Kevin Basil (signature)

In Consideration of the Oppressed

Next article: Stats: Spooky and Sweet
Previous article: Yahoo! News Apologizes for Omission

Written by Basil on 10/22/2004 8:23 PM. Filed under:

Share with your friends and followers:

In a New York Times op-ed commentary published today, the Catholic Archbishop of Denver questions the common aphorism among Catholics — and, perhaps, some Orthodox as well — that we “should not impose our personal beliefs on others.” His excellency makes some excellent points, particularly this:

Lawmaking inevitably involves some group imposing its beliefs on the rest of us. That’s the nature of the democratic process. If we say that we “ought” to do something, we are making a moral judgment. When our legislators turn that judgment into law, somebody’s ought becomes a “must” for the whole of society. This is not inherently dangerous; it’s how pluralism works.

Michael Novak, I believe, elaborates this point further by recognizing that in a healthy democracy, the majority makes laws with a sense of justice for the minority. Without a just and moral sense of obligation toward those less fortunate who lack a strong voice, democracy becomes a tyranny of the majority. For those whose voices and beliefs are ignored and trampled, such legislative indifference is indistinguishable from totalitarian government.

This moral conviction of the majority finds expression in legislation which considers the minority viewpoint and actively advocates the rights of the weak and oppressed. Without this moral conviction of the majority, many significant and moral changes in our society would not exist: abolition, abuse laws, civil rights laws, labor laws.

In the case of infanticide (induced abortions), the millions of unborn children killed each year are the silent minority for whom we must speak. Unable to legislate on their own behalf, we must write the legislation that protects their rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Among oppressed minorities, this is the one whose oppression is the blackest mark upon our national conscience. Nothing could be more oppressive than to be killed for no other reason than that your existence is inconvenient.

Catholics have an obligation to work for the common good and the dignity of every person. We see abortion as a matter of civil rights and human dignity, not simply as a matter of religious teaching. We are doubly unfaithful – both to our religious convictions and to our democratic responsibilities – if we fail to support the right to life of the unborn child. Our duties to social justice by no means end there. But they do always begin there, because the right to life is foundational.

A good instruction for all catholics, Roman and otherwise.

Share with your friends and followers:


The URL to trackback this post is:

2 Responses to “In Consideration of the Oppressed”

  1. Erich Says:

    It is always interesting to me to hear people who think that the introduction of democracy into a culture will suddenly turn on the light and everything will be hunky dory (sp?). Anyway, when it does come right down to it, forms of government have little to do with the justice of government. Any government is only as good as the people who control it, many or few, socialist or libertarian.

  2. basil Says:

    Absolutely. I think Novak talks about this in Free Persons and the Common Good.