Big principles and little lives
Among the many cogent points that Dr. Sylva made on Friday night, his thesis is what echoes in my mind and heart. Our founding fathers envisioned and birthed a nation that rested on two key principles, “ordered” liberty and the integrity of each person as expressed in Scripture. Ordered liberty is an exercise of freedom that is bound by objective moral truths, by responsibilities to God and others, by duties to a common good. Biblical integrity is the concept that affirms that each person is made in the image and likeness of God, and endowed, therefore, from beginning to end, and first and foremost, with an equal right to life.
The last half century has seen a replacement of these two principles with two others that threaten to fundamentally redefine our self-understanding as a nation. Ordered liberty has given way to radical autonomy (“I am my own measure of right and wrong. I determine my own morality. There is no objective criterion to make judgments about my choices. I am, in effect, my own God.”) and biblical integrity has given way to utility (“I have value as long as I am useful, as long as I am not a drain of resources on others, as long as I do not impinge on the radical autonomy of others.”). Our country’s devolving views on children in the womb and the aged and infirm, and on family and marriage issues are patent examples of this shift in our guiding principles.
The antidotes to this “devolution” are love for our Catholic faith and its teachings, a reasonable and compelling proclamation of that in the exercise of our political responsibilities and in presentations like Dr. Sylva’s, and living “the little Catholic lives” that he encouraged and strives to live himself.