One of the more remarkable phenomena of the past 30 years has been what I call the “moving goalpost of the unthinkable.”
Some of us are old enough to remember when the embrace of contraception would never — not in a million years — lead to the embrace of abortion.
We also remember when, after Roe v. Wade, the embrace of abortion would never — not in a million years — lead to legal euthanasia.
And of course, we all remember when the embrace of euthanasia would not lead to snuff television such as the 60 Minutes broadcast of one of Jack Kevorkian’s murders — until it did.
There are people who remember when no-fault divorce would never — not in a million years — lead to the destruction of the family and a soaring divorce rate. We can remember when the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction would never — not in a million years — lead to the proliferation of rogue states and terrorist organizations all seeking such weapons.
Likewise, we were assured that if the executive branch were given whatever “tools” it wanted to fight terrorism, it would never — not in a million years — abuse those tools to, for instance, spy on people illegally or torture them or imprison them indefinitely without charge or accountability.
Similarly, we were all promised that if homosexuality were recognized as a “legitimate lifestyle” it would never — not in a million years — lead to an attempt to legalize homosexual “marriage.”
We were assured that the recognition of homosexual temptation as a perfectly acceptable sexual orientation would never — not in a million years — lead to demands that incestuous sexual desire be likewise granted recognition as a legitimate sexual orientation.
We were assured that if homosexuality was legitimized it would never lead to legal persecution of Christians for the “crime” of opposing homosexual acts as sinful. Only now, that happens to be the law of the land in Great Britain, which prohibits Christians from teaching that homosexual acts are sinful under the penalty of a hate crime.
Personally, I’m not a bit astonished by these utterly foreseeable developments. Indeed, only two things astonish me. The first is that so many could not foresee them. The second, and far more grave and insane, is that for virtually every one of these developments, there was no shortage of Catholics backing them to the hilt, apparently oblivious that they are, of their own free will, aiding in their own destruction.
Take, for instance, the “Catholic-doctrine-as-hate-crime” legislators in Great Britain and the weird enthusiasm of the “salvation through Leviathan by any means necessary” crowd in this country. The legislation to outlaw the teaching of Catholic sexual doctrine in Britain was the brainchild of a putative Catholic. Here in the United States, the Bush administration habit of locking up, kidnapping, renditioning and even torturing people has received wide approval.
And when the innocent Canadian citizen Maher Arar is kidnapped and tortured or Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Bilal Hussein is imprisoned for over a year without charge? Not a problem!
Such acts have met with widespread defense and approval from those who prefer to style themselves “faithful conservative Catholics.”
It never seems to occur to people on either side of the aisle that giving Leviathan the power to declare Catholic doctrine “criminal” and giving Leviathan (on the other side of the Atlantic) the power to kidnap, torture and imprison anyone for as long as Leviathan likes and without accountability is a rather dangerous combination of ideas.
They seem not to realize that, so far from being “far-fetched,” this is a combination of ideas that has, in fact, occurred to — and been implemented by — Leviathan hundreds of times in the past.
Like so many of the short-sighted folk chronicled above, they seem to think that ideas do not have consequences.
Me: I think that, when it comes to rights, the modern state is like a roach motel.
Rights that go in do not come back out.
Once you grant the state the power to lock people up without explanation and without end for the purpose of “keeping us safe,” it’s just a matter of time before the state will find new things to keep us safe from — including “Catholic Hate Speech.”
It probably won’t happen immediately. But it’s probably not all that far off either.
It took 30 years to get from Roe to legalization of euthanasia. It took considerably less time to get from “gay marriage” to pleas for legal incest.
How long will it take to get from a) Leviathan criminalizing Catholic teaching and b) granting Leviathan the power to imprison people indefinitely without showing just cause to c) arresting and imprisoning Catholics indefinitely without having to show just cause?
A whole lot less than a million years, I fear.
Mark Shea is
senior content editor for CatholicExchange.com.