Jacob Rees-Mogg has caused outrage in the British media with a recent interview in which he described abortion as “morally indefensible” and restated the perennial Christian teaching on the nature of marriage. Members of his own party have been quick to disassociate themselves from him, with one Conservative MP describing his views as “abhorrent.” Under severe personal attack in the media and from fellow politicians, Rees-Mogg stuck to his guns. The interview should inspire conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic.
Rees-Mogg, in some quarters, has been touted as a potential Conservative leader. Although he denies being on maneuvers, his political pedigree has improved, and he continues to win over conservative voters at the grassroots level. His unashamed conservatism seems to have struck a chord. The son of a peer, and educated at Eton and Oxford, he has transformed from being something of a political joke to a far more serious proposition.
His opponents have used the interview to insist that for holding these opinions, Rees-Mogg is unsuitable for political office. Cathy Newman, a high-profile British news presenter, was quick to release an article in which she compared Rees-Mogg to Donald Trump and implied that his once-commonplace moral views should now make him a pariah. The knives are out for him, as they are for any moral conservative who puts his head above the parapet.
In Britain, this furor has come after a party leader had to step down because of his Christian beliefs. Tim Farron, until recently the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was constantly harangued and questioned by certain media figures (including Cathy Newman, interestingly) about his beliefs on homosexuality. Farron stated that his personal beliefs would not influence party policy, but that was not enough for the secular inquisition; he had to be hounded from his position.
It is Britain’s overtly Christian past that results in this hatred. The progressive mind dismisses all Christian influence on British history as reactionary and unjust, despite its being the ultimate force that underpins our civilization. Social changes have been imposed swiftly and severely, backed up by pressure on dissenters. The Left’s “long march through the institutions” has enabled this. The BBC’s founding as an objectively Christian corporation is now a sad joke; over the entrance of the Corporation’s old headquarters is inscribed, “This temple of the arts and muses is dedicated to Almighty God . . . ”
The modern political class is, with rare exception, terrified to step out of line with the prevailing liberal orthodoxy on moral issues. That is why there has been such a gross overreaction to Rees-Mogg’s interview. It should not be controversial that a Catholic states that he accepts Church teaching. Sadly, it is indeed a shock now when a Catholic politician does so; in America, the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden famously cast aside the teaching of their Church for political gain.
Under great pressure to conform, Rees-Mogg calmly outlined a sane defense of his positions on very controversial issues. He has put them back to the forefront of public debate, where they most certainly belong.
The rage at Rees-Mogg’s comments also betrays a great weakness in the secular liberal worldview, which is perhaps why the reaction has been so vociferous. Denouncing Christian teachings (especially on sexual morality) has become ubiquitous in political discussion, yet liberal beliefs on abortion, marriage, pornography etc. do not have firm moral or philosophical foundations. Concluding that you should “do anything you like if it doesn’t harm anyone else” doesn’t exactly provide a coherent answer to these issues. The irrational probing of Rees-Mogg in the interview displayed this well, with the interviewers unable to provide anything other than faux outrage and misinformation.
It has been said in some conservative quarters that the way in which Rees-Mogg expressed himself was problematic, but in a different sense. He stated that he holds his beliefs on abortion and gay marriage because they are Church teaching, and went no further than that. He did not mention the natural law, which is written on every human heart and which is the basis of the Church’s position on these issues. This, so the argument runs, plays into the hands of those who wish opposition to abortion and gay marriage to be beyond the pale in public discourse.
This argument is too harsh. Rees-Mogg, under great pressure to conform, calmly outlined a sane defense of his positions on very controversial issues. He has put them back to the forefront of public debate, where they most certainly belong. Conservatives should be glad. The fiction of “faith versus reason” should of course continuously be addressed, as this lie is perpetuated by those with vested political interests in the issues of abortion and marriage. Faith and reason are brothers; as St. John Paul II put it in his encyclical letter Fides et Ratio, “faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth.”
Ultimately, Rees-Mogg’s comments have been incredibly refreshing and have resonated with many conservatives in Britain. He refused to be struck dumb on issues sacrosanct to the liberal worldview. Too often in Britain, as in America, a pervasive social atmosphere of exclusion and distaste prevents those with conservative opinions from speaking their minds. In a political climate in which Christianity and traditional moral values are held in derision, we must calmly, rationally, and faithfully uphold our positions on such controversial issues. The “Honourable Member for the early 20th century” can teach us all a thing or two.