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home : opinion : perspectives

2/16/2012 9:30:00 AM
America's soul on trial

The U.S. bishops' battle with the Obama administration over the Catholic Church's right to follow its teachings on contraception, abortifacient drugs and sterilization in its educational, healthcare and charitable works is part of a larger struggle for the soul of America.

Will America continue to slide into the tyranny that has been humanity's usual condition for millennia, or regain the liberty that grew out of Christian civilization?

President Abraham Lincoln's "House Divided" speech, updated for the current situation, would read: "'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this nation cannot endure, permanently, half socialist and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

"It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of socialism will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike mandatory in all the states."

Socialism is a major threat to America because, under the guise of caring for people, it interferes with every aspect of our lives and ultimately puts the state in the place of God. The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" points out that, after the flood, God grouped people into families, nations and languages "under the guardianship of angels," to "limit the pride of fallen humanity, united only in its perverse desire to forge its own unity as at Babel."

We know from the horrors of the 20th century that socialism is that temptation to create an empire without God, under a ruling elite.

Our founding fathers also knew that humans were prone to corruption - so they created a government with written guarantees of liberty, in which power was diffused by separation of a national government into executive, legislative and judicial branches and by separation of national, state and local governments. They encouraged partisan politics to impede centralization of power.

Even if Obama relents, our bishops are seeing that the limited national government created by the founders has morphed, by incremental subversion of the Constitution, into an institution with almost unlimited coercive power.

The bishops must heed the warning of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, that "the two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first."

The size and intrusiveness of government has paralleled an increase of irreligion and immorality among the electorate, because sin has consequences. Many politicians are only too willing to protect us from one another and mitigate the wreckage of our misdeeds.

Only conversion and prayer will save this country.

(Mr. Retzlaff is a parishioner of Our Lady Queen of Peace parish in Rotterdam.)

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