Does this Minister not realise how close to totalitarianism he and this deceitful self-serving Government is bringing us. When a government minister says free speech must “stop” what happens next?
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Does this Minister not realise how close to totalitarianism he and this deceitful self-serving Government is bringing us. When a government minister says free speech must “stop” what happens next?
Add a comment…
Who in this secular age can hear these voices crying in the wilderness? Who can deny, in good faith, that they tell us truths on which the future well-being of our race depends, indeed the very preservation of our civilization?
First, these words, written just over twenty years ago and rooted in Christian anthropology:
It must never be forgotten that the disordered use of sex tends progressively to destroy the person’s capacity to love by making pleasure, instead of sincere self-giving, the end of sexuality and by reducing other persons to objects of one’s own gratification. In this way the meaning of true love between a man and a woman (love always open to life) is weakened as well as the family itself. Moreover, this subsequently leads to disdain for the human life which could be conceived, which, in some situations, is then regarded as an evil that threatens personal pleasure. “The trivialization of sexuality is among the principal factors which have led to contempt for new life. Only a true love is able to protect life”.[i]
Who would have thought that in the space of those twenty odd years, this understanding of our nature and the foundations of our society would have been denied and forgotten so emphatically by a majority of the people of Ireland?
What has happened to cause this change, essentially a change in our perception of what it is to be human in the fullest sense, a radical change in the way we understand ourselves and our nature? Can it be the answer lies in these other words, also now heard only in the wilderness?
Now, we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God: that we may know the things that are given us from God. Which things also we speak: not in the learned words of human wisdom, but in the doctrine of the Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God. For it is foolishness to him: and he cannot understand, because it is spiritually examined.[ii]
Those were the words of St. Paul addressing the first followers of the Christian Way in the City of Corinth. They also, it appears, had lost their grasp of what that Way said about the human condition in this world and what the choices it presented to them obliged them to do. A four hundred year old note of explanation on that text clarifies what he meant:
The sensual man—the spiritual man. . .The sensual man is either he who is taken up with sensual pleasures, with carnal and worldly affections; or he who measureth divine mysteries by natural reason, sense, and human wisdom only. Now such a man has little or no notion of the things of God. Whereas the spiritual man is he who, in the mysteries of religion, takes not human sense for his guide: but submits his judgment to the decisions of the church, which he is commanded to hear and obey. For Christ hath promised to remain to the end of the world with his church, and to direct her in all things by the Spirit of truth.[iii]
Choice is good but choices have consequences and it is the consequences of our choices that are ultimately more important than whether or not we have the freedom to choose. The consequences of ignoring that the disordered use of sex tends progressively to destroy the person’s capacity to love will be far more devastating for both individual lives and for our society that would be any restrictions our laws might put on our right to choose freely life-styles which institutionalize the abuse of our nature.
But if our society, in its laws, customs and practices, does ignore the principles of good and evil all is not lost. The individual need not lose sight of those principles and this is precisely why adherence to the single greatest body of knowledge articulating moral truth to which history bears witness stands with us to protect us from the evils our folly might otherwise bring down upon ourselves. That body of knowledge is contained in the Magisterium of the Christ’s Church – its Sacred Scriptures and Traditions.
So those in Ireland today, indeed all of those throughout the world, who find themselves perplexed and bewildered by the insanities spewing out of modernity, post-modernity and cultural Marxism, do have a solution. Listen to the voices which are echoing in the wilderness created by those cultural aberrations and in thought word and deed try to live by them. The message of love at their heart – demanding and utterly counter-cultural as it is in this day and age – has the key to the future of our civilization just as it did in the day of the prophets of the Old Testament, in the New Testament when it was newly new, and in countless epochs since then when cultural forces were captivated by those who measure divine mysteries by natural reason, sense, and human wisdom only.
[i] THE TRUTH AND MEANING OF HUMAN SEXUALITY: Guidelines for Education within the Family, (section 105), THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY.
[ii] New Testament, Douay-Rheims, 1 Corinthians 2. 12ff
[iii] Ibid. Archbishop Challoner note on 1 Corinthians 2.
On June 8, 1978, a man with a craggy face and a beard came to Harvard University, where I was then a graduate student, to give the annual commencement address. The man was not a Harvard graduate. He was not a professor. He was not an American. He did not speak English. His address, given in his native Russian with simultaneous English translation, was not universally well-received. I suspect that some Harvard officials regretted their decision to invite him to speak.
The man’s name was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He was a brilliant novelist who had spent several years as a political prisoner in the gulag in the Soviet Union. He was a strong Orthodox Christian and a fierce critic of atheistic communism and Soviet tyranny. His writings had exposed the corruption, cruelty, and injustice of the communist regime that had come to power in Russia in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and would remain in power until 1989—a regime that had enslaved its own people and reduced those of many other nations to serfdom under puppet governments. It was a regime as totalitarian and as murderous as the Nazi regime in Germany, which the U.S. and Britain had allied with the Soviets in World War II to defeat.
In 1978, the Cold War was raging, and the U.S. was still reeling from its humiliation in the disastrous war in Vietnam. Anti-Americanism was flourishing both abroad and at home. Many Americans—particularly young Americans—had lost faith in their country, its institutions, its principles, its culture, its traditions, its way of life. Some proposed communism as a superior system; many suggested what came to be known as “moral equivalency” between American democracy and Soviet communism. By 1978, to suggest such equivalency had become a mark of sophistication—something to distinguish one from the allegedly backward hicks and rubes who believed in the superiority of the American to the Soviet system. There were many such “sophisticated” people at Harvard. And Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn came to Harvard to confront them and others.
His speech was not, however, an encomium to America or the West. On the contrary, it was a severe critique—one might even say a prophetic rebuke—and a warning. Of course, Solzhenitsyn did not argue for the moral equivalency, much less the superiority, of the Soviet system. He hated communism in all its dimensions and he loathed the gangsters who ruled the Soviet empire. What he faulted America (and the West more generally) for was its abandonment of its own moral and, especially, spiritual ideals and identity.
Read Robert P. George’s complete article in First Things here.
Ireland is a country divided in a divided world. The Republic of Ireland is not a fraction as divided from those six counties of Ulster in the United Kingdom, as it is by the division between the adherents of post-sixties modernity, and the adherents of a Christian culture which has been the hallmark of Western civilization for 2000 years. A cold, cold civil war continues unabated in Ireland. It is not a pleasant thought, but this conflict is nothing more or less than a race war, symbolized by the chilling rejection by two thirds of its voting electorate of the LoveBoth logo of the defenders of the right to life of human beings in their mothers’ wombs.
Any among the LoveBoth campaigners who happened to be able to endure the triumphalism of the victors in that historic referendum, will have wondered where their citizenship went last Saturday morning when they heard a (fairly) famous Irish journalist proclaim that at last Ireland was now “one nation”.
Yesterday, after a walk along St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, I posted what amounted to a kind of cry for help on social media, the only way I could find at the time of dealing with a troubling existential experience.
I admitted that I was unable to look at the faces of those who passed me. The thought that two in every three were prepared to allow the killing of children in the womb was too potent a spark for enmity for me to deal with. I just had to look away. God help us! I said.
It struck a chord with a good number of people. One in particular, from the other side of the divide, seemed to want to help me bridge the chasm I was facing.
“Can I ask a genuine question?” She said. “How do you feel Irish society can move forward together following the referendum as there are such strong feelings on both sides?”
For my part, I could only reply to this effect, “I just don’t know. I am doing my best to resist hostility – of which we are receiving so much it makes it very difficult. The objective moral reality of this is shattering.”
She responded, disclosing formally that she was “pro-choice” – which I knew already – saying that what concerned her was the ongoing split and that there didn’t seem to be any answers. “I…would like to think there is some way forward for all that is less divisive than (what) is happening now. Hopefully for all our sakes a more harmonious future awaits!” I felt unable to offer that hope. Why?
One of the biggest obstacles Ireland – and indeed the rest of the Western world faces when it comes to this particular battle in our ongoing culture war – is that there is no basis for dialogue so long as one side refuses to engage with the other on the central issue of identity at its heart. Throughout the campaign in Ireland the pro-abortion side studiously avoided using the word “baby”, the word “child”, even the word “mother”. What we got instead, constantly and repeatedly at every turn, were the words “health”, “compassion”, “choice” and “my body”.
At the evil heart of racism resides the irrational conviction that one category of human being is less than – or not at all a member of – our own species. History is replete with many sad examples of the consequences of racism: in another era, the English treatment of the Celtic peoples in general, and the Irish in particular, over many centuries; the enslavement of Africans over centuries of colonialism, working its way through the bloody American Civil War and only ending in that hemisphere – legally at least – with the civil rights legislation of relatively recent times, and with the end of apartheid in ours.
Wherever racism was rampant, for the length of time it took to overcome it, the members of the dominant strain of our species who fought against this evil force and identified with the oppressed, were abused and sometimes persecuted and murdered for their acceptance of the common humanity which they dared to proclaim. For as long as racism persists, racists refuse to debate the central premise of those who oppose them – the undeniable human identity of those it wishes to ignore, oppress, or, as in the case of Nazi Germany, eliminate altogether.
In the Irish referendum just concluded we have just had the latest example of this phenomenon. The defenders of the unborn humans in the wombs of their mothers again and again, scientifically, instinctively, morally, presented the case for the human identity of the gestating child. Again and again their arguments were sidestepped and ignored. There was no debate. For one side the child in the womb was simply not human, not of our race, so therefore the constitutional right to life enjoyed by those already born could not and should not be extended to these essentially alien things, mere invading “clumps of cells”. Now Ireland’s lawmakers are getting ready, on the basis of a mandate from two-thirds of the electorate, to pass a law to facilitate the killing of any among these non-beings whom other human beings decide should not live. All those who resist them will be deemed not part of the Irish nation and sidelined – at best.
Am I wrong in equating this reality with racism? I may be. But until someone is prepared to come and talk to me about it, and show me the error of my ways, I cannot move from where I stand – for to me it seems exactly where we are.
The legend of Parsifal tells the story of a wound inflicted on mankind – in the person of King Amfortas. The wound festers and resists all attempts to heal it until the one true and pure knight, Parsifal, is found. He, the embodiment of truth, innocence and simplicity heals Amfortas and humanity.
Ireland, and indeed the secularist West as a whole, is inflicted with a deep and festering wound at whose heart lies the central issue in the debate over abortion, recognition of the human identity of the unborn. Until such time as a knight like Parsifal comes to our aid and gets us to face our willful cowardice in the face of this truth, then our crippling divisions will persist with all the pain that goes with them.
This article also appeared on the website, MercatorNet.com, where it attracted the following comments:
There is and will be a way to bridge the split. It is the one being realized in every pro-abortion country. It is called pragmatism. Being pro-abortion does not and cannot work. Ireland once was abundant in energetic intelligent people. They were Ireland’s only natural resource but with that resource they outpaced many countries like the Ukraine that has all the resources but insufficient people. Because you cannot run a free market economy with a declining population, I assure you that Ireland’s economy will decline exponentially as its population declines. Moreover because an abortion is only and always detrimental to the health of a woman, Ireland’s health care budget will spiral up which will put increasing pressure on health care providers to give their elders an early, dignified of course, death. All this and more will be realized all too late to reverse the trend. Don’t believe me? Ask any citizen of a Nordic country.
NOTE: The picture appears to be from a previous referendum held in 2002 which tried to tighten the laws around abortion.
The words of James Joyce, which were once an offence to the people of his country, now, over one hundred years later, have become stunningly real for the estimated one third of Irish people who vainly tried to halt the tide of a modernity hostile to the unborn in the referendum which took place there on Friday.
In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus, talking about his country with his friend: “Do you know what Ireland is? asked Stephen with cold violence. Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow.” Too strong? No, says pro-life Ireland. What other interpretation is there when the majority in a country knowingly, willfully, declares that the deliberate killing of the unborn in the womb is permissible for no other reason than that it interferes with an individual’s comfort, convenience or life-style?
The Irish Government, willingly bowing to pressure, national and international, proposed to the electorate that the right to life of the unborn, guaranteed in its Constitution since 1983, be removed. This was to allow the legislature of the State to enact laws to facilitate unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks gestation and up to 24 weeks on grounds which, in practice, will be abortion on demand. Needless to say, the proposals as presented were less stark than that, but given the pattern of what has happened in every other country with a liberal abortion law, the reality will inevitably be termination on demand. All the dissembling in the world will not change that.
Among the slogans of the pro-abortion campaigners were “Trust women”, “Trust doctors” and “Trust politicians” – that last somewhat bizarre given the economic debacle Irish politicians visited on their country just ten years ago. With regard to the two former, campaigners for the right to life of unborn children were a little baffled by both women and doctors asking for trust with those very lives which they were claiming the right to choose to terminate. They complained that logic or reason played very little part in the pro-choice armory and that all the emphasis was on emotional exploitation of the hard cases – rape, incest, limited life prospects of the baby in the womb and more. The human right to life, the human nature of the child in the womb, even its very existence, the avoidance of the very word abortion, they complained, characterized the pro-choice campaign throughout.
But the truth is, the Government which put this proposal to the people cannot be blamed anymore. This result has now clearly shown that it is the express will of the majority of the people of Ireland – about 90% of its young electorate – that the child in the womb not be constitutionally guaranteed a right to life. Choice is the supreme moral norm. The good or evil of what is chosen is, apparently, a matter of indifference. What has shocked the dissenting third of the Irish people is that so many have failed to see that the killing of the unborn is an evil thing.
Once again, for a world which has habitually looked on Ireland as a bastion of family values and marriage, all this comes as a surprise. The first sign of this upheaval came just three years ago. Then, when a similar majority voted in a referendum to change the very meaning of marriage to allow gay people to marry, there was one question, “How did this happen so quickly?”
Many explained away that rejection of one of the social foundations binding a community They read it firstly as a sympathy vote for a minority. Secondly, it was thought of as the result of a failure to grasp the social consequences which pro-marriage campaigners warned of. Again, reason and logic were trumped by emotion and a deceitful misuse of the concept of human equality.
It was not seen by the majority as an out and out rejection by the people of the teaching of the mainstream Christian churches. This, however, is different. This can hardly be seen as anything other than an upfront rejection by the majority of the Irish of the Christian teaching on the sacredness of human life, from the womb to the tomb – and beyond. There is no ambiguity here. There is little basis for a benign response, “they know not what they do.” It has all been done with astounding willfulness.
In this instance the Anglican, Presbyterian and Catholic leaders were almost all unanimous in the guidance they gave to their followers on the matter of the sacredness of life. On 16 May the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Diarmuid Martin, explained in a statement:
“The Church must always be pro-life. That means that the Christian community must be a beacon of support for life especially at its most vulnerable moments and a beacon of support at vulnerable moments of any woman or man along their path of life.
“Christians must be pro-life when it comes to the unborn and those who are vulnerable at the end of their lives.”
The significance of all this in Irish history is twofold. She has now abandoned the principle held for at least 1500 years that all human life is sacred. She has joined the community of secularist nations where relativism rules the roost and life is allowed to flourish only on the basis of the choice of someone other than the living subject in the womb. This is where Ireland now stands – and if anything good might be said by pro life people about this, it is only that it is good to know where one stands.
The second and more general significance which this revolution has is what it says about Catholicism and the Christian Faith in Ireland. What is now clear is that the Irish people’s traditional culture, derived from Christian culture, is now rudderless. Its values with regard to life, the family – and its grasp of the Catholic Faith which has held firm for centuries in the face of “fire, dungeon and sword” – have now “all changed, changed utterly”. For many – well for approximately 32% – something other than “a terrible beauty” has dawned on them. They now face the challenge of starting again. But one third of a population is not the weakest of bases from which to start. This will be the challenge for all the Christian churches to take up, as it picks up the pieces.
There was evidence throughout this campaign of anti-Catholic sentiment – despite the efforts of the pro-life organizations to present their arguments on predominantly rational grounds, grounds of scientific evidence of the human nature of the child and grounds of natural rights and justice. A Catholic priest, an American working in Dublin, made this interesting response on social media to a correspondent who said that the vote was nothing more or less than a vote against the Catholic Church.
“Yes, the vote was a vote against the Church. To my mind, a strange way to think about human rights.” Then, after reflecting for a moment on the undoubted failures of the Church on many levels, and remarking on its servants’ sad record when it “always found the temptation to wed itself to power irresistible”, he concludes, “The Church arose in a pagan culture by being willing to die for truths, not kill for them. Profound humility and joyful witness to the good life is the way forward. The only way forward for the secular West is to figure out how to argue for love when it announces a loveless universe, and for the Church to live love so attractively it is irresistible despite being powerless.”
For the hard-working campaigners for the unborn who have sweated it out on the streets and the doorsteps of Ireland’s cities and towns for the past four months – a truly marathon run-in to a poll – there may echo in their ears the dying words of Hildebrand, that great medieval campaigner for truth and rights under the law, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity. Therefore I die in exile.”
On Friday, perhaps appropriately, the Catholic Church celebrated his feast day. To be a Christian in Ireland just now will, for many, have the taste of exile about it. It will demand not a little of the mettle of Hildebrand to begin again the mission to which all of them after all, by the very terms and conditions of their contract, are indeed committed.
A triumphant liberal pro-abortion columnist in yesterday’s Irish Times declared that “Middle Ireland” was dead. Now there is just Ireland. Without even thinking about the totalitarian implications of that proclamation, one third of Ireland probably begs to differ. They are already promising to make their voices heard loud and clear. Perhaps they will remain in exile for a while, strangers in a wilderness of moral social values. But they believe that eventually, by “living love so attractively that it will be irresistible, despite being powerless”, in the face of the secularist West and its “me, me, me” selfish and loveless universe, they can hope to triumph. They know that if it happened before it can happen again.
BRUCE ARNOLD WEDNESDAY MAY 23, 2018 writing on Front Page
It might have been written yesterday and indeed has only just now come to light, in the hour of our need. It is a fragment of a long-lost “Letter to the Hibernians,” bearing a striking resemblance to the first chapter of the Letter of St Paul to the Romans. With extraordinary prescience and authority, the first-century author describes in very clear terms the drastic consequences for society of the abandonment of fundamental moral norms. The Letter warns us in effect that we urgently need to correct our course on Friday next, before it is too late. We are truly on a precipice. I hope the following reflections on this timely Letter may dissuade at least a few readers from following the swarm of lemmings intent on leaping into the abyss.
The author of the Letter warns his readers about the effects on society of institutionalised deceit and the deliberate distortion of the truth – the retribution of God from heaven is being revealed against the ungodliness and injustice of human beings who in their injustice hold back the truth. While it is unfortunately commonplace for partisans of each side in a referendum to accuse the other side of telling half-truths, I feel fully justified in the present case in pointing to a deeper and wider deception.
The whole campaign by advocates of a Yes vote has focused on the inconvenience of travel for those seeking illegal abortions. They belittle the abusive consequences for the women involved, many of whom are traumatised. The rights of the unborn children, whose very lives are at imminent risk, have been systematically excluded from consideration. They are to be expelled from the protective womb of the Constitution so that they may be forcibly removed from their mothers’ wombs. The advocates of “compassion” have not dared to admit that they are in fact proposing the unrestricted abortion of healthy babies in Ireland.
The Letter makes clear that the immediate consequence of the deliberate rejection of truth is a darkening of the intellect and a marked deterioration in our cultural and political capacity to explore the truth about man and God – and so these people have no excuse … their arguments became futile and their uncomprehending minds were darkened.
Society, rejecting true knowledge, has recourse instead to foolish myths and superstitions. Modern fads, celebrity worship, political correctness, and a totalitarian control of public discourse, have become the order of the day – while they claimed to be wise, in fact, they were growing so stupid that they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an imitation.
Immoral behaviour is not excused in those who reject the Gospel. We all have an inner natural law, acknowledged in our Constitution, to guide our consciences. Unless we allow it to be corrupted or deformed, it assures us of fundamental truths and prevents our being easily deceived. When an objective standard for conscience is denied – as evidenced recently in our Supreme Court – society descends in a rapidly accelerating spiral of decay. The recent increase in abominable crimes against women is a sharp reminder of this alarming trend. Society begins to crumble because the essential social bond has withered and a moral collapse inexorably ensues.
The Letter accurately predicted all of this, many centuries ago. Human nature does not change – that is why God abandoned them in their inmost cravings to filthy practices of dishonouring their own bodies because they exchanged God’s truth for a lie and have worshipped and served the creature instead of the Creator. Intellectual deception and moral decay plumb new depths when they include a denial of the humanity of unborn children. These are consigned – for no reason at all – to the medical waste bins of an abortion clinic. With the legalisation of abortion on demand, the moral decay in society reaches an advanced stage — and so now they are steeped in all sorts of injustice, rottenness, greed, and malice … without brains, honour, love or pity.
We are invited on Friday 25 May to approve a law permitting a lethal assault and dismembering of an unborn child – without pity. The Letter warns us not just to avoid such unspeakable evil ourselves, but against approving the evil actions of others – those who behave like this deserve to die, yet they not only do it, but even applaud others who do the same. A Yes vote will be understood around the world as a round of applause for the advocates and purveyors of abortion.
If we approve the proposed amendment to the Constitution, we will have established a constitutional right to abortion, which will be very difficult to control or limit by legislation in any meaningful way. We will answer individually to our consciences and to God for the irreversible fatal consequences of such a decision. Remorse, as we watch the politics unfold after the event, will be too late. When we find we have indeed legalised abortion on demand, the Supreme Court might point to their fateful judgement of 7 March and say, “We told you so. You did not listen.” The awful deed will have been done. Those who vote Yes will have the blood of Abel on their hands. “And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.”
Read the article on Front Page here.
It’s almost over. The world’s media, which has been observing this cold civil war from a distance with growing curiosity for the past three or four months, is now descending on this little island to shine its spotlight on the victors and the vanquished. Ireland’s people go to the polls on Friday, not to elect a new parliament but to express its sovereign will to its existing parliament on a matter of life and death.
In doing so it will, in a constitutional referendum, tell its Government one of two things: either that it wishes to be part of what we might consider mainstream 21st century modernity, or that it wishes to swim against that particular current and declare that all human life is sacred and that, from conception to death, the right to life of each human being in its jurisdiction must be vindicated.
All wars are – to understate the case – unpleasant. Civil wars are especially so. In most wars you face your enemy on the battle field. In civil was you live and work side by side, rub shoulders, share train journeys with those who become your adversary. Believe me, there is something gut-wrenching about that.
Ireland is no stranger to civil war. The body count in the civil war which followed the victory which brought it legislative independence from Britain was greater that the war of independence itself. This civil war, although cold in character, is about an even more fundamental issue – the very right to life itself of the unborn.
In 1983, a far seeing group of ordinary Irish people perceived the cultural shift which was taking place in Western social values. The US Supreme court had made its judgement on Roe Vs Wade. The parliament in the neighbouring but considerably more influential island of Britain had legalised abortion, not with the intention of providing abortion on demand but in fact doing just that. They could see no guarantee that an Irish legislature, more influenced by a liberal national and international media than by the views and values of ordinary Irish people, would not follow the same path.
They made and promoted a proposal whereby an amendment would be made to the Irish Constitution guaranteeing the equal right to life of mothers and their unborn children – the very right which both British and American legislation had taken away. Cleverly seizing a moment in which the balance of party politics was fragile, they succeeded in getting an undertaking from legislators that such a proposal would be put to the people in a referendum. By something in the region of a two thirds majority of the electorate the proposal was accepted and became a foundation for the law of the State.
A significant proportion of the dissenting one third has, one might say, not had a decent night’s sleep since. Decade after decade they have organised themselves to undermine the will of that majority. Further referendums were held, court decisions were made which complicated matters, the United Nations and the European Courts were marshalled to rail against it. Opinion polls suggest that they have now swung the majority of Irish people against the right to life of the unborn. Friday’s poll, the only poll that counts, will confirm or refute that assessment. In the referendum the people are being asked, “yes” or “no” if they wish to remove the article from the constitution which was placed there thirty-five years ago.
The Irish Government, composed of a coalition of liberal conservatives and some quite left-wing independents, is campaigning for its removal, saying that because a significant number of Irish people go to Britain for abortion, the article has failed to do what it was intended to do. With the exception of some left-radical parties, there is no party whip in place and people and politicians opposing removal of the article argue that on the contrary, even with those travelling abroad for abortion, Ireland’s constitutional protection of the unborn has saved a hundred thousand lives since 1983.
The protagonists in this battle know that it is just that – a battle. The war of which it is part is a more universal one. Hence the interest of the international media in the outcome. For the Irish themselves they know that if the 21st century social warriors win, the next stage will be surrogacy, gender redefinitions and much more, all in line with the international cultural Marxist agenda.
The defenders of life will have to cope with that as best they can – but they will not go away quietly. Should the defenders of life win on Friday they know that they still have their work cut out for them to win back the minds and hearts which they have lost over decades of erosion by the media and the political establishment. They are up for it. They know that there will be no resting on laurels as they did after their 1983 victory.
The new news and opinion website, Front Page has just published an op.ed feature by a venerable Irish journalist, Bruce Arnold. It seems that some restrictions have been placed on Front Page by social media providers. Links to it on Twitter are being responded to with a 404 error message saying that the page does not exist.
Pending getting to the bottom of whatever glitch – or conspiracy, if that is the case – is behind this, this important and urgent analysis by Arnold is being published here on Garvan Hill in full.
It has been said that abortion pits a mother against her own child. If that is so, the law must act as a referee between them. In the vote on Friday next, we are that referee, because we will have to set the terms of our basic law. We are asked just one essential question. The unborn child is currently entitled to be recognised as a human life and protected as such by the law. Should we remove that constitutional protection, yes or no?
How should we decide? The first requirement of a referee or lawmaker is that she or he be fair. The referee must listen to both sides and judge impartially between them.
The basic case made on behalf of the Yes side, for removing constitutional protection from the unborn child, is that a mother wishing to abort her child has personal rights which must be always respected, whereas her child (at least up to 12 weeks gestation) can have no important rights at all. Even if a child could have some nebulous statutory right to life after 12 weeks, it must always yield to the right of the mother to protect her mental or physical health.
The case made on behalf of unborn children is that they also have real human lives, already fully formed at 12 weeks, and that their lives are as much entitled to protection and respect before the moment of birth as afterward. Their right to life is already compromised by the established right of a mother to abort her child in cases of serious risk to the mother’s life, including a risk of suicide. The proposed amendment would remove all remaining elements of the right to life of the unborn child.
The act of ending, prematurely, a born human life is very widely considered to be an unjust act, although assisted suicide and euthanasia increasingly challenge this universal norm. In the case of the unborn child, however, ending its life will be seen differently by those convinced that it is inferior to a human being until birth, and by those convinced that its right to life must be considered as essentially equal to that of a born person.
The proponents of the 36th amendment argue that, in cases of rape or incest, some women “need” to end a pregnancy and that it is impossible to decide quickly, or in a short space of time, on the validity of these claims. This cannot happen at present because of the 8th Amendment. They propose, therefore, not just that every claim of rape or incest should be accepted without proof, but that any and every woman should be entitled to end her pregnancy, at least up to 12 weeks.
How are we to evaluate this proposition? If the concern is about incest or statutory rape, the proposed law could have restricted access to abortion on that ground to young women under the age of, say, eighteen. It does not. If it is about the rape of an adult woman, why wait until 12 weeks? And why not require the woman seeking an abortion to identify the perpetrator, as a pre-condition, and have the law pursue him afterward? If the General Scheme of the proposed legislation were serious about providing for “hard cases,” it could have specified various ways of reducing or eliminating the number of abortions which have nothing to do with these special circumstances.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that these “hard cases” are being used once again as a wedge to try to force open the door to a widespread availability of elective abortion in Ireland. The rational and scientific difficulty for the Yes side, in arguing that unborn human lives only become entitled to legal protection after they have successfully survived an unprotected life in the womb, is manifest.
An emerging position among pro-choice advocates, therefore, is to acknowledge that abortion does indeed involve the deliberate ending of a real human life, which is horrific in itself, but that this “reality” will happen anyway and that what is proposed is just a way of ameliorating the risks to women associated with unregulated or foreign abortions. It is even argued that legalising abortion in this way will lead eventually to a reduction in the total numbers of abortions.
Is this a morally acceptable approach to a fundamental law of the State? It has been tried and found wanting in Britain and elsewhere. Almost nine million deaths later, the 1967 abortion law in the UK has been shown to be an unmitigated disaster. Even the recent fall in the total numbers of abortions is due to the falling birth rate, not to any improvement in social attitudes.
It is not just wrong in practice, however, it is profoundly wrong in principle. Once we admit the reality of the human life of the unborn child, we begin to see the full horror of the choice being presented to us. Hard cases aside, we are asked to allow the willful ending of very many young lives (without so much as a nominal excuse) simply because their continued existence is regarded as burdensome to those responsible for bringing them into existence.
The stage of development of the unborn child does not mitigate the horror. Each of us is changing all the time. The question is, who or what is developing? That it is a “somebody” and not a “something” is a matter of scientific fact, confirmed by a natural moral sense and by virtually all moral authority.
No Christian can ignore the Word of God on this. It is perfectly clear in Scripture that a person is in relation with God from the first moment of his or her existence. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). The encounter between Mary and Elizabeth is first and foremost an encounter between John the Baptist (who ‘leapt in the womb’ at 6 months) and Jesus (at 2 weeks gestation in the womb of his mother). On the basis of rational scientific evidence confirmed by the authority of divine revelation, the matter is settled beyond dispute for a Christian.
At a time when slavery was acceptable, many believed that a slave was sub-human and could be maltreated or even killed by the person who owned him or her. Christians, voting on a law prohibiting the abuse or killing of slaves, could never accept the argument that, because others do not agree that the slave is a ‘person,’ they should refrain from ‘imposing their views’ on society. It would be profoundly immoral for a Christian to vote to permit such abuse, knowing as he or she does that a slave is indeed a human person.
It follows that a Christian cannot vote to exclude the unborn child from the protection of the law, even if the person proposing to kill the child does not accept that the child is a person. To deny the authority of reason and of faith on such an important matter would be to renounce one’s claim to be a Christian.
Is the term “fake news” any longer fit for purpose? It seems it is not. Weaponized in the culture wars, it has become meaningless in the context of any serious analysis of what now passes for journalism. Áine Kerr, formerly of Storyful, latterly of Facebook, and now co-founder of NevaLabs, speaking at a Dublin symposium on the subject asks us to forget it. What we have to contend with, she says, is something a little more nuanced – “information disorder”, which comes in two distinct packages, neither very helpful but one certainly more malign than the other: misinformation (incomplete or skewed) and disinformation (purposely untrue/ propaganda).
It would seem that if we want to be serious about tackling the problems of modern media we need to begin by being a little more clinical in our analysis and succumb less to using our categories as terms of abuse.
But whatever we call it, this phenomenon is not new. It has been with us for a long, long time. History records it as a problem which Edward I had to deal with in 13th century England. Henry IV had to deal with the reports of the resurrection of Richard II, the predecessor whom he deposed and then had murdered. A few more people lost their heads for their troubles in spreading that bit of fake news – sorry, disinformation.
What probably is new is that information disorder has now become what is termed a wicked problem, explained by Ms. Kerr as a complex problem for which there is no simple method of solution. In the epoch which fell between Guttenberg and Zuckerberg, controlling information – good, bad or indifferent – with censorship was already a losing battle. In the post-Zuckerberg era it has seemingly escalated to the wicked status.
The Dublin symposium, organized by Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE, with an eight-member panel of media practitioners, kept drifting back to the question of how to regulate, whether regulation was at all possible and whether it would be any more effective than the clumsy weapon of censorship was in the past.
But whenever people seem to gather to confront this problem they seem to keep failing to address the elephant in the room. This elephant, if addressed might show everyone that the problem is infinitely more wicked that our wildest nightmares suggest. Not only have we got a serious information disorder on our hands, not only is “fake news” our problem but on top of that we have the even more virulent strain of this virus, “fake views”.
In an age where truth is no longer identified as something which we can agree on, where relativism rules the roost and where “facts” for many people are just a matter of “whatever”, information disorders are going to be endemic in our culture. From that condition then inevitably comes the more serious malaise of fake views – because any view, any opinion, any proposed solution to the problems of mankind which are based on a philosophy which makes truth relative and subjective will be a fake solution leading at best to a dead end, at worst to social and personal chaos.
This elephant, if addressed, would tell us that talking about trust, talking about truth or falsehood, talking about good or bad intentions is to talk about morality. The words moral, morality or virtue, if they figured at all in that symposium were only touched on tangentially. Indeed, one had the sense that mentioning them would have evoked at best an uncomprehending silence, maybe even a patronizing consignment to another planet.
The exceptions might have been Fionnan Sheahan, Editor of the Irish Independent, one of Ireland’s national newspapers, and the contribution from Sile Lane, Head of International Campaigns and Policy at Sense About Science. Sheehan made the pertinent observation which suggested that the red faces of Ireland’s governing class which let financial organizations off the moral leash , bringing the Irish economy to its knees ten years ago, might be changing colour again. The implication was that the giant IT companies which have made Ireland their European headquarters are just able to click their fingers and the Irish Government jumps to attention.
All the contributors were deeply concerned about this wicked problem, but without acknowledging the need to go back to these basics and find out how we have strayed so far from them, our bewilderment will not only not be resolved, it will continue to deepen.
Is there any serious human civilization that does not have among its first moral principles that which says, as the Judaeo-Christian Decalogue does, “Thou shalt not bear false witness”? Unlikely. That is a regulation, but it is a regulation because first and foremost it is written in our reasoning minds. The tragedy of the modern age and modern education is that it has abandoned the cultivation of reason in favour of the cultivation of feelings – and without the former the latter is a soggy marsh where humanity may wallow happily for a time but will eventually sink in misery.
The roots of this problem, now of wicked proportions, go back to the false philosophical turning over a thousand years ago which led eventually to the Cartesian “I think therefore I am”. From there it lead right down to the follies of Michel Foucault in our own time. It has lead us into the dead end of subjective morality, a process which Professor Brad S. Gregory of Notre Dame University describes in detail in The Unintended Reformation.
No sane thinking person denies or undervalues the great benefits which thinking humans have brought to our race over those centuries. Sadly, however, many apparently sane people have repeatedly failed to read the wrong turnings philosophy – anthropological ethical and political – has taken in that time. This misreading, this information disorder has now led us to a point where we have left ourselves, not just with a wicked problem but with a hyper-wicked problem.
One passage in Gregory’s book gives something of a taste of this predicament and the problems it spawns. He says that if morality is simply a function of personal preference, and there are neither intrinsic human goods nor such a thing as human nature, then there can be no moral impediments to, for example, the deliberate genetic manipulation of human beings so as to accelerate the evolutionary self-transcendence of the species, whatever legal prohibitions might happen to remain in place.
We can see that the regulatory provisions which may be put in place to control the internet in any of its undesirable manifestations will only have a legal force, not a moral force. Gregory draws out the barren implications of subjectivism across a number of contemporary issues which we can also connect to the one being considered here.
The “transhumanist” strand of modernity asks, for example, in Gregory’s paraphrasing: Why not try to overcome humanity’s many problems by making human beings obsolete? Perhaps a biogenetically engineered, higher, better, newer, more advanced post-human species will succeed where Homo sapiens is failing. Upbeat transhumanists simply want to enact their choices, to pursue their own good in their own way, rather than to sulk in Weberian disenchantment or uptight hand-wringing.
Scoffing at “bio-Luddites” inhibited by their “sciphobia,” Simon Young declares that “the human adventure is just beginning, and there are no limits to what we might achieve once we embrace the Will to Evolve beyond our human-all-too-human condition.”
In Ray Kurzweil’s expansive vision, “we can imagine the possibility of our future intelligence spreading into other universes. Such a scenario is conceivable given our current understanding of cosmology, although speculative. This could potentially allow our future intelligence to go beyond any limits.”
With such transhumanists we meet a particularly ambitious, latter-day extension of Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, who proclaimed that “a sound magician is a mighty god.” ln keeping with the dominant, liberationist ideology of modernity, more choices equals more progress. Technological advances provide the means to move forward. Why let mere biology hold us back?
With information supporting the views of thinkers like Young and Kurzweil floating around in our culture, and being taken seriously, what regulatory environment could possibly cope with that? With information disorder rampant in this way – in both its “fake news” and “fake views” modes – we are clearly on the cusp of a new world order. The question is, will it be,
Floundering might be the word which springs to mind as we look at the spectacle of poor Mark Zuckerberg trying to cope with – or, depending on your point of view, making excuses for – the failure of Facebook to protect us from predators of one kind or another.
For Mr. Zuckerberg the search for a solution seemed to be in the same territory from which the creature which has made him one of the wealthiest men in the world has come – technology. Totally absent from his horizon was the one feature in the landscape where the solution ultimately must lie. We suspect that it may be AWOL for the same reason that it was also absent from all the imagination and energy which went into Dr. Frankenstein’s creation more than two centuries ago. There are indeed those who see Dr. Zuckerberg’s – I’m hazarding a guess that at this stage he has picked up a few honorary doctorates along the way – creation as something of a mirror image of Mary Shelly’s.
Sadly, unlike Mary Shelly’s monster, which was embodied only in fiction, a wise and salutary tale about the folly of a man who gave life to a powerful man-like instrument he could not control, Mark Zuckerberg’s creation is a real nuts and bolts, now apparently out-of-control, creation.
There seems to exist a multiplicity of black holes in the universe of modern technology. As the Netflix series, Black Mirror, worryingly illustrates for us, our lives can be sucked into these in any number of ways with the most dire personal and social consequences imaginable.
The unifying element which should offer us protection from most of these black holes is embodied in the single phrase, moral sense. The absence of this sense in the integral structure of all the myriad of pursuits of modern man is the source of many of the woes which accompany them in the form of unintended consequences. “Unintended” may modify culpability for those consequences but if our poverty of intention stems for our neglect of serious and responsible reflection, then culpability is present as darkness is present with night.
But let us not be personal about this. Mark Zuckerberg is a child of his time and if we can learn anything from his predicament it will be by looking beyond his and his company’s problem to the bigger picture.
Zuckerberg has now apologised to Facebook’s users for the “breach of trust”. What “trust” really means in the world of big tech is anyone’s guess. This breach allowed University of Cambridge researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, to harvest the details of about 270,000 people who took part in something as seemingly innocuous as an online quiz. A former Facebook manager has warned now that hundreds of millions of users are likely to have had their private information used by firms in ways that they know nothing about.
But all the talk about this is now about control, technical control, regulation and more regulation. Does anyone really understand any more why we regulate? If the moral sense which the modern world now lacks were a real force in our society our need for regulation, controls and all the rest would be much less. If all we have are external regulations and controls we are lost souls.
A “reckoning is coming” for Facebook and its fellow tech giants, said The Sunday Times – and “not before time”. The issue in this scandal is not whether harvested Facebook data enabled Trump to steal the US election. “It did not – however much liberals would love to overturn the result.” Rather, it’s that Facebook has failed to protect the personal data of its users. The company has been “unforgivably lax” about third-party use of this information, agreed The Times. It has arrogantly shirked “the responsibilities that come with power”, and been wilfully blind to the consequences of its inaction until problems have reached the headlines.
The black hole into which the private information of “hundreds of millions of users” has plummeted may be the least of the threats to the common good emanating from Facebook’s army of busy bees. Joseph Ratzinger, one of the greatest moral voices of our time, back in 2005, just a year after Facebook moved from being a glint in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye to its launch in 2004, gave a prescient address at Subiaco in Italy.
In that address Ratzinger – who would become Pope Benedict XVI a few weeks alter – spoke of the “disquieting… possibilities of self-manipulation that man has acquired. He has plumbed the depths of being, has deciphered the components of the human being, and is now capable, so to speak, of constructing man himself, who thus no longer comes into the world as a gift of the Creator, but as a product of our action, a product that, therefore, can also be selected according to the exigencies established by ourselves.”
As we know, there are plenty of people who are concerned about the manipulative characteristics deliberately built in to modern technology – from the colour coding of iPhone screens to the subtle designs of homepages across the internet. Others are concerned about the contribution which Facebook, for example, contributes to the cancer of gender confusion sweeping across our culture with its amoral subscribing to a bewildering plethora of genders.
If our world, our cultures and our civilization suffers from a moral malaise it did not begin – nor will it end – with technology and the power it places in the hands of men. In one understanding its roots are of course immemorial and the struggle it demands of us is endemic in our nature. But in recorded history we can also see a turning point at which western civilization fell deeper into the mire of confusion of which Facebook’s amorality is just another modern manifestation.
The turning point which occurred at the dawn of the modern age – and the falsehood at its heart – led Machiavelli to offer his advice to those who exercise power in this world. The spirit of this advice is also responsible for the destructive elements at work in forces of modern technology. This is not to deny any of the good elements. I use Facebook and will continue to do so.
Dr. Brad Gregory in The Unintended Reformation, his masterful study of how our civilization has reached the point at which it now stands, explains that Machiavelli’s ideas about human nature influenced the rejections of the Christian (and Aristotelian, and Platonic) claim about the inseparability of morality and politics. In the Florentine’s view, efforts expended in trying to live virtuously could only seem quixotically futile, aspirations to create a correlative moral community unrealistic. In his views about human nature, Machiavelli would find successors in Hobbes, Hume, and many other thinkers.
If in the following quote from Gregory’s book, we substitute in our mind the wielders of technological power for the wielders of political power we will see how Machiavelli is alive and well in Silicon Valley.
In theory, at least, Machiavelli’s practical distinction between the demands of political life and moral norms severed the exercise of power from teleological virtue ethics in public affairs, the “realism” of the former contrasted with the “idealism” of the latter. Successful and therefore good politics was unavoidably immoral, and immoral politics was the norm.“ No longer aspiring to encompass traditional morality, politics becomes instead “the art of the possible”—and as people grow accustomed to new human realities, their views change concerning what is and is not possible. What his contemporaries and Reformation-era successors who offered advice to princes continued to regard as the telos of human nature within an inherited Christian worldview, Machiavelli consequentially disdained as the “imaginary world.” Human beings are what they are; the world is as it is; the effective exercise of power requires the abrogation of morality; successful rulers override the virtues with virtu. One could exercise power or be moral, but not both.
But while “successful rulers override the virtues with virtu“, Silicone Valley overrides all morality with science and technology.
Ratzinger, who like Tiresias, perceived the scene, and foretold the rest—explained in his Subiaco address, how in the modern world the principle is now valid, according to which, man’s capacity is measured by his action. What one knows how to do, may also be done. There no longer exists a knowing how to do separated from a being able to do, because it would be against freedom, which is the absolute supreme value. But man knows how to do many things, and knows increasingly how to do more things; and if this knowing how to do does not find its measure in a moral norm, it becomes, as we can already see, a power of destruction.
Man knows how to clone men, and so he does it. Man knows how to use men as a store of organs for other men, and so he does it; he does it because this seems to be an exigency of his freedom. Man knows how to construct atomic bombs and so he makes them, being, in line of principle, also disposed to use them. In the end, terrorism is also based on this modality of man’s self-authorization, and not on the teachings of the Koran.
Until we escape from the delusion that we are masters of this universe, that we are orphans in this world and that we are answerable to no one but ourselves, then our fate will be to succumb to our inept regulations and continue to weave our way around them and wriggle our way out of them. This is the miserable human condition to which we condemn ourselves to by our arrogance.