This is, or should be, the question of the hour — the question that ought to be at the center of our lives, drawing on and demonstrating our purpose.
All the more so now, during an election season in which the White House has instituted a policy that puts unprecedented limits on the constitutional right to freedom of religion.
A conference at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, a Vatican think tank, yielded some related thoughts and warnings. The conference was convened in order to prepare for the 50th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris. The Pontifical Academy was founded in 1994 and is meant to facilitate a continuing dialogue between faith and reason, and between the social sciences and the social thought of the Church. The latter provides — in the words of Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy — “criteria for judgment” and “guidelines for action,” always keeping “the human person at the center of concern.”
To an American sitting in on the conference, some of its sessions amounted to a warning siren. A “religion of humanity” has taken hold of supposedly enlightened opinion and increasingly guides the judgments and actions, private and public, of people in the West, especially in Europe, cautioned Pierre Manent, a professor at the Centre de Recherches Politiques Raymond Aron. Manent continued,
This is not simply a fashion or opinion trend; it is a genuine large-scale project for governing the world through international rules and institutions, so that nations, losing their character as sovereign political bodies, are henceforth only ‘regions’ of a world en route to globalization, that is, unification. And, as formerly in the Communist conception of history, the is and the ought are regarded as coinciding: If you doubt that globalization is desirable, you will be told that it is irresistible and that you refuse to see reality; if you doubt that it is irresistible, you will be told that it is desirable and that you reject the evidence of the Good. In brief, ‘the world’ is presented to us as the supremely legitimate object of our desire. Such a proposition requires a serious effort of discernment.
“A religion of the absence of God is currently destroying and demoralizing the West,” Manent summed up.
He sounded his alarm at the same time as a full-scale political discernment of budgetary matters was beginning in the United States. The House Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan, has engaged in a debate over “social justice” that had long appeared to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Left.
This is both important and relevant. We live in a country that has long safeguarded religious freedom, believing it to be a good for the life of the nation. But current government policy suggests something else. President Obama and his administration have demonstrated a hostility to the free exercise of religion in the public square — except, that is, when it can be used to justify a policy dictated by the Left’s ideology regarding the size and scope of government.