As the Devil Turns Round on Us

Readers will recall that, for some time over the past few years, there were discussions in the Catholic blogosphere about the dangers of consequentialism and the extremely popular theory that, when things are really scary, you can indeed do evil that good may come of it.  Such moral corner-cutting was often justified by the charge that those who opposed, say, the Bush/Cheney torture of prisoners or the denial of basic human rights to alleged enemy combatants were “soft on terror” and (illogically) somehow not prolife.  In fact, of course, opponents of torture were actually quite cognizant of the threat of terror, but recognized that not only was the choice to do evil that good may come of it a fundamental and cowardly assault on Catholic moral teaching, it was also counter-productive, destructive of our souls, harmful to our intelligence efforts, self-destructive of our national principles and deeply stupid.  How?  St. Thomas More explains the folly of our rush to cut a great road through the law to get after the devil:

Well, all that discussion of consequentialism is water under the bridge now.  Here in the People’s Democratic National Security State of Heaven, things have been moving along swiftly to guarantee that we experience that “peace and safety” consequentialists were foolishly bargaining for.

First, there is the relaxing news that the Obama Administration has successfully trampled down freedom of conscience and religion in its relentless quest to impose its vision of sexual irresponsibility on our culture.  Message:  Down with Catholic conscience!  More commitment-free sex!  Fewer babies!  Is the Administration proud to have trampled the Church?  Darn tootin!  The Church is an obstacle to the American Way we are bravely fighting to defend abroad and its silly medieval backwardness must be and has been smashed.  Peace and safety reigns!

Second, there is the peaceful and bliss-filled news that the Obama Administration, after obtaining permission from itself in a super-secret ruling from the Justice Department, decided that a thousand years of Anglo-American law and such trivialities as separation of powers and right to trial could be dispensed with in our Grand War on Terror. Now, if the President decides he wants to kill an American citizen, he can do so unilaterally, secretly, and with absolutely no accountability.  As the Atlantic put it:

“Obama hasn’t just set a new precedent about killing Americans without due process. He has done so in a way that deliberately shields from public view the precise nature of the important precedent he has set.”

In short, we now live in a country where a Secret Panel Can Put Americans on on “Kill List” if Caesar decides (on the basis of no evidence other than a White House press release to a docile and compliant media declaring you an Enemy of the State) that you are to be summarily kacked without evidence, arrest, trial, witnesses, judge, jury, verdict or appeal.

Of course, the history of our species gives us no cause to worry about this summary eradication of the protection of law against an omnipotent and Royal God King.  Since when has an absolutely unaccountable State ever unjustly killed innocent citizens or persecuted the Church for getting in the way?  Be realistic!  We have to plow a great road through the law to get at the devil of terrorism!  Besides it’s just a temporary measure and will only be used against foreign looking beardy guys with funny Arabic names.  It will never be deployed against *good* American citizens, just as abortion never led to euthanasia and Bush/Cheney torture policies never led to Obama assassination policies.  As soon as this current crisis (meaning Our Eternal War of Empire Against a Tactic as Old as Warfare) is over things will go back to the way they were.  Remember: 9/11 Changed Everything and we have to be willing to sacrifice our right to not be summarily killed by lawless Executive fiat if we are going to stay safe.

And besides, what is the likelhood that a State headed by people who “fully understand” China’s draconian one child policy would ever regard prolifers as “terrorists” or choose to treat them as enemies of the State?  Feel that warm and tingly national security!

Moral: Consequentialism is *always* a Faustian Bargain.  You sell your soul and get *nothing* in return.  Once upon a time, we embraced the evil of abortion so that women could be “free” and population could be “controlled”.  Having accepted that it is okay to kill the young and weak, we are now moving on to killing the old and weak with euthanasia.  Similarly, we embraced the notion that we could strip alleged Bad Guys of their basic human rights by handing over to the State the power to do everything up to torture and even murder them in our Grand Project to End Evil.  Now the State is beginning to look at ways to strip us of those same rights in the delusional belief that our rights come, not from the Hand of God, but from the generosity of the State.  Now—as the devil begins to turn round on the citizens of the US (its Catholic citizens in particular) to strip them of the most fundamental protections of law—would be a good time for us to repent of that Faustian Bargain and resist this increasingly overweening, godless and arrogant Caesar, who is making it clear that the Church has more to fear from him in the long run.  9/11 did not Change Everything.  We have *always* lived in a dangerous world with Bad Guys.  So did the Founding Fathers. So did the apostles. It is cowardice and folly to hand over to Caesar our most basic rights in order to keep ourselves “safe”.  We need not be the generation who passively handed the freedoms our ancestors bled for over to a Caesar who promised us safety in return for his grab for power.  But that’s up to us.  It starts, for us Catholics, with re-embracing the ancient Catholic truth that we must not do evil that good may come of it.  Good ends do not justify evil means.  Evil means lead to evil ends.