Over the past 50 years in North America, faithful Christians – that is to say, those who look to Sacred Scripture as the ultimate authority on all questions of faith and morality – have endured one political calamity after another.
In the United States, the process came to an early climax in 1973 with the calamitous decision of the United States Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade that struck down all state laws on abortion. In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada likewise proceeded in R. v. Morgentaler to strike down all restrictions on abortion in the Criminal Code.
In both of these cases, the decisions handed down by these courts were essentially political, not judicial. Instead of upholding the plain meaning of the law and the Constitution, judicial activists on these courts arbitrarily changed the law and the Constitution to conform with their “progressive,” “liberal” ideological convictions.
Meanwhile, these same courts have continued to hand down lawless decrees. In Canada, our top court has unilaterally legalized everything from same-sex “marriage” to performances of consensual group sex in a nightclub. Moreover, as demonstrated in the recent unanimous decision that broke with a long line of precedents by striking down Canada’s key prostitution laws, there is now not a single practitioner of judicial restraint left on the Supreme Court of Canada.
In the United States, the deterioration of democracy is not so severe. Four of the nine judges on the Supreme Court of the United States can be generally relied upon to respect the traditional separation of legislative and judicial powers. Moreover, with the Republicans now holding the majority of seats in the United States Senate, it will be more difficult for President Barack Obama to appoint any more law-breaking, judicial activists to the United States Supreme Court.
Despite such positive developments, some leading Christian intellectuals on both sides of the border have given up on liberal democracy. In “A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching,” an article published last February in The American Conservative, Patrick J. Deneen, professor of constitutional studies at Notre Dame University, argued: “Liberalism is not a ‘shell’ philosophy that allows a thousand flowers to bloom. Rather, liberalism is constituted by a substantive set of philosophical commitments that are deeply contrary to the basic beliefs of Catholicism.”
Indeed, Dineen added: “Liberalism appears to be daily more hostile to Catholicism, not merely disagreeing with its stances, but demanding that they be changed in conformity to liberal views on self-sovereignty (especially relating to human sexuality and marriage) or, failing that, that the Church be defined out of the bounds of decent liberal society, an institution no more respectable than the Ku Klux Klan.”
The totalitarian liberals whom Deneen describes here do not oppose just faithful Catholics: they aim to silence and oppress everyone – regardless of faith or no faith – who upholds the traditional principles of Judeo-Christian morality. Thus, earlier this year, Justin Trudeau, the trendy leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, decreed that no one who affirms the sanctity of all human life shall be allowed to run for his Liberal party.
Clearly, though, this new, totalitarian liberalism exemplified by Trudeau is fundamentally incompatible with not just Christianity, but also the classic ideals of liberal democracy as eloquently summed up in the United States Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These are the truths upon which both Canada and the United States were founded. In no way are these truths incompatible with Christianity. They were inspired by Christian truth and remain no less valid today than 250 years ago.
Faithful Christians should never forsake the truths of liberal democracy. Neither should we retreat into small, isolated, moral communities – an approach that Deneen and others call “the Benedictine Option.” In times far more perilous than ours, the Apostle Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel: he did not seek safety in isolation, but spoke out publicly and fearlessly and consistently – “in season and out of season” – in witness to the truth as God gave him to see the truth.
Surely, we, in our generation, should do no less.