Anti-religious bigotry, which attempts to silence voices of faith in the public square, will lead to the destruction of democratic pluralism, a hallmark of a free and open society, Weigel predicted at an address in Toronto to the Catholic Civil Rights League.
“When we protect the right of religious institutions to be themselves, according to their understanding of their religious obligations, within the boundaries of public order, we are not just defending our own. We are defending the very possibility of civil society,” he said.
Weigel is the Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. His many books about Catholic faith include a masterful two-volume biography of John Paul II. His column,The Catholic Difference, appears in 60 newspapers and he writes regularly for the National Review and First Things.
To hear him speak is to be awed by his intelligence, clarity and reason — dotted with an all-important sense of humour.
Weigel touched on several dangerous trends in Canada and the United States: the disintegration of religious freedom, the erosion of conscience rights and the pressure to conform to intrusive ideas of a “Leviathan state” which align with notions of absolute individual autonomy and political correctness.
Indeed, the legalization of euthanasia in Canada was a prime example of how the Supreme Court of Canada, along with the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau, has infringed on all three ideals.
“(Euthanasia) corrupts everything it touches, from law to the medical profession to civil society.”
As a seminal case pitting the state against religious freedom and conscience, Weigel noted the seven-year battle of the Obama administration to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraception.
“If the state successfully asserts the right to bring that kind of religious community to heel against its own most deeply held convictions, then the space of civil society has shrunk dramatically,” Weigel said.
He took particular aim at the political correctness.
“Political correctness has to be frontally assaulted,” he said. “There has to be refusal to submit to the coercion of political correctness. It kills democracy and it kills real argument, real debate, open conversation — all being part of the lifeblood of democracy.”
It is especially important to replace euphemisms with clear language. “We should not say we are sending someone to the hospital for the procedure to be carried out,” he said, referring to euthanasia. “We should say we are sending someone to the hospital to be killed.”
He started his lecture by referencing then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s famous April 2005 warning about the “emerging dictatorship of relativism.”
“That prescient homily ought to be our orienting point of reference this evening,” Weigel noted. “That idea — that morality is whatever one wants it to be — combined with false ideas of autonomy, gives the state the right to trod where it does not belong.”
He spoke about last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, and what it means in defining personhood.
“What is particularly striking about the majority decision is the view that the human person is simply a twitching bundle of desires. Human rights are now the satisfaction of those desires and the function of the state is to facilitate the satisfaction of those desires,” he said.
Regretfully, he suggested, the human person is no longer regarded as being made in the image and likeness of God “or a composite of spirit and matter or a sentient creature with intelligence and free will.”
“No. The human person is a twitching bundle of desires and that’s about it.”
(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Catholic Register.)