Saturday, October 13, 2012

I Beg to Differ


In order to make possible a future of peace for coming generations, our first task is to educate for peace in order to build a culture of peace. Education, whether it takes place in the family or at school, must be primarily an education in those spiritual values which give the wisdom and traditions of each culture their ultimate meaning and power. The human spirit has an innate yearning for beauty, goodness and truth. This is a reflection of the divine, God’s mark on each person! This common aspiration is the basis for a sound and correct notion of morality, which is always centred on the person. Yet men and women can turn towards goodness only of their own free will, for “human dignity requires them to act out of a conscious and free choice, as moved in a personal way from within, and not y their own blind impulses or by exterior constraint” (Gaudium et Spes). The goal of education is to guide and support the development of the freedom to make right decisions, which may run counter to widespread opinions, the fashions of the moment, or forms of political and religious ideology. This is the price of building a culture of peace!

Address to Government and National Leaders, Lebanon, Sept 15, 2012

Reflection – Well, meanwhile this week in Ontario a government cabinet minister declared that the Catholic school system will no longer be allowed to teach that human life is sacred from conception to natural death.

Ontario recently passed a sweeping ‘anti-bullying’ law, the primary effects of which seem to be that the Catholic school system can no longer teach Catholic sexual morality and now, fundamental Catholic values of respect for human life. Apparently, the law of the land now in Ontario is that no one is allowed to be a bully… except the government.

The effect of this law, and this approach to civil society, is not an education in peace and tolerance. Children are actually being educated in power politics. The real lesson of the day, class, is that whoever seizes the reigns of power gets to control the speech and ultimately the lives of others.

This is not peace; this is tyranny. This is incipient fascism. Those of my blog readers who do not like my habit of using that word… well, you don’t live in Ontario! Count your blessings.

The Pope’s words here are very telling, very important. A true society of peace and tolerance requires, demands, a commitment to freedom of speech and conscience. People must be allowed to freely grapple with competing view and voices in order to freely choose the true, the good, the beautiful.

Some counter the Pope’s words by pointing out that the Catholic Church has not exactly been renowned in its history for its commitment to freedom of thought and conscience. There is  some truth to this, yes. But that actually makes his words that much stronger. Basically, the Catholic Church has a long history of mistaken policy about religious freedom and the coercion of conscience. We have been down that road and paid a heavy price for it (essentially, the Protestant reformation). We have also repeatedly apologized for it, not that anyone noticed or remembers.

Disallowing the Catholic voice calling for religious freedom is like discounting what a recovering drug addict has to say about cocaine and meth because, ‘well, he did it!’ Yes, he did, and so he knows where it leads, right?

There is a pernicious and dangerous idea growing in the formerly Christian nations of Europe and North America that peace and tolerance require the suppression of speech and the squelching of minority views. It is like we believe human beings cannot bear to be exposed to differing opinions. This is not a path of peace, but a path to a power struggle to the end—whoever wins gets to suppress everyone else’s views.

Peace and tolerance require education in virtue and character. We need to be strong enough that we don’t fly into a homicidal rage or collapse with the vapors when someone tells us abortion is wrong, or that abortion is right, that marriage is between a man and a woman or that marriage is whatever the government decided it to be last week, that contraception is a grave moral evil or that contraception is the best thing that ever happened to women.

We need to have some back bone here – all sorts of people think all sorts of things, and the only truly peaceful society is one is which we all get to have our say and teach our children what we believe. Otherwise, the goose-stepping jackboots have arrived at our door step and we appear to have invited them in and offered them a cup of tea.
 
Well, I beg to differ, and I will continue to say so on this blog and wherever else I can. So there.