Thursday, February 2, 2012

Totalitarian liberals - a follow-up to Obama's HHS power grab

In the words of John Paul II (Veritatis Splendor, N. 101):
Today, when many countries have seen the fall of ideologies which bound politics to a totalitarian conception of the world — Marxism being the foremost of these — there is no less grave a danger that the fundamental rights of the human person will be denied and that the religious yearnings which arise in the heart of every human being will be absorbed once again into politics. This is the risk of an alliance between democracy and ethical relativism, which would remove any sure moral reference point from political and social life, and on a deeper level make the acknowledgement of truth impossible. Indeed, “if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism”.  
 A good reminder that not only are tyrants and totalitarians always ethical relativists, like Nietzsche reducing truth to power, but also ethical relativists inevitably have totalitarian tendencies.  It becomes all about using coercive state power to impose your views on what you see as a backward populace.

Michael Gerson has a good article in the Washington Post about how "Obama plays his Catholic allies for fools."  The HHS mandate was delivered with a sneer, Gerson suggests.
Both radicalism and maliciousness are at work in Obama’s decision — an edict delivered with a sneer. It is the most transparently anti-Catholic maneuver by the federal government since the Blaine Amendment was proposed in 1875 — a measure designed to diminish public tolerance of Romanism, then regarded as foreign, authoritarian and illiberal. Modern liberalism has progressed to the point of adopting the attitudes and methods of 19th-century Republican nativists. 
 It is a move so patently contemptuous of religious freedom and respect for conscience that it leaves those Catholics who provided Catholic cover for Obama with some explaining to do--not least the president of Notre Dame.
Consider Catholicism’s most prominent academic leader, the Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame. Jenkins took a serious risk in sponsoring Obama’s 2009 honorary degree and commencement address — which promised a “sensible” approach to the conscience clause. Jenkins now complains, “This is not the kind of ‘sensible’ approach the president had in mind when he spoke here.” Obama has made Jenkins — and other progressive Catholic allies — look easily duped.
As John Paul II had warned, there is in this radical secularism embraced by this Administration as well as other political leaders across Canada and Europe, a growing intolerance of any kind of institutional pluralism, a profound shift in the understanding of liberalism.  It amounts to a turning away from America's founding principles and Constitution, from a democracy that depends on the strength of mediating associations and institutions that are not dominated or suppressed by the state.  As Gerson concludes,
Obama’s decision also reflects a certain view of liberalism. Classical liberalism was concerned with the freedom to hold and practice beliefs at odds with a public consensus. Modern liberalism uses the power of the state to impose liberal values on institutions it regards as backward. It is the difference between pluralism and anti-­clericalism. 
The administration’s ultimate motivation is uncertain. Has it adopted a radical secularism out of conviction, or is it cynically appealing to radical secularists? In either case, the war on religion is now formally declared. 

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