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The Truth Will Get You Fired

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By DONALD DeMARCO

The United States leads the world in the number of mass homicides. Why this is the case is both disturbing and perplexing. After each of these recurring horrific episodes, a civic leader will step to the microphone and express his deep sorrow for the victims and his compassion for their friends and relatives. “This must stop,” he will say, but he also confesses that he cannot begin to comprehend why this senseless violence continues to take place.
“Our prayers and sympathies are with all those affected by this tragedy,” he will add. There are no new insights here, but a script that has been repeated often enough to become a standard response. It is accepted because it is expected. But the truth of the matter remains undisclosed.
He will not suggest that the acceptance of abortion could have an influence on mass murders. Killing innocent human beings is zealously promoted in America and its most ardent champion is the U.S. president. Is it unreasonable to suggest that a culture that allows the systematic killing of unborn human beings will, consciously or unconsciously, influence the killing of those who have survived the womb? Is it not unreasonable to suggest that American citizens can shield themselves from one tragedy so that it does not precipitate another?
Culture is a web. It is not composed of a series of locked doors. Commercial advertising itself is based on the notion that people will seek to imitate each other. Imitation also applies in the moral domain.
Unfortunately, if our speaker did make such a reasonable suggestion, he would risk losing his job. Feminists, liberal politicians, and abortion providers would be outraged. They would adamantly deny that there could be any connection between one form of mass murder and another. Human beings, nonetheless, as we have stated, are impressionable creatures. They look to others to guide their lives. The acceptance of sexual intimacy among the unmarried will surely have an effect on those who are married. Moral attitudes are not confined to a particular group. They are widely imitated.
When he was bishop of Denver, the Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., was bold enough to declare a connection between the acceptance of abortion on the one hand, and the tragedy at Columbine on the other. One act of violence begets another. Does not the violence shown on TV cross over into the violence on the street and in the schools? There has been much talk about the “seamless garment,” particularly in the context of advising pro-life advocates to oppose capital punishment as zealously as they oppose abortion. Could this notion also apply to opposing abortion as zealously as people oppose mass murder?
Flannery O’Connor stated that the truth will “make you seem odd.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said that our choice is “between truth and repose.” “The first reaction to truth is hatred,” said Tertullian. What this means, of course, is that one needs a heaping spoonful of courage in order to defend an unpopular truth. It is easy to conform to the masses. It is not so easy to stand alone, even when one is a beacon of truth.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn quickly became a nonperson when he told his audience at Harvard that America was experiencing a decline in courage. Citing a Russian proverb, he reminded the world of the essential importance of truth: “One word of truth outweighs the whole world.”
This lack of courage, the unwillingness to tell the truth, is by no means relegated to the secular world. The American Jesuit theologian and cardinal, Avery Dulles, once wrote that “the greatest danger facing the Church in our country today is that of an excessive and indiscreet accommodation.” How many Catholic bishops are courageous enough to denounce Catholic schools for making accommodations for the LGBTQ flag? How many will point out that, contrary to Catholic teaching, that it approves adultery, violates the Sixth Commandment, accepts acts that transmit deadly viruses, and honors role models that have an injurious effect on impressionable young people?
While the American flag is repeatedly dishonored in certain circles, the rainbow flag “still waves,” but not for the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
One bishop, among others, however, stands out. Archbishop Chaput, in his book, carrying the elongated title, Render unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, has remarked: “A kind of foggy worldliness has settled in the American Catholic soul. In effect, a great many Catholics keep the Catholic brand name, but they freelance what it means.” A Catholic, needless to say, cannot make much of a contribution to the world of politics if he simply conforms to its mistakes and bends to its lack of courage.
We talk about the importance of love. But when we do, we usually confine it to love between people. This is all well and good. However, we seem reluctant to speak about the love of truth. Pascal spoke for all ages when he said: “Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.” Truth is an attribute of God. To love the truth is one way of loving God.
Tragedies will continue unabated as long as people hide from the truth. But it is within the truth where the remedy lies. Conformity to the status quo will not bring peace of mind, but only the unrealistic hope that things will be better on their own in the future. The courage to be oneself should also manifest itself in the courage to serve others.

  • + + (Dr. Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus, St. Jerome’s University, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College. He is a regular columnist for St. Austin Review and is the author of thirty-nine books. His latest book, The 12 Supporting Pillars of the Culture of Life and Why They Are Crumbling, is posted on amazon.com. His fortieth book, Glimmers of Hope in a Darkening World, is in production.)
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