|Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.|
Many Catholics profess to be surprised by this sudden drawing of the logical conclusion to what Mary Ann Glendon called “rights talk.” Many Catholics so want “rights” to mean what they claim it means that they blind themselves to what the intellectual history of the word does mean and imply by this enigmatic term. All through recent decades, the provisions of freedom of speech and freedom of religion have been used against the Church. It was held to be against free speech and free religion. The irony today is that it is the Church that finds itself appealing to these standards over against an administration which claims the same standards. The decrees that the Church finds contrary to “rights” are precisely the ones said to be based on “rights”—abortion, contraception, sterilization, gay marriage, the works. Numerous writers in recent years have pointed to the decay of the American family. Since the time of Aristotle’s response to Plato’s famous proposal of communality of wives and children, the family has been looked on as a bulwark, not enemy, of the political order. But there has always been in modern utopian and Marxist thought a strand that saw the elimination of the family as the key to a successful social order. What would take the place of the family?–schools, health agencies, bureaucratic employment institutions, welfare under another name. Most of these extreme notions are proposed in the name of common good and human dignity.