There was a hope in the 1960s that the integrity of secular liberalism and its humanitarian values would dovetail with the mandates of the Gospel, making Church and State partners in the advancement of the material and spiritual welfare of mankind. Unfortunately, secular liberalism has continued on its own path. Far from becoming the friend to the Gospel envisioned by the Council Fathers at Vatican II, the modern liberal state has become host to a welter of nihilistic materialism and utilitarianism. As the liberal state moves further away from the Church, the balance between political secularism and free exercise shifts further and further toward the former, and the friendship once hoped for is replaced by hostility and oppression. Already there are a number of professions that cannot be occupied by Catholics in America. That number is increasing, and will continue to increase, as the state blesses the exclusion of Catholics from one area of public life after another.
In the present moment, that distinctively American Catholicism so lionized after Vatican II seems to have failed. For us, as American Catholics, this is rather embarrassing. With the pax between Church and State reaching its end, we need to re-think our political engagements and re-examine the foundations of the compromise, in order to better grasp the range of alternatives before us.
And so, the Benedict Option conversation spreads.
Yesterday I was talking to a Canadian pastor whose son is thinking about becoming a doctor. The pastor said that the Canadian Supreme Court declared that euthanasia is a right, and ordered the government to come up with a right-to-die law by this June. The final legislation is not expected to contain a conscience clause for doctors, Christian and otherwise, who want nothing to do with this form of killing. Wesley J. Smith writes:
Doctors aren’t the only ones threatened with religious persecution under Canada’s looming euthanasia regime. Provincial and federal commissions have both recommended that nurses, physician’s assistants, and other such licensed medical practitioners be allowed to do the actual euthanizing under the direction of a doctor.
This is particularly worrying from a medical conscience perspective, because it leaves no wiggle room to say no. For example, objecting doctors might be able to defend their refusals by claiming that the euthanasia requester is not legally qualified. Nurses, however, would not even have that slim hope, since they would merely be delegated the dirty task of carrying out the homicide. This leaves nurses with religious objections to euthanasia with the stark choice of administering the lethal dose when directed by a doctor, or being insubordinate and facing job termination. The same conundrum would no doubt apply to religiously dissenting pharmacists when ordered to concoct a deadly brew.
Even Catholic and other religious nursing homes and hospices may soon be required by law to permit euthanasia on their premises, for the federal commission recommended that federal and provincial governments “ensure that all publicly funded health care institutions provide medical assistance in dying.” That is a very broad category. Canada has a single-payer, socialized healthcare financing system that permits little private-pay medical care outside of nursing homes. Not only that, but as Alex Schadenberg, director of the Canada-based Euthanasia Prevention Coalition told me, “religiously-affiliated institutions [in Canada] have become the primary care facilities for elderly persons, those requiring psychiatric care, and dying persons. They are now being told that as a condition of providing those services they will be required to permit doctors to kill these very patients by lethal injection. If they refuse, they will find themselves in a showdown with the government.”
So what do you do, if you are a Canadian doctor, nurse, or other medical professional, who cannot allow yourself to be complicit in what you regard as a form of murder? You refuse, and go to jail. You quit your job and find another line of work. Or you emigrate to a country where you will be protected (for now, the US offers these protections).
All those outs require paying a massive personal cost. But this is what it means to live in a post-Christian society.
We Americans had better start having these Benedict Option conversations. What will you do when you are driven out of your profession, or, in some other way, the public square, because of your faith? For Canadian doctors, it’s very soon not going to be an abstract or alarmist question.
A reader wrote the other day, commenting on this passage from the most recent Prof. Kingsfield missive (the quote below is from Kingsfield):
We have to stop caring about what the world and the media think. They will call us bigoted no matter how loving, winsome, and fair-minded we are–see the actual Ryan Anderson vs the caricature of him, or the actual Doug Laycock vs. the activists’ efforts to subpoena his email and phone records. We have to figure out how not to care. And that will require far more withdrawal from mainstream media than most people can stomach.
The reader writes:
It is also hard, however, to separate this out from basic job security. I don’t care if I am liked. I do care if I can’t keep working at my company anymore because I am considered a toxic bigot. We are going to have to pray for prudence and shrewdness.
I have had further conversations with this reader about the nature of his work. In his company, to simply be known as someone who opposes same-sex marriage is to push hard against the margins of tolerance. The fact that he is an orthodox Christian on this issue marks him, even if he never says a word about homosexuality. He gave me some examples of what happened to another person in the company over this. I’m not going to talk about it, for the sake of privacy, but this reader is not exaggerating, at all.