. That's the cultural program of the Left throughout the West.

The only hope for Christians of any sort -- and Catholics in particular -- to carry on our mission of evangelization and social charity is to shrink the secular State. We must claw back the taxes that make it so hard to afford to raise a decent-sized family, to pay for Catholic schooling, to support works of charity that are not value-neutral but truly Christian. We must push back, hard, against the ever-expanding, Utilitarian Leviathan. We do so not because we are secret Randians, who shrug off any moral obligation toward the weak -- but rather because we see the family as the basic unit of society, churches and families as the primary educators of children, and the godless modern State as a monster that must be killed.

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