The war is over; it remains to be seen if Christians will run up the white flag and surrender unconditionally.
Over the last four decades no matter what the issue — abortion, divorce, child-rearing, euthanasia, gay marriage — Christians and cultural conservatives have been on the losing side. This is true in the United States, true in Canada and true throughout what was called the Western world. And on many of these issues, it is Canadian courts that first swung the wrecking ball.
It is time, perhaps, that Catholics recognized that and acted accordingly. Why, for example, at the conclusion of a recent Mass was the congregation directed to rise and sing “O Canada”? My “home and native land” bears almost no resemblance to Canada today. The country of my birth, youth and manhood is unrecognizable. The Dominion of Canada was so called because of the Bible verse: “He shall have dominion from sea to sea.” The Charter of Rights recognizes no such “He.”
The truth is that we no longer live in a democracy. We live in a judicial oligarchy where laws are made by judges attuned not to Christian standards but to the contemporary zeitgeist.
More and more Christians, and not just Catholics, are estranged from what we still foolishly call our “culture.”
Christians must become used to being treated, even by family members, friends and neighbours, as social pariahs, on a level with racists and hate-mongers. Why? Because they continue to affirm what the Church taught for 20 centuries.
Rod Dreher, a perceptive American commentator, wrote recently that Christians should retreat into small, separated communities, hope there to be left alone, and try “to keep the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness.”
He went on: “We have to accept that we really are living in a culturally post-Christian nation. The fundamental norms Christians have long been able to depend on no longer exist.”
Do you hear this in your parish, from the pulpit or in the congregation? I do not. What I hear from bishops and priests is a kind of complacency and self-satisfaction. The band on the Catholic Titanic is not playing “Nearer My God to Thee” but, rather, “Everything’s up to date in Kansas City.”
Why so many bishops and priests have their heads buried in sand is difficult to say. But Church silence must encourage those who, in such a short time, have demolished what appeared to be an impregnable Christian edifice and are in the process of building a brave new world upon the ruins.
Perhaps you think this is all doom-saying and exaggeration. Well, I call in support U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia, a Catholic, and one of the four dissenting judges on gay marriage. It is customary for dissenting judges to employ mild and circumspect language concerning their brethren’s differing opinion, but not in this case. Scalia’s language was harsh and without precedent.
“A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy,” he wrote. “The five justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the 14th Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003. They have discovered in the 14th Amendment a ‘fundamental right’ overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since... The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning... to the mystical aphorisms of a fortune cookie.”
If I were to hear such blunt honest language from those in positions of Catholic leadership, I might conclude that there is still a will to fight on. Hearing no such thing I conclude that, in the words of the old hymn, “The strife is o’er/ The battle done.”
(Hunter is Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Law at Western University in London, Ont.)