Revision and Resistance

Most people are not aware of it, but the founding documents of our nation have been fundamentally re-written in recent years.  Here is how the key passage of the Declaration of Independence has now been revised to read:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that some people are created more equal than others, that some of them are endowed by their government with certain alienable rights that can be given or taken away at any time, at the whim of the government.

And here is part of the First Amendment to the Constitution:

Congress shall make many laws respecting an establishment of religion, and prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

We now live in a nation that is systematically revising its intellectual and legal foundation.  We are in grave danger of abandoning its commitment to fundamental human rights, rooted in human nature and natural law.  That foundation is being replaced by a system of positivism and secularism.  I have written on this blog many times about this trend.  For a fuller explanation of what it means, check out Cardinal Dolan’s important address to Fordham Law School.

In concrete terms, we can see these threats to religious liberty and fundamental rights in many places: the HHS Mandate, the abortion mandate in the health care law, the radical re-definition of marriage, and efforts to suppress the speech of pro-lifers.

In the face of these threats to our liberties, ordinary citizens frequently feel powerless.  After all, the government is very large and very powerful, and we think we are isolated and alone.  We fear for our livelihoods and our families if we run afoul of the law.

So what can we do?

We must resist.

The starting place for resistance is to understand what it means, and what it does not.  I strongly urge everyone to read two key works that explain the reasons and tactics for resisting unjust laws enacted by civil governments — Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, and Vaclav Havel’s The Power of the Powerless.

These essays stress a number of essential points:

  • Resistance is a duty of all citizens when faced by injustice.  It is not an “extra-credit” activity.
  • It must be always be grounded in the truth.  It makes no compromise with lies, and always seeks to expose them.
  • It must always be pursued with love and respect.  It is not an excuse for violence and lawlessness.
  • The goal is conversion of heart on the part of those who support injustice, not overbearing their will with power.  It’s message always is “come, join us”, and never “we will force you to agree”.
  • The most important tactic is our willingness to testify to the truth by our words and our actions, and our refusal to cooperate with injustice and lies.
  • Underlying this duty of resistance is an important understanding of the freedom of conscience.  My conscience is not just reflected in my external decisions, but it involves the very core of who I am as a human person.  It is the inner sanctuary where I encounter God’s law.   It is in my conscience that I hear the voice of God, speaking the truth to me.  It is there that I must be true to myself, and to the will of God.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the document of the Second Vatican Council, On the Dignity of the Human Person (especially paragraph 3), explain this beautifully.  These documents should also be studied with care.

    The government may attempt to coerce my external cooperation with injustice by imposing penalties, fines, and so on.  But no government, and no law, can force me to accept a lie as the truth.

    That is the heart of resistance — the ultimate freedom of the human heart.


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    2 Responses to “Revision and Resistance”

    1. RooForLife says:

      June 8,12 Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally Locations

    2. Kate says:

      I am not sure whether this is the proper channel for my question – so please excuse me if this question should be directed elsewhere. I have been sending this out to many people and blogs because I think this is an important part of the fight for religious liberty. I am a mother of four and my husband is a principal of a charter school in Austin, TX. We recently stopped getting insurance through his workplace because the premiums are too expensive. We bought a less expensive plan in the private market. Unfortunately, we were not happy with the options offered. Many of the plans cover abortions and other things that violate Catholic teaching. None of the plans cover labor and delivery. Is there a private, Catholic insurance plan for lay Catholics who would prefer to get off their employee plans in order to have insurance that reflects Catholic values?

      As we get ready to fight the HHS mandate, I think that the Church should create an alternative to the private market plans which already pay for the things which the mandate seeks to impose. I want to take a stand against the mandate but because I currently have a plan that covers these things I feel that I have already capitulated. I would love to buy a Catholic plan so that I am standing with the Church.

      An evangelical organization has something similar to what I envision:

      Seton Healthcare in Austin has an insurance plan. When I taught in a diocesan school I was able to be on the Seton plan. Is there a way, lay Catholics who do not work for the diocese, to buy into the diocesan plans?

      I know many other faithful Catholics who would love to drop their employee plans and buy into a Catholic insurance pool. What a better way to protest the mandate by letting Catholics shelter themselves within a plan that respects Catholic values. Perhaps we can enlist Catholic healthcare providers to form special PPOs or co-ops?

      I think this should be the next logical step in the fight.

      If anyone out there knows of any steps or groups who are working on this issue please reply in the comments.