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The Reactionary Utopian
January 21, 2009

What Children Must Know
by Joe Sobran

[It can’t be taught in public schools]

A bilious letter to my local newspaper accuses the Catholic Church of “one-issue politics” because she condemns feticide (alias abortion rights) and allegedly neglects such issues as war, AIDS, and global warming. The writer asserts that this explains why the Church is now “imploding.”

You have to give that writer credit: He displays a fine fluency in cliché. How many people have, over the centuries, pronounced the Church’s obituary because she had let the times pass her by! Yet, as of last Sunday, she was still here. If there was any implosion, I didn’t notice it.

One reason I remain a believing Catholic is that the world still hates the Church so much, after two millennia, just as Jesus predicted. No other religion inspires such hostility so consistently throughout history. Men are still avidly trying to stamp her out, by word and deed. As Robert Royal reminds us, the communist persecution of the Church in the last century was even more terrible than the Roman persecution in the first. Nero had nothing on Stalin.

The current market for atheism naturally concentrates on her (and not on, say, Islam) as the main enemy. Communists, liberals, feminists, what have you, all have recognized her, as did the original Protestants and the French revolutionaries, as the one entity that must be destroyed. But somehow they have never been able to achieve this.

As G.K. Chesterton put it, “Only the Catholic Church can save a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.” The letter I cite displays the mentality of a perfectly docile child of our age. The ironic thing is that such children, hurling tiresomely conventional liberal accusations against the Church, always seem to fancy themselves bold rebels and original thinkers.

What a silly vanity! Anyone can be “original.” The important thing is not originality, but truth. And the letter in question is really a complaint that the Church has not adopted the current liberal agenda as her own. Her real agenda, to call it that, is charity, a key principle of which is not to harm the innocent — as by murdering them in the womb.

This principle is now under attack — even by some professing Catholics who hold political power. And the Church herself is under attack for defending it! Well, as Mark Twain might say, dog my cats.

George Bernard Shaw once wrote: “The vilest abortionist is he who attempts to mold a child’s character.” That epigram presupposes a moral consensus that has long ceased to exist — a consensus that abortion is evil and that a abortionist is a particularly heinous man. In his way, Shaw himself helped to undermine that assumption; and even the most “progressive” people agreed, in the not very distant past, that killing unborn children was a horror. That is one reason that, despite his genius, Shaw’s works have lost much of their power. Once upon a time, he was “original.” Now he’s old hat.

If the Church, a generation from now, is the last institution to condemn cannibalism, you can be sure that angry letters to the newspapers will accuse her of having an eccentric obsession with the subject — “one-issue politics.” The liberal world would say, between belches, that she had a monomania about cannibalism. A far-fetched hypothesis? Not so long ago, it would have seemed extremely improbable that feticide would one day be declared to be protected by the U.S. Constitution. And now people are indignant with her for refusing to change her teachings to keep pace with the dizzying trends and fads of the times — as if conformity to temporal flux were a spiritual duty. (If it were, Nancy Pelosi, Joseph Biden, and Edward Kennedy would be saints!)

Liberals are now eager to declare resistance to legal abortion a lost cause. In their minds, it seems, Barack Obama’s victory has settled the matter, even though he was careful to discuss it as little as possible during the campaign. Now those same liberals have the nerve to pretend the election was chiefly a popular referendum on legal feticide! What a swindle.

Excitement ran high in this presidential election, partly because of record voter turnouts. Odd logic: A moment’s reflection tells you that the greater the number of voters is, the less the individual ballot matters. Yet to hear many people rave about democracy, you’d get just the opposite impression, as if a high turnout at the polls somehow enhanced the value of their franchise.

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