The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Decadence and Decline

The American people have spoken and, as my late brother once cynically remarked, "You'll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American voter." It would seem his cynicism has been borne out by yesterday's election.

As you have probably guessed, I am not happy with the results. My displeasure, however, has less to do with who won or lost in particular elections than the direction these results are taking our society and the unexpected speed of that movement.

To be blunt, I honestly believe Western civilization is nearing its total collapse. It's been coming for some time but I never expected to be alive when it finally happened. Europe, of course, has led the way and only the morally blind cannot see the depth of its decline. I am aware, too, that our nation must eventually go the way of every other nation. Original sin pretty much guarantees that. But I had optimistically held out the hope that the United States of America would last longer than most, that it would rediscover its uniqueness, that its people would somehow reclaim its birthright, that we would defy history and the forces of evil and bring about a rebirth of freedom. Alas, this is not to be. We have, I believe, passed a societal point of no return.

As a nation we seem to have fallen prey to democracy's fatal weakness: the awareness by the majority that they can bleed the minority with impunity. Once politicians grasp this, they use their considerable powers, especially the power of taxation, to aid their friends and harm their foes. Our founding fathers hoped to prevent this by means of a Constitution that would protect the rights of all, include checks and balances, and guarantee separation of powers. What they didn't foresee was: (1) a judiciary that would, in effect, rewrite the Constitution, adapting it to the prevailing zeitgeist; (2) an executive that would increasingly usurp the powers of the legislature; and (3) a weakened legislature that would allow this to happen. When the collapse will occur, I cannot predict, but it will occur, and soon enough.

This modern Western civilization of ours came to be through Christianity, but once its religious foundation crumbles it will cease to exist as a civilization. No civilization can survive when the core values that gave it purpose have disappeared. And Western man cannot survive in the shell of a civilization deprived of these values, its Christian underpinnings. These values are rapidly disappearing in the face of internal decay and corruption. Civilization grows closer to barbarism as it drifts father away from Christianity. Evidence of this can be seen in Western Europe where Christianity is now the faith of only a small minority and consequently is discounted as irrelevant by the politically powerful. These same worldly forces are not content to ignore the remnants of our civilization but have turned on Christianity and its values in an inexplicable suicidal attack. We are now witnessing much the same here in our own country. And, believe me, the signs cannot be dismissed.

Only the most brutal society will slaughter its children by the millions simply because they are inconvenient.

Only the most self-centered society will neither honor its elderly nor aid its infirm, preferring instead to find ways to eliminate them through "managed health care".

Only the most decadent society will equate sodomy with marriage.

Only the most corrupt society will pile up astronomical amounts of debt onto future generations merely to satisfy its own immediate wants.

Only the most faithless society will allow its government to undermine our nation's most cherished freedom, the people's free exercise of their religious beliefs.

The citizens of our nation have reelected a man who sees no evil in either abortion or infanticide, no problem with the continuing destruction of our free-market economy, and no contradiction in same-sex marriage. He bows to those who despise us and shows disdain for our allies. He is a man of his time, a man of our times, a man so certain he is right that he will never admit to being wrong. And he is, once again, our president.

Who's to blame for all this? We all are, along with those who came before us. Too often we stood by silently and watched as our citizenry slid into the decadence that surrounds us. Although I dislike doing so, I assign much of the blame to our American Catholic bishops whose reaction to all this was too little, too late. For years they said little and did less when Catholic politicians screamed their rejection of Church teaching from their bully pulpits in Congress and governors' mansions. Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo,  John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Martin O'Malley...these and too many other Catholic politicians have set an example that millions of uncatechized Catholics have followed. If it's okay for them, it must be okay for me. As one educated layman said to me a few years ago, "My pastor told me it would be sinful to vote against a candidate just because he's pro-choice or favors gay marriage." Comments like that make one wonder about the involvement of that pastor's bishop.

But perhaps this will wake up our bishops, our clergy, and our laity, and turn them into a holy remnant seeking God's will in their lives. Maybe it's exactly what we need. As my pastor said this morning, "It seems we all have a lot of work to do." He's right. The world is littered with so much dirt and squalor and hatred. Millions devote their lives only to the aimless and irresponsible pursuit of pleasure. These are the obvious symptoms of internal decay and corruption, and God will probably allow a purging. As Evelyn Waugh once wrote [Vile Bodies, 1930], there is "a radical instability in our whole world-order, and soon we shall be walking into the jaws of destruction." But we must always remember: even if our entire civilization crumbles around us, the Church will remain.This was promised us.

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