As the anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches on January 22, those who have long fought the important battle against abortion know that it is not only this issue that must be protested. Connected to abortion is a web of other nefarious practices that make up what has been aptly called the culture of death.
If we are to be consistent with the pro-life ethos, we must oppose all kinds of sexual immorality that conspire against marriage and the family. As Pope Pius XII declared, “Marriage alone safeguards the dignity of husband and wife and their good estate, and is of its nature the only guarantee of the children’s well-being.” To defend life we must uphold the sacred covenant of marriage.
We must also oppose contraception. It denies the primary purpose of marriage, which is procreation. Defending life includes opposing same-sex unions and the efforts to elevate this barren link to the status of life-giving marriage. Finally, when life is disregarded in its beginning, it is also attacked at its end as can be seen in the insistent promotion of euthanasia.
A Missing Core
All these opposing efforts must be an essential part of a successful pro-life struggle. However, it is one thing to fight against a culture of death, it is yet another to replace it with a different culture.
If we are to win this great battle, we must especially focus on restoring that vital core of values and principles that are incessantly attacked by our modern culture. We must play an active part in the restoration of this core lest it be lost.
For when this core is missing, things fall apart. Big government or big media are then not needed to destroy our moral values, institutions and our Christian roots. We actually help them do it. When there is no core, we ourselves open the doors, which allow a hostile culture to come charging in, undermining the family, morality and even economy. We ourselves initiate the processes whereby we start losing our freedoms, the economy becomes unraveled and the faith is destroyed in the souls of men. All this happens when there is no core and things become soulless.
Our society and culture become ever more soulless because people are caught up in what might be called the “frenetic intemperance” of our times. People come to desire everything immediately and effortlessly.
As a result, we have a culture that leads people to resent the very idea of restraint, especially sexual restraint. It further leads people to scorn the spiritual, religious, moral and cultural values that normally serve to order and temper society. Without this core, our society is heading for disaster.
Order: The First Need of the Soul
“Without order, one cannot be free,” continues Kirk. “Freedom, justice, law or virtue are all extremely important but order is the first and most basic need.”
If the pro-life struggle is to be truly effective, it must represent a return to order. Around the unborn child, we must raise a bulwark of order as our best defense against the aggressive culture of death.
When this framework of order exists, the influence of important institutions like family, community and Church can naturally serve as braking mechanisms that keep society in balance and facilitate the practice of virtue.
When there is order, it gives rise to “permanent things” such as those norms of courage, duty, honor, justice and charity that protect and give dignity to all life. It creates a society which owes its existence and authority not to markets or politicians—but to God Himself.
A Return to Order
Thus, we need a framework of order, but not just any order. There are all sorts of movements that propose order: socialist order, ecological order, and so many others that promise order yet fail to deliver it.
That is why we must return to order. We don’t have to invent an order. It already exists. It is nothing new. It is a social order that comes from our human nature itself, valid for all times and all peoples.
It is a social order that is not imposed; it cannot be regulated, stimulated or legislated into existence. It relies upon those natural regulating institutions inside society that always emerge when men resolve to unite in search of the common good. It is firmly based on the orienting principles of natural law, the Ten Commandments and rooted in the social institutions of family, community and faith. And although it applies to everyone, the Church is its best and most secure guardian.
The Best Expression of this Order
The best expression of this order is found in what can be called an organic Christian society—that same order that gave rise to the West. This organic Christian society is a return to our distant roots. It is where we came from. It is a society that historically existed in Christendom. It involves returning not to an historical past but a return to a core of ordering principles that brought us so many of the institutions that are now fading—rule of law, representative government, traditional family and subsidiarity.
What is needed is a Christian society. When an order is Christian it multiplies the possibilities of our action because we include God and His grace in partnership. The Christian ideal brings with it notions of charity, justice and dignity that simply did not exist in other civilizations. This makes it easier to practice virtue—especially the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance—and lays the foundation for true progress, freedom and prosperity—not only for Christians but also non-Christians.
A Framework of Order Is Needed
Let us therefore remember that our pro-life efforts need a framework of order that gives them support. The unborn child needs a bulwark of order as a defense against a hostile culture. Once born, the child needs order, which is the first need of the soul. We need a social order since without this order there can be no freedom, justice, law or virtue.
When disorder rules, all can be justified in the name of an unbridled license to do whatever one wants. Every restraint is thrown off and a culture of death becomes possible. Our goal must not only be an offensive against this culture of death, but also a return to order. We need to go back to that vital core. With the help of God, such a return is not only necessary but possible. Let us redouble our efforts and pray so that we, like the prodigal son, may soon return to the Father’s house.
John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Soceity--Where We've Been, How We Go Here, and Where We Need to Go. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.