John Stuart Mill wrote that the freedom of a liberal state should be considered as the freedom to do anything which does not harm others. The doctrine sounds reasonable until you realise that the people who profess to live by it manipulate the term 'harm' in such a way that whatever they don't like counts as harmful, and whatever they do like does not count as harmful. The doctrine of the modern world, which Mill was attempting to put into respectable dress, is that in order to be free, in order to enjoy life properly, one must be able to inflict indescribable suffering and even death on others. To be free one must be able to abandon one's spouse and walk out on one's children; one does not need the right to quote the Bible in a street conversation, or wear a religious habit on the beach. Calling a person by a grammatically correct pronoun is a harm; killing an unborn baby is not a harm.
This may seem confusing but it makes sense really: there is a pattern. The things you are able to do, and indeed must be able to do, are the things necessary for a group of highly specific lifestyles. The things you are not allowed to do are the things which impede or complicate those same lifestyles. It is not that the favoured lifestyles are happy ones: studies of objective life-outcomes like mental health and suicide rates may even rate them poorly compared with alternatives not so beloved of our political elite. This does not prevent this conception of freedom from condemning actions which might facilitate a person's move from the former to the latter. For what is true at the individual level, that freedom consists in being able to harm others, is true at the social leval as well. A free society, on this view, is a society which harms whole groups of people: a society which insists that they remain in a state of misery. The worst thing anyone can do is to help those in a homosexual lifestyle, women in crisis pregnancies, or children who are being abused by rape gangs: any of these who actually want to be helped. No: society has decreed that they are free, that freedom demands that they follow a narrowly defined path which predictably leads to objectively catastrophic outcomes, and that they must continue to suffer until they die.
It amuses me, in a meloncholy way, to read criticisms of 'integralism', a term which is used to describe what in Political Theory is called a 'perfectionist' theory: a theory that the state should act on a view of what leads to happiness and what does not. The alternative is supposed to be a 'neutralist' theory. We are living in an integralist society, my friends; just not a Catholic one. The ways of life which are given special status in our society, which are encouraged and protected, have not been chosen on the basis of Catholic principles. They appear to have been chosen on demonic principles. They have nothing to do with what any sociological researcher would class as 'good outcomes'. They are our society's offering to Moloch of the lives of our children and young people. It is considered virtuous to make this offering; it is impiety to refuse it.
First Moloch, horrid king, besmeared with blood
Of human sacrifice and parents' tears,
Though, for the noise of drums and timbrels loud,
Their children's cries unheard, that passed through fire
To his grim idol. (link)
I have few words of comfort for the defeated pro-life campaigners in Ireland. I write before the official results have been announced, but by all accounts the margin is not such as could have been overcome by a slightly cleverer campaign strategy. I don't think they need blame themselves. They were battling something bigger than the usual political movement. Their position was an impossible one, with the self-destruction of the Catholic Church's moral authority in Ireland coupled with an international movement in favour of death.
We aren't now faced with a referendum campaign, but a lifetime to live with the consequences of the series of Molochian triumphs in Ireland, Britain, and beyond. What are we to do? We are called on to oppose injustice as best we may; to help our neighbour as best we may; to worship God as best we may. I will make only two observations about the form this must take.
One is that the big issues will not come right without a conversion of heart on the part of a large number of our fellow-citizens. Personally, I love clever arguments, but while we have to have them the heavy lifting is going to be about making an integral Catholic life seem both attractive and possible to people. Only the fullness of truth, liturgy, culture, and God's grace, is going to work here.
The other is that the work we can do for the forseeable future is going to be only preparatory and experimental. This will have its value of course, but we aren't going to make substantial progress until another condition is met: the restoration of the credibility and evangelising effectiveness of the hierarchical Church. There is very little, if anything, we can do about that as lay Catholics, or even as priests, but no Catholic movement to infuse the temporal sphere with the values of the Gospel (as Vatican II expressed it) is going to make headway without the support of the Pope and a good number of bishops. A certain proportion of ineffective or even corrupt bishops would not necessarily stop it, but a good Pope won't be effective if a vast body of bishops is against him, and good bishops can do little if the Pope is against them.
Right now it doesn't seem very likely that this condition will be met in my lifetime, but you never know.
Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.