Forbidding discussion of public values in the name of 'pluralism and tolerance' is “a formula for tyranny” Chicago's Cardinal Francis George (pictured) has said.
In his blog this week, Cardinal George warned that the context in which discussion of controversial issues such as abortion and marriage takes place often narrows very quickly and dangerously. He warned that appeals “to pluralism and toleration gradually become tyrannical”.
He was commenting on the ongoing row caused by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel's attack on fast food chain Chick-fil-A last week. Emanuel had attacked the chain after its owner affirmed of traditional marriage. Emanuel said Chick-fil-A's values “were not Chicago's values”.
Cardinal George noted that, while most people supported his argument that the Government shouldn't police thoughts and actions, nonetheless many “deserted the field of argument on gay marriage” rather than appear 'intolerant'
Cardinal George said: “An argument is always made in a context that determines what can be considered sensible, and it seems to me that some of us are arguing out of different contexts.
There are three contexts for discussing gay marriage, he argued "1) the arena of individual rights and their protection in civil law, 2) the field of activities defined by nature and its laws, and 3) the realm of faith as a response to God’s self-revelation in history."
“Unfortunately, when the only permissible context for discussing public values is that of individual rights protected by civil law, then it is the government alone that determines how it is acceptable to act. Every public actor (including faith communities) then becomes the government’s agent. This is a formula for tyranny.”
The issue of abortion was an example of how this process worked, he said.
“When the individual civil right to abort a living child was discovered in the Constitution, its justification began as a 'necessary evil' for the sake of a woman’s health; it was then applauded in nobler terms as a positive symbol of a woman’s freedom; it is now part of the value system of our society and everyone must be involved in paying for it, either through taxes or insurance.
“It is mainstream medicine and settled social policy. Its opponents are relegated to a quirky fringe, outside of the American consensus not only on what it is legal to do but also on what it is good to support.
“When the government, the media and the entertainment industries agree to agree on how to use words and shape the argument, society itself is deliberately transformed in ways that bring academics, judges, legislators, lawyers, law enforcement officers, newspaper editors, actors, psychiatrists, doctors and every other public professional into public agreement, all portraying themselves as original thinkers.
“Anyone opposed to the new consensus, no matter the reason, is dismissed as a throwback to an earlier age, to be tolerated, perhaps, but removed from public life and, eventually, punished. It’s a very old story.”
Cardinal George added that the argument over same-sex marriage was odd because “its proponents dismiss the field of nature itself as in any way normative for human actions”.
He said: “We would think it odd if the government, in order to please those who desire to fly without an airplane, were to repeal the law of gravity. If nature gets in the way of a new civil right to 'gay marriage,' however, that’s too bad for nature. This strikes me as bizarre.”
He added that people dismissed religiously based arguments as private and therefore not publicly authoritative were “at least consistent with the secularism that makes protection of individual 'civil rights' entirely determinative of public life”.
But he said what was puzzling was “the case of those who, while claiming to be believers, ignore the history of salvation and reduce God to a cosmic wimp who smiles and blesses whatever comes down the track, as if God were without intelligence or the ability to discern right from wrong.
“Jesus is certainly 'inclusive' as the savior of the whole world who invites all to follow him. But Jesus calls us to convert to his ways, which are not ours. Among the sayings of Jesus, there are about as many that start 'Woe to you…' as there are those that begin 'Blessed are they…' A Jesus reduced to our wishful thinking is useless,” Cardinal George said.