It is noteworthy that a Joseph II, emperor of Austria in the 18th century closed numerous Carthusian monasteries, while respecting “active” religious organizations. The latter “achieved” something. The others did not benefit society. That the prayers and sacrifices of these holy monks were in fact the spiritual foundation of charitable works, is something that he did not and could not be perceived by a ruler fed on the philosophy of Voltaire, Rousseau and their ilk.
Cavour – as anti clerical as he was – was favorable to the work of Don Bosco: his “taming” of wild street boys in Turin, clearly benefited the State. But “contemplative” orders had no right to exist in this upcoming brave new world. The same philosophy motivated Clemenceau in France in the 20th century.
This leads me back to my topic: how can devout Catholics favor a man who has shown total disregard for fundamental moral commandments: thou shalt not murder, because he gives full priority to social improvements?
In this context, it is worth mentioning that when we abstain from committing evil acts, such as murdering, perverse sexual practices, to mention only two, we have no reason whatever to “feel good about ourselves.” We have just done our duty. (“We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” Luke 17:10) Never has a man received an award for paying his debts, for telling his truth, for being faithful to his wife: such a man has only done what he ought to have done.
But throughout the year, people rightly receive awards for having founded a school, or a hospital, or given huge sums to worthy causes. Inevitably such benefactors, “feel good about themselves,” “this is my work,” and indeed, the work deserves praise.
St. Therese of Lisieux, one of the lights of the 19th century, did not do anything spectacular. Shortly before her death, a sister was concerned about what could possibly be praised when she died: she had done nothing special. Indeed, that was true, but she did what she ought to do with such a love that in Gods eyes, it gained eternal value.
It is tempting to accuse me of having no understanding for the greatness and nobility of “social work.” It is the glory of the Catholic Church that from the very beginning she has founded hospitals, schools, and tried in every possible way to ease the burdens of suffering humanity. But this admirable mission was in fact based on a clear awareness of the hierarchy of our moral obligations. “Seek you first the Kingdom of God and His justice, and all the rest will be added unto.” To adore and love God is our primary duty, and it is also man’s glory. From this it follows that we should obey His commandments, a primary one of which; Thou shalt not murder. Early in Genesis, this abominable crime was condemned.
Those who do not perceive this luminous truth suffer from a grave disease: moral blindness. Whereas blind people know that they are blind, the tragic fate of morally blind people is that they do not realize that they are gravely “ill.”
It is my wish and hope that when going to the polls in November, all men of good will will say a short prayer echoing the one of the blind man in Jericho. Christ said to him: what do you want. “Lord, that I may see.” His request was granted.
Moreover, it is fashionable to claim that in acting, our key concern should be focused on the consequences of our act. Will it benefit society? Once again, the ambiguity is obvious: benefit in what sense? Morally? Humanly? Financially? Should we be concerned about “immediate’ benefits, or those in the long run? If our key moral concern should be the consequences of our action, it would be impossible for man ever to make any valid decision because he can never foretell what “fruits” his action will bring.
Let us imagine the following scenario; a hundred years ago, a man saved a teenager who has fallen in a river, and was close to drowning. Had he known (an impossibility) that the youngster was Adolf Hitler, should he have refused his help? The “call” of the hour was to save a human life. The future is in God’s hands.
(Column continues below)
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Ethics is the most “existential” branch of philosophy. It plays a key role in our daily life. There is one thing that all men can and should share: the “natural” law (not confusing it with the laws of nature such as gravity, which applies to all creatures). I am referring to a law inscribed in every human heart the validity of which is independent of time, place, and circumstances. Moral evil injects poison in the society in which we live, because our acts have direct or indirect consequences on others. To take the life of an innocent defenseless person , is a crime that cries to heaven. Anyone who denies this luminous ethical truth suffers from a terrible sickness: moral blindness. Whereas a blind man knows he is blind, many are those who are morally blind – a much graver “disease” – and are totally unaware of it. They do not even question the validity of their moral vision.
Moral evil is the cancer of any society and history teaches us that all great nations that have disappeared from the face of the earth, were morally decadent. Money never has and never will save a nation.
My husband gave hundred of talks in seventeen countries in four languages. A couple of years before his death, he delivered his very last talk in Orange, California. It was after Roe and Wade (which made him exclaim that “The 'defeated' Hitler won the war” for the Nazi poison (ruthless disrespect for the dignity of human life) had penetrated into the soul of the “conqueror.” This justifies the words of Plato: “… many a victory has been and will be suicidal to the victor …” (Laws, 19)
Dietrich von Hildebrand’s very last words uttered with a trembling voice were, “A country that legalizes murder is doomed.” That should give us food for thought. To vote for a President who fully endorses abortion, is to vote for death.
Man’s second duty is to do as much good as possible. Modern man is psychologically tempted to give priority to "good and noble causes" over our strict duty to abstain from moral evil. The reason is obvious: by not committing murder, we are just doing our "duty" (see Luke 17:10). We do not deserve praise. How ludicrous it would be if a man “bragged” that he has not murdered his parents. How grotesque would it be to give an award to someone because he has never raped a woman or a child. Who deserves praise for doing what he ought to do? Whereas our concern about the wide range of "social issues" strikes us as noble and generous deeds that deserve to be commended and honored. It makes us “feel good” about ourselves.
Indeed, it is our strict moral duty to care about our neighbor's needs, but this concern can never justify our breaking a moral law with an absolute veto. There is no conceivable moral justification for endorsing Obama’s position.