Plutarch, the first-century Greek moralist who outlined four stages of a civilization, said that a society that has become libertine is in its next-to-last stage before its final descent into tyranny. When tyranny is mentioned, most people, if they are old enough to remember, think of Mussolini and his secret police or Hitler and his jack-booted thugs. After all, dictators are essentially cowards who not only operate in ambiguity but invariably get underlings to do their bidding. Under the current Obama administration, government bodies such as the National Security Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency, to name only a few, are amassing more and more power and becoming increasingly intrusive and tyrannical. Obama himself really doesn’t have to say anything to the heads of these agencies. Forget paper trails. All he needs to do is give a “wink and a nod.”
Add one more body to the tally of tyrants who may have gotten Obama’s “wink and nod.” The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has given its affirmative nod to homosexual marriage by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The wording of their decisions doesn’t matter. After all, if the SCOTUS is not against homosexual “marriage,” it is for it, just as our Lord said whoever is not for Him is against Him.
Furthermore, the SCOTUS betrayed a lack of judicial restraint as evidenced by an appeal to emotionalism in criticizing the defense of traditional marriage as serving to “degrade or demean,” to cause “injury and indignity,” to “disparage and injure” same-sex couples. Attorney Andrew M. Greenwell, citing the dissenting judges, particularly Justice Scalia, points out that the “fundamental premise of the majority opinion … is that any sort of held view that marriage and its benefits should be limited to one man and one woman … can only be motivated by ‘malice’ and ‘bigotry.’”
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And it is this fundamental premise, which may seem ambiguous, that is extremely dangerous. Unlike Roe vs. Wade, that led to the bathing of the American landscape with the blood of the innocents, this decision has the added potential of criminalizing the speech of anyone who supports traditional marriage. Indeed, pro-lifers have a tough time, particularly in healthcare, but the added emotionalism of this latest decision will be more far-reaching in attacks on the First Amendment.
A decade ago in the spring of 2003, I was working at a healthcare facility in the Cleveland, Ohio area. The human resources department began using a document that evaluated its workers on “open-mindedness, tolerance, and understanding,” politically correct, ambiguous words that often mean being accepting of moral depravity. I received a lower mark in this particular area than anywhere else on the document. When I pressed my nurse manager on this matter, she described me as “rigid,” and cited my religious beliefs regarding abortion. “Rigid” is the secular humanist’s pejorative term for any individual who is a moral absolutist. I began challenging the nurse manager and the human resources department on this issue, which led to me being subjected to written scrutiny. Fortunately, a strongly worded letter from an attorney pointing out the hospital’s unlawful behavior caused them to cease and desist.
In that same year, a Catholic philosophy professor, Dr. James Tuttle, came under attack for his religious beliefs. In one of his classes he taught at a college in Lakeland, Ohio, a student asked him what the Catholic Church taught about homosexuality. When he answered honestly, another student took issue, reported him to the school’s administration, and Tuttle was threatened with “monitoring,” and he eventually lost his job. Apparently, it doesn’t pay to exercise integrity regarding the Catholic Faith in academe. Tuttle did file a civil lawsuit and settled out of court in his favor.
These instances show not only how out-of-touch administrators are regarding the Constitution—particularly the First Amendment—but also a lack of rational, judicious restraint. They often confuse political correctness as law. The confusion is extensive. It is unfortunate because it makes the lives of persons who live by deeply held religious beliefs very difficult. Striving to live with integrity, they become inconvenienced, which causes suffering not only to themselves but to their families as well. And now that the highest court in the land has used language that marginalizes traditional religious beliefs—which many will interpret as enshrined in law—we can expect an epidemic of inconveniences. The language will invariably make its way into human resources department policies across the land. Any objection to homosexuality will not be tolerated. Federal employees will not even be allowed to be silent on the matter, as this will be interpreted as disapproval. The effect will be beyond chilling. This is worse than 1984, and George Orwell is turning in his grave.
Homosexuals will waltz into rectories and demand to be “married.” Bet on it. No doubt some denominations would be more than happy to accommodate them, but that isn’t enough for them. Evil always expands of its own accord. It is never content to be limited in any way. After all, some homosexuals through litigation successfully coerced Christian bakers to provide cakes for their weddings. And that was prior to the June 26, 2013 SCOTUS decision. The backdrop of our currently all-intrusive, tyrannical federal government ensures difficulty for the Church.
Our Lord told us that following Him would not be easy. Obedience to Christ will often cause inconveniences. As our society continues its libertine decline and rejection of Christian Truth, we may see a lot of white martyrdom. The red cloaks of our cardinals remind us of the blood of the martyrs. Martyrs are not made overnight. They are persons who consistently lived lives of integrity and clarity, and when their moment of Truth arrived, they were ready owing to the grace of God. They could experience joy in the midst of great difficulty because their integrity opened them up to God’s infinity. They did not tie God’s hands by getting caught up in webs of lies and distortions. They courageously stand in bold relief and contrast to the deliberate ambiguity of cowards who lust for temporal power.
When we cooperate in Truth and truthfulness, we are allowing our Lord to continue creating us and moving us to greater, integral human fulfillment. Our “yes” will not bring the world’s “wink and a nod,” but it will bring God’s. Furthermore, the Church as a whole will need to differentiate itself from society through clarity. Bold preaching is in order. As Msgr. Charles Pope suggests, the Church should stress the use of the term “the sacrament of Holy Matrimony,” as opposed to “marriage” which secular society has muddled. Pope writes, “the Biblical and Ecclesial definition of Holy Matrimony as heterosexual and procreative is reaffirmed by the term itself.” This clarity and specificity bears witness to a confused society in a time when it is needed most.