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Which way Will the Freedom Trail lead?

By: Rev. Mr. Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC


"Now, we're starting with you Colorado! But when we leave here today, we're heading east, blazing America's freedom trail all the way to Boston...And then to Boston, where we're going to make another revolutionary stand for America." John Kerry

"God gives everyone freedom, a freedom which possesses an inherently relational dimension. This is a great gift of the Creator, placed as it is at the service of the person and of his fulfillment through the gift of self and openness to others; but when freedom is made absolute in an individualistic way, it is emptied of its original content, and its very meaning and dignity are contradicted." Pope John Paul


I was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts. I love Boston and I treasure my memories of growing up in the Bay State. Boston and the people of Massachusetts have a proud heritage of being freedom fighters, throwing off the yoke of oppression and standing up for authentic freedom. That is why the emerging theme of the Democratic candidates of blazing the "freedom trail" is so appealing.

That is, if it were not so frightening.

Why do I say that? Because, like many vital words in our age, the word freedom is being re-defined in an act of what the late, great C. S. Lewis rightly called "Verbicide." In his Book entitled "Studies in Words" Lewis coined the word to refer to the murder of a word and its redefinition as a part of a party platform. Well, as my dear mother from Dorchester still says, "If the shoe fits..."

In the past, when I have written concerning the fundamental human rights issue of our age, the right to life, I have referred to the current assault against words as "verbal engineering" and noted that it is often just the first step in social, legal, political, and cultural engineering moving us toward a cultural revolution. With a sense of foreboding about this election, I now issue this warning again. As I follow this campaign, I am gripped with an eerie fear that we are, in the words of that famous song by a band of my generation, "The Who", about to get "fooled again." The word freedom is being redefined!

I learned long ago as a human rights lawyer that the one who frames the issue first - and most effectively - often wins the cause or case. The most egregious example of the effective use of Orwellian doublespeak, at least in my lifetime, was the phrase "pro-choice". It was designed strategically as an acceptable "re-description" of those who advocate abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy. It has wreaked devastation.

The actual origins of the phrase "pro-choice" are instructive as we get ready to hear speeches about a notion of "freedom" that propose ideas that will actually lead to new forms of slavery.

I know one of the masterminds of the "pro-choice" propaganda campaign. He helped to think of the phrase "pro-choice", along with other abortionists, over cocktails one night. Years, and thousands of abortions later, he discovered the truth about what he was really doing through the use of emerging sonogram technology while performing abortions. He became a "pro-life atheist" and stopped the killing. I was grateful for his pro-life witness back then because it proved a vital point, that the pro-life position is not simply a "religious" position but a human position.

Science has since only further confirmed what our conscience has long known; the child in the womb is our neighbor. Just recently we all saw the pictures from London showing the child in the womb walking, moving, sleeping and being, well human. We all watch the daily reports on the Peterson trial and know that, whoever committed this horrid act, committed two murders. Yet, we continue to hide behind the "verbicide" that covers over the homicide of procured abortion, not only calling it a "choice" but a "right."

What a powerful weapon this phrase has become for the proponents of death on demand through all nine months of the childs residence in the womb. Anyone who questions whether it is ever the right choice to take innocent human life has now been labeled "anti-choice", not "pro-life". See how effective verbicide can be? After all, who wants to be perceived as against "choice"?

My friends' tenure as a pro-life atheist was short lived. Truth drew him to the One who is Truth. He became a Christian and was baptized into the Catholic Church. To this day he still does penance for the impact that this simple turn of a phrase had on catapulting the current culture of death into predominance.

To oppose "choice" sounds so "intolerant", it seems to strike at the heart of our freedom loving character as Americans. That is why it has also been so effective. The aftermath of this example of "verbicide" has been the current culture of death. We now call the intentional killing of our first neighbor, in the first home of the whole human race, the womb, a "right." Yet, some choices, like the taking of innocent human life, at any age or stage, are always and everywhere wrong, even if an errant Supreme Court has temporarily removed any civil penalty. Rights such as the right to life are not conferred by government but endowed by God.

What if the law were to change next month and allow one the "choice" to kill a disabled infant after delivery, calling it "mercy"? Or for that matter, what about the severely disabled? Most sane people of good will would still insist that such "choices" would never be right, insisting rightly that such horrid acts, even if "allowed" in the civil law, would be anything but "mercy", a wrong 'choice" and should be prosecuted!

Yet, some of the proponents of the expanding concept called the "right to choose", enamored with the notion of an autonomous self and infected with a view of "freedom" as a raw power over others, are actually seeking to expand this newly discovered "right to choose" as a part of their notion of "freedom". Calling these acts "a choice", rather than barbarism, they march ahead in their crusade of death on demand. Drunk on a misguided notion of "freedom", unmoored from truth and our obligations in solidarity, they fail to hear the cry of the ones whom Mother Teresa rightly called "the poorest of the poor."

Insisting that civil society respect the right to life of every single human person at every age and stage is not simply a "religious" issue. Life is the first and fundamental right and therefore the very basis of all other rights. Without the freedom to be born there can be no freedom trail to even follow.

Americans once understood that there are two sides to freedoms coin of exchange in our society. It is both a "freedom from" and a "freedom for". In other words, we are never truly "free" when we define "choice" as the right to do wrong and fail to defend those who have no voice.

Words have consequences. Redefining them is usually a part of a wider strategy. We need to listen carefully and not be seduced by words like "freedom" that sound so appealing...particularly when they are being re-defined! We are all living through another recent example of "verbicide" with its intended social and cultural revolutionary effects.

One has only to watch the daily news to see that there is a well funded and growing effort by a small fringe element of the radical "homosexualist" movement to force legal recognition (and legal equivalency) of homosexual unions on the rest of society. The goal is clear, the total re-ordering of civil society through the redefinition of another word, "Marriage". Homosexual paramours, or for that matter, heterosexual paramours, are not a "marriage" even if the Supreme Court of Massachusetts says so. We all know it. Proponents of this effort to redefine the word "marriage" have a clear social, legal, cultural, political strategy.

In philosophy there is a helpful and insightful word, "ontology". It refers to the essence of a thing. A cabbage is not a rock. A dog is not a man. Words have meaning. An effort to steal them, re-define them and then use them to advance an agenda that is contrary to their essential meaning is not new. It has happened throughout history.

Perhaps the worst demonstration of this phenomenon of "verbicide" may soon unfold in my old home State. The candidates of a formerly great party that once cared about all of the poor, including children in the womb, is attempting to take the word "freedom" and then lead us on a trail. In so doing they are committing another act of "verbicide", redefining another precious word. What is truly frightening is they just may succeed in winning this election by doing it!

Our National moral compass seems to have lost its arms of guidance. Our compassion has been so dulled by our own self indulgence that we may actually buy this effort to re-define "freedom" as a right to do whatever we choose with no reference to a moral constitution, a set of "oughts", such as the recognition of those "inalienable rights" that once informed our fundamental view of freedom. Unless we wake up, we may find ourselves in trouble, even more trouble than we are already in.

What really worries me bout the prospects of this appeal to the "Freedom Trail", and the "values" rhetoric of these candidates, is how gullible and vulnerable so much of the electorate has become. This is not just a "Democrat" problem. I know there are pro-life and pro-family Democrats. However, they are not running for the highest office of our land. Also, they were not allowed to speak at this convention in Boston under the rigid, authoritarian rule of those who currently control the Democratic Party.

I have often written of my reluctance to be identified with the term "Republican." I left the Democratic Party years ago when it lost its right to claim to be the party of the poor by championing an unencumbered "right" to abortion. The last great Democrat I could support was Governor Bob Casey. I have often supported pro-life Republicans. I would welcome an opportunity to support another truly pro-life Democrat.

The real reason I am so concerned is more than simply the current hijacking of the Democratic Party by cultural revolutionaries. I believe that the Republicans have real and substantial problems in this election. Let me posit a possible reason for their current challenges. One has only to examine the line up for the speakers at the Republican convention in New York. It seems to confirm that many of us who have voted for Republicans precisely because of life and family issues, simply do not matter much and are being taken for granted. If the Republicans actually wanted to turn folks like me (and "my people") off - they could not have done a better job. I know many wonderful pro-life, pro-family and pro-poor folks who are talking about not voting at all!

We have always been afraid that the Republican Party never really cared about people as much as they did about property. Oh, I know, some of this is a stereotype and there have been some notable changes on this front. We admire this administrations efforts to encourage faith based and community initiatives. However, let's face it, the Republican Party has not done the best job in overcoming the notion that it is the party of big business over the "little guy".

The fact that Republicans have, at least more often than Democrats, stayed faithful to the fundamental human rights of our age, the right to life, is what has led many people like me to support and vote for Republicans so often. Also, at least this Republican administration has defended the primacy of marriage and family as the first vital cell of society although some of the other party leaders showed their true colors on the recent vote over the Federal Marriage Amendment. The line up of speakers for this convention does not show the Parties commitment to these fundamental issues.

Additionally, many of us are deeply concerned about the emerging "neo-conservative" public policy of justifying "pre-emptive" wars. Of course Saddam Hussein was a horrible tyrant, but so are many others throughout the world. We opposed the prosecution of this War in Iraq because we were not convinced that it fit any criteria of the "Just War" theory. We are still not convinced. We have NOT bought any of the efforts to spin the initial foray into Iraq as "justified". However, we are Patriots and we want to see the Iraqi situation end well for our troops and for the good people of Iraq.

I have had deep reservations about this War from its inception and have been publicly outspoken about them. In so doing, I have incurred the wrath of some fellow Catholics who have supported the Iraq war even after the Holy See raised serious reservations about it. From the way I see it however, there is really not much of a difference between the major candidates on that issue going forward. The Republican emphasis on the war in its campaign rhetoric is not helping. If anything, it is feeding the reservations of many about their intentions in the future.

Finally, the Republican efforts to paint the other ticket as "sold out" to special interests because one of their candidates was a very good trial lawyer is gaining very little traction among us. There are plenty of "special interests" to go around and their influence is entrenched in both major parties. Neither can claim to be free of that taint. It is very easy to expose either party's claims to be untouched by these dollars.

In a strange turn of events, the theme that the Democrats have chosen for their convention is the fundamental issue of this election, that great idea called "freedom." What will freedom truly mean to us as a people as we enter this new American Century and this Third Millennium? The candidate who espouses the true vision of freedom and is able to communicate it to the American people will win the election.

It seems to me that if there was ever an election that called for a careful understanding of a hierarchy of values and the exercise of prudential judgment by well-informed voters, this one is it.

Which way will the Freedom Trail lead? That really depends on what Freedom means.

In his prophetic encyclical letter on the Dignity of Life, entitled "The Gospel of Life", Pope John Paul warned of a "counterfeit notion of freedom" and the emergence of a "tyrant State." I will end this article with a lengthy quote from that letter because it is so trenchant and insightful as we approach the upcoming election:


"When freedom, out of a desire to emancipate itself from all forms of tradition and authority, shuts out even the most obvious evidence of an objective and universal truth, which is the foundation of personal and social life, then the person ends up by no longer taking as the sole and indisputable point of reference for his own choices the truth about good and evil, but only his subjective and changeable opinion or, indeed, his selfish interest and whim.

"This view of freedom leads to a serious distortion of life in society. If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself. Thus society becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds. Each one wishes to assert himself independently of the other and in fact intends to make his own interests prevail. Still, in the face of other people's analogous interests, some kind of compromise must be found, if one wants a society in which the maximum possible freedom is guaranteed to each individual. In this way, any reference to common values and to a truth absolutely binding on everyone is lost, and social life ventures on to the shifting sands of complete relativism. At that point, everything is negotiable, everything is open to bargaining: even the first of the fundamental rights, the right to life.

This is what is happening also at the level of politics and government: the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the people-even if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the "right" ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part.

In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism.

The State is no longer the "common home" where all can live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but is transformed into a tyrant State, which arrogates to itself the right to dispose of the life of the weakest and most defenseless members, from the unborn child to the elderly, in the name of a public interest which is really nothing but the interest of one part.

The appearance of the strictest respect for legality is maintained, at least when the laws permitting abortion and euthanasia are the result of a ballot in accordance with what are generally seen as the rules of democracy. Really, what we have here is only the tragic caricature of legality; the democratic ideal, which is only truly such when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person, is betrayed in its very foundations.

How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted? In the name of what justice is the most unjust of discriminations practiced: some individuals are held to be deserving of defense and others are denied that dignity? When this happens, the process leading to the breakdown of a genuinely human co-existence and the disintegration of the State itself has already begun.

To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom: "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin" (Jn.8:34)." The Gospel of Life, (Evangelium Vitae) at #19,20


America needs to follow the trail to true and authentic freedom. We will never be truly free until we build a culture of life and a civilization of love. It is time to expose this new campaign of "verbicide" which has the word "freedom" in its grasp. For my friends who are considering not voting (and yes there are MANY), please remember that our votes do indeed count. Please carefully consider which campaign best, in the balance, proposes a message of authentic freedom.

Which way will the freedom trail lead?

We will soon make that choice.


Deacon Keith Fournier is a married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond. He is a human rights lawyer and a graduate of the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He is the founder and Thomas More Fellow of the Common Good Movement. The author of seven books, he recently wrote "The Prayer of Mary: Living the Surrendered Life" which will be released before Christmas.


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