By Deacon Keith Fournier
10/10/2008 Catholic Online
When a society fails to recognize that persons are more important than things it soon devolves into a form of practical materialism, worshipping a new golden calf.
As the world watches the indices of global stock markets plummet and succumbs to the dull fear which the collapse of much of the financial system has caused, we need to examine what truly brought us – and keeps us- here. We also need to ask, honestly and forthrightly, what, and who, can help lead us out of the wasteland.
I suggest that the financial collapse is simply the sordid fruit of the greed and the idolatry which has elevated the accumulation of stuff over persons to the level of something to actually be emulated – and dragged us all down with the indices. This practical materialism is a cancer,caused by a fundamental loss of basic values such as a respect for all human life, no matter how old or young, large or small. It has also given rise to a counterfeit set of purported “values” which place consumption over care and ultimately eat away at true and authentic human freedom, whether that freedom is expressed in a market economy which purports to promote it or other structures of social, cultural and political life which are also succumbing to its corrosive effects.
I can hear it – and read it – now; allegations that anyone who dares to suggest that the roots of the market crisis are the same roots which have prompted the overall moral collapse of our culture – is an imbecile, a shallow thinker, or even worse, “uninformed”. Further, that anyone who, like me, claims that the cause of it all can collectively be laid at the feet of a culture which has allowed the human person to become a commodity, a thing to be disposed of or used, is a “religious fanatic”. Frankly, I do not care about those allegations. Rather, I care about my neighbor, the one living in the first home of the whole human race who is daily being dismembered, suctioned, burned or through “surgical strikes” and the unregulated use of chemical weapons turned against him or her, routinely killed at the hands of a so called medical professional who once pledged to “do not harm”. There is a relentless war on the womb in America and ironically, some who oppose the current war effort in Iraq are its greatest proponents. They are what I like to call “Abortion Hawks”, seeking to expand the field of battle and fund this evil war effort with tax payer money. All of this is the sordid bad fruit of an acceptance of the prevailing counterfeit “morality” of “supply and demand” which has now commoditized even babies. The consumer is told they have a “right” to select them, design them, and reject them, at will. The “medical professional”, who knows that the one being killed as he or she reaches into the womb is in fact a human person, responds to this consumer driven approach to birth and hides behind the constitutionally protected “right” to kill the child, all too often made by a confused mother who has routinely been lied to.
I care about my neighbor whose dream of owning their first home has become a nightmare. The banking system which he or she counted on is now in jeopardy. That neighbor, whose trusted bankers readily took and approved their mortgage application, is now threatened with eviction. That “personally recommended” Adjustable Rate Mortgage” (A.R.M.) has now been raised above their head, wielded like a financial “sword of Damocles” which threatens the very security of their family. In fact, the “experts”, the commentators and government officials are all now referring to their mortgage, the fruit of their hard work and savings, as junk “commercial paper”, calling it a drag on the economy and blaming it for the roadblocks in the advancement of others. Their elected officials have authorized the “government” to “bail out” the Nation by buying it all up wholesale, with their tax dollars, in effect giving them a sort of double mortgage as a result. I care about that same neighbor who can barely afford to put gas in their automobile and drive to work because special interests, knowing full well that we have the genius and ability to solve this energy crisis, have placed profits over people and the common good, with at least some governmental complicity, and opposed the creation of alternative fuel in order to cash in while the profits in the Oil market are at an all time high.
I care about my neighbor who worries that their child is being taught at a public school, or rather not being taught at a public school, but still cannot read or even add, all because they cannot afford to choose to send them to a school of their choice. The one who is upset that this lack of real education continues while some elected officials, often the ones who continually oppose constitutionally sound vouchers or credits which would empower all parents to make the same schooling choices they make for their own children, fail to recognize the urgency of the need for authentic educational reform and fail to see that parental choice in education is a matter of social justice. I care about my neighbors who, while some supported the initial foray into Iraq and others did not, all are now truly tired of having Iraq and Afghanistan used as bargaining chips in a continual war of empty words during this Presidential campaign. Real parents and grandparents who are immensely patriotic but worry every hour of every day about their sons and daughters who have been placed in harms way and whether or not they will be home for Christmas.
When a society fails to recognize that persons are more important than things, when it loses sight of the primacy of the inviolable dignity of every single human person at every age, every stage and of every size, it soon devolves into a form of practical materialism, worshipping a new golden calf. It uses the language of human rights but has lost its true moral content. When there is no recognition of a preeminent right to life, there will soon be an erosion of the entire structure of human rights. Human rights do not exist in a vacuum; they are goods of the human person. This is why I absolutely insist that to be “Pro-Life” is NOT to be a political Partisan or a “single issue” voter. Rather, it is to be truly human and to recognize that there is a hierarchy of rights. Without acknowledging the preeminent right to life, all derivative rights and the entire infrastructure of human rights is placed in jeopardy. The further legitimate questions and positions of political parties become moot. Without the freedom to be born, all of the talk about compassion for the poor and the promotion of freedom throughout the entirety of life, and how we attain it, is hollow and empty. Failing to recognize our first neighbors in the womb as having a right to be born and then to live a full life in our community is a foundational failure of our obligation in solidarity to one another and the entire ethic of being “our brothers (and sisters) keeper”. There can be no enduring lasting solidarity in a culture that kills its own children and then calls it a “right”. This is a moral crisis.
Mother Teresa, whom the Catholic Church now rightly calls “Blessed Teresa”, put it so clearly: “America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts — a child — as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.“
What is really needed is a Moral Bail Out.
Related: A Call to Alms