The #1 Way to Know if You're Complicit in Atrocity
by Jennifer Fulwiler Wednesday, October 03, 2012 4:46 AM
The other day I was leafing through some old family papers, and I came across a document that showed that one of my distant ancestors owned a slave.
It was an unsettling moment, for reasons which you can probably guess. I felt sadness. Embarrassment. Shame at having that kind of mark on our family tree. I looked through more records and, fortunately, didn't find anything else like that. However, I wondered about my other ancestors who lived during that same time. Maybe they didn't own slaves themselves, but how did they go about their daily lives knowing that the enslavement of their fellow human beings was going on all around them? Why aren't their names in the history books as vocal abolitionists who refused to rest until justice reigned in their land? I shook my head, said a prayer for the souls of everyone involved, and put the document away.
Then, a few moments later, another reaction hit me, this one more immediate and unsettling than the one before.
When I had first seen the note that included a human being among my ancestor's possessions, I was consoled by a sense of distance: Yes, it was terrible that it happened, but at least we, as a society, learned our lesson from the whole sordid situation. At least I can take comfort in the fact that I would never be involved in anything like that.
But the delayed realization that hit me like a punch in the gut was the dreadful question: Am I so sure that I would have done anything differently?
We all want to believe that if we'd lived in 1712 instead of 2012, we'd have been tireless abolitionists. It's comforting to tell myself that if I lived in Nazi Germany I would have worked to thwart the despicable plans of Hitler's regime. If I were a Hutu in Rwanda in the 1990s, surely I would done all that I could to aid my Tutsi neighbors. If I lived in pagan Rome I just know I would have raged against the practice of abandoning unwanted infants to die alone.
But the review of those old family documents stripped all those assuring thoughts away, and left me with the stark awareness that people ignore great injustice all the time. In fact, when you look at cases of large-scale atrocities, you find that very few men and women recognized the situations as gravely concerning. Most people simply accepted them as the status quo.
A chill spread through me as I thought of all the people, my own relatives included, who looked the other way as crimes against humanity occurred in their countries, and even in their immediate communities. I know from the letters and diaries I've seen that these folks in my family tree were "good people" by anyone's standard. They loved God, their families, and did what they could to make the world a better place. If they could have let one of the greatest tragedies of human history play out all around them, and yet not recognize it as tragedy, what on earth makes me think that I'd have the clarity that they lacked? The odds are, I wouldn't.
So how would you know? Since it's so terrifyingly easy to go with the flow of whatever your culture says is okay, to let a sense of normalcy override any gut feelings that tell you there's a problem, how could you get the perspective to see it? What does it take to figure out that you and your family are on track to be the people in the faded photographs that future generations will look at and say, "How could they have let it happen?"
There is one litmus test that works every time.
The great atrocities of human history are varied and their details, as well as in the amount and type of human suffering involved. But there is one thing that every single one of them has in common: In each case, the victims were categorized as something less than human. Whether we're talking about slavery or infanticide or genocide, the only way that large groups of otherwise nice folks let it happen is because they'd come to believe that the the people being harmed were not really "people," in the traditional sense of the word. Good people don't put up with evil. Normal, upstanding citizens would never allow human beings to be killed or enslaved right under their noses. The only way that evil ever works is through word games, i.e. through lies.
Take a moment, look around, and ask, "Is there a term widely used in my society that is specifically designed to strip away the human dignity of a specific group of people?" This is a litmus test that would flush out hidden atrocities in every case. The Tutsi in Rwanda, the Jews and other ethnic minorities in World War, the newborns of pagan Rome, the African Americans in the early United States -- each one of these groups had labels applied to them that implied that they were subhuman.
So what happens if we apply this litmus test to our own age? Does such a label exist, one that should tip off all people of good will to the fact that something terrible is happening all around them?
I think that the answer is yes, and that that term is fetus.
Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jennifer-fulwiler/the-1-way-to-know-if-youre-complicit-in-atrocity#ixzz28EebtHL9
Bishop Paprocki warns of 'intrinsic evils' in Democratic platform
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill.
Springfield, Ill., Sep 27, 2012 / 02:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Drawing particular attention to the Democratic Party platform’s support for “intrinsic evils” like abortion and “same-sex marriage,” Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. has said Catholics need to “think and pray very carefully” about their votes in the upcoming election.
“My job is not to tell you for whom you should vote. But I do have a duty to speak out on moral issues,” Bishop Paprocki said in his Sept. 23 column for the Catholic Times diocesan paper. “I would be abdicating this duty if I remained silent out of fear of sounding ‘political’ and didn't say anything about the morality of these issues.”
He said that voting for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are “intrinsically evil and gravely sinful” makes a voter “morally complicit” and places the eternal salvation of his or her soul in “serious jeopardy.”
There are “many positive and beneficial planks” in the Democratic Party platform, the bishop said, but some promote “serious sins.”
In 2008, he noted, the platform dropped its call for abortion to be “safe, legal and rare” in favor of the language “safe and legal.” It now supports abortion “regardless of the ability to pay.” He said this means either taxpayer funding for abortion, mandatory insurance coverage, or coercion of hospitals to perform the procedures for free.
Bishop Paprocki added that the Democrats’ national platform supports “same-sex marriage,” deems gay rights to be “human rights” and calls for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act which defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman in federal law.
The bishop noted the existence of Republicans who support legalized abortion and others who support “same-sex marriage.” He said they are “equally as wrong as their Democratic counterparts” but their positions do not have official party support.
Bishop Paprocki also examined the Republican Party platform and found that it has “nothing in it that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin.”
The platform’s support for allowing courts the option of imposing the death penalty in capital murder cases is not inherently opposed to Church teaching. He cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching that the death penalty is permissible if it is the only possible way to defend human life.
Bishop Paprocki said that party differences about the needs of the poor and the challenges of immigration are “prudential judgments about the most effective means of achieving morally desirable ends, not intrinsic evils.”
He concluded his column with a prayer that God give Catholic voters the “wisdom and guidance to make the morally right choices.”
Subsidiarity, solidarity, and the lay mission
Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.
It was no shock at all for me to learn that our diocesan native son, Paul Ryan, had been chosen to be a candidate for the Vice Presidency of the United States. I am proud of his accomplishments as a native son, and a brother in the faith, and my prayers go with him and especially with his family as they endure the unbelievable demands of a presidential campaign here in the United States. It is not for the bishop or priests to endorse particular candidates or political parties. Any efforts on the part of any bishop or priest to do so should be set aside. And you can be assured that no priest who promotes a partisan agenda is acting in union with me or with the Universal Church.
It is the role of bishops and priests to teach principles of our faith, such that those who seek elected offices, if they are Catholics, are to form their consciences according to these principles about particular policy issues.
However, the formation of conscience regarding particular policy issues is different depending on how fundamental to the ecology of human nature or the Catholic faith a particular issue is. Some of the most fundamental issues for the formation of a Catholic conscience are as follows: sacredness of human life from conception to natural death, marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience, and a right to private property.
Violations of the above involve intrinsic evil — that is, an evil which cannot be justified by any circumstances whatsoever. These evils are examples of direct pollution of the ecology of human nature and can be discerned as such by human reason alone. Thus, all people of good will who wish to follow human reason should deplore any and all violations in the above areas, without exception. The violations would be: abortion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, same-sex marriage, government-coerced secularism, and socialism.
Where intrinsic evil is not involved
In these most fundamental matters, a well-formed Catholic conscience, or the well-formed conscience of a person of good will, simply follows the conclusions demanded by the ecology of human nature and the reasoning process. A Catholic conscience can never take exception to the prohibition of actions which are intrinsically evil. Nor may a conscience well-formed by reason or the Catholic faith ever choose to vote for someone who clearly, consistently, persistently promotes that which is intrinsically evil.
However, a conscience well-formed according to reason or the Catholic faith, must also make choices where intrinsic evil is not involved. How best to care for the poor is probably the finest current example of this, though another would be how best to create jobs at a time when so many are suffering from the ravages of unemployment. In matters such as these, where intrinsic evil is not involved, the rational principles of solidarity and subsidiarity come into play. The principle of solidarity, simply stated, means that every human being on the face of the earth is my brother and my sister, my “neighbor” in the biblical sense. At the same time, the time-tested best way for assisting our neighbors throughout the world should follow the principle of subsidiarity. That means the problem at hand should be addressed at the lowest level possible — that is, the level closest to the people in need. That again, is simply the law of human reason.
We can disagree on application
As one looks at issues such as the two mentioned above and seeks to apply the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, Catholics and others of good will can arrive at different conclusions. These are conclusions about the best means to promote the preferential option for the poor, or the best means to reach a lower percentage of unemployment throughout our country. No one is contesting here anyone’s right to the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, etc. Nor is anyone contesting someone’s right to work and so provide for self and family. However there can be difference according to how best to follow the principles which the Church offers.
Making decisions as to the best political strategies, the best policy means, to achieve a goal, is the mission of lay people, not bishops or priests. As Pope Benedict himself has said, a just society and a just state is the achievement of politics, not the Church. And therefore Catholic laymen and women who are familiar with the principles dictated by human reason and the ecology of human nature, or non-Catholics who are also bound by these same principles, are in a position to arrive at differing conclusions as to what the best means are for the implementation of these principles — that is, “lay mission” for Catholics.
Thus, it is not up to me or any bishop or priest to approve of Congressman Ryan’s specific budget prescription to address the best means we spoke of. Where intrinsic evils are not involved, specific policy choices and political strategies are the province of Catholic lay mission. But, as I’ve said, Vice Presidential Candidate Ryan is aware of Catholic Social Teaching and is very careful to fashion and form his conclusions in accord with the principles mentioned above. Of that I have no doubt. (I mention this matter in obedience to Church Law regarding one’s right to a good reputation.)
I obviously didn’t choose the date for the announcement of Paul Ryan’s Vice Presidential Candidacy and as I express my pride in him and in what he has accomplished, I thought it best to move to discussion of the above matters sooner rather than later. No doubt it will be necessary to comment again on these principles in the days ahead for the sake of further clarification, and be assured that I will be eager to do so.
Above all, let us beg the Lord that divisions in our electorate will not be deepened so as to have a negative impact on pre-existing divisions within the Church during this electoral season. Let there be the peace and reconciliation that flow from charity on the part of all. Thank you for reading this. God Bless each one of you! Praised be Jesus Christ!