Let Not the Hysterics Distract You

After thirty years living in Washington D.C., nothing – nearly nothing – politicians do surprises me. But when the king – sorry, president – of France and the British Prime Minister “express concern” (egged on by their clueless U.S. counterparts) over a Supreme Court decision about a Mississippi law that is less restrictive of abortion (15 weeks) than laws in their own countries, the usual political antics and lies aren’t all that amusing anymore.

The same can be said of the guerrilla theater in America’s most liberal cities (where abortion on demand still reigns), and in the media (where professional reporting has given way to Left advocacy on all things, all of the time), and the whole morass of lying and intimidation that flouts the rule of law and the institutions that enable an ordered liberty.

The hysteria of the pro-abortion supporters has, to use  their own vocabulary, been “socially constructed.” Almost all the hysterics would be less publicly distraught if their fathers, mothers, siblings, or friends died horribly in a fire.

I’m in Bratislava, the capital of the Slovak Republic, this week for our Summer Seminar on the Free Society, an educational program for American and European university students and young professionals, with participants from as far away as Australia and the Philippines. This was the brainchild of the late Michael Novak, one of the founders of The Catholic Thing and a prominent modern Catholic social theorist.

Novak realized that it wasn’t enough when Communism had finally fallen. By 2000, it was clear that nations like Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, also needed a better understanding of what a properly free society means – one dedicated to liberty not license, responsibility not self-indulgence, and truth not ideology.

He created the seminar and we at the Faith & Reason Institute have administered it for a decade. (It’s our 20th anniversary, delayed two years by Covid). It’s been interesting in many ways, not least because the program has had to shift from exposing the false assumptions of totalitarian systems to explaining the threats to liberty now growing within the West’s own “free societies.”


The callous disregard for human life in the womb, for instance, in almost all the developed world is the most flagrant evidence of how freedom and prosperity have corrupted us. We want what we want. And we’re not going to let the Western, Biblical, and American moral heritage tell us no.

I’m sorry to have to write that. I believe, despite everything, that there’s much in our civilization still worth fighting for. And the Dobbs decision helps: it allows moral debate and actual democratic procedures now on today’s most burning moral issue.

The fact that adhering to constitutional limits on government and a growing concern for human life in the womb are being portrayed as tyranny and infringements on “women’s rights” (Nota bene, half of dead babies are female) testifies to how far we’ve fallen from an understanding of what’s necessary to a viable, free society.

We’re going to see intense debates now – badly conducted for the most part – over abortion and the interests of that strange category of human beings called “women,” a term that the “woke” won’t define, though they’re sure “women’s rights” are paramount.

Site of the Summer Seminar on the Free Society

Praise for the Vatican, which did not ignore this moment, as might have been expected. The Pontifical Academy for Life – recent papal appointees notwithstanding – didn’t just praise Dobbs, but stated, “The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world.”

Yes, that America could actually change direction on this most murderous result of the sexual revolution, means that faith and reason have not entirely fled the developed world. So, Amen, brothers.

The pope spoke more indirectly. In his address to the World Meeting of Families in Rome this week, he said, “Let us not allow the family to be poisoned by the toxins of selfishness, individualism, today’s culture of indifference and waste, and as a result lose its very DNA, which is the spirit of welcoming and service.” Which in the byzantine language the Holy See often employs alludes, at least so we’re told, to the Dobbs decision.

Would that the pope and his advisors, woefully ignorant as they are about America, would now realize that appointing the go-along-to-get-along bishops that they have preferred lately in America does not help move along effective pro-life action. And won’t help other Catholic principles to prevail.

A seminar in session

Instead, we are still getting “Seamless Garment” generalities from Vatican spokesmen, such as Andrea Tornielli this week: “Being for life, always, also means defending it against the threat of firearms, which unfortunately have become a leading cause of death of children and adolescents in the U.S.” The Vatican’s “editorial director” apparently doesn’t know that those deaths are mostly inner-city gangs killing one another, rarely mere recklessness with guns.

And then there are the Catholic drips at publications like America and the National Catholic Reporter, who seem embarrassed by focusing on ending abortion without also promoting a whole laundry list of social programs. Yes, we also want to help new mothers; yes, we also want to support young children – but with an eye to the truth, confirmed by social science, that intact families do all those things better than government programs, which should only be a last, not first resort. So where’s the concern for promoting family and marriage?

And yes, we know of course, that conservative and pro-life politicians can sometimes be as big boobies and moral blowhards as their opponents. And that they may try to exploit the present moment for their own selfish interests.

But in America, we are not going to kill 1 million of our children annually now in mere absence of mind. That’s the main thing. The rest we’ll debate. And no one is going to make us lose sight of that.

And thanks be to God – and all those who labored for half a century – that this day has finally come.


You may also enjoy:

Randall Smith’s Conscience as Freedom from Truth?

St. John Paul II Freedom at war with nature (from Veritatis Splendor)

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.