Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

2/18/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Those Catholics in politics who ask whether -this is a hill worth dying on- are usually reluctant to die on any hill, much less recognize the moral high ground in the first place

Like that of Socrates, St. Thomas More's dilemma is easily translated to the challenges facing Catholics who enter politics in the 21st century. For 50 years, Catholic politicians have been required to make a choice between life and death; first the abortion issue, then the abortifacient contraception issue, and soon it will be euthanasia. Voting records tell the tale of who chose life and, in doing so, chose to risk losing elections rather than putting principle aside (usually to some deep, dark hole in their private conscience). Those Catholics in politics who ask whether "this is a hill worth dying on" are usually reluctant to die on any hill, much less recognize the moral high ground in the first place.  When "electability" trumps all other considerations, defeat on election day doesn't leave the candidate lying on a hill representing the principles she fought for. No, she is simply forgotten, because there is nothing left to remember. Those who compromise and lose leave no legacy, no inspiration, their loss has no afterlife of gain.

Those Catholics in politics who ask whether 'this is a hill worth dying on' are usually reluctant to die on any hill, much less recognize the moral high ground in the first place.

Those Catholics in politics who ask whether "this is a hill worth dying on" are usually reluctant to die on any hill, much less recognize the moral high ground in the first place.

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/18/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Crisis Magazine, Barbara Comstock, faithful citizenship, abortion, contraception, moral coherence, conservatism, National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru, sophistry, catholics and politics, Deal W. Hudson


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - The recent debate over the inconsistencies in Barbara Comstock's pro-life record has gotten me thinking about the old adage, "Is this hill worth dying on?" Its origins are military, but its usage is most often political, as when candidates are forced to decide what principles are worth holding onto even if losing the election is the result. 

The question is venerable and ancient: Socrates in Plato's Apology faced a choice of accepting a death sentence for a crime he did not commit or accepting an easy escape from his Athenian jail to an adjacent city state. To his friends pleading for him to escape, Socrates explained, "But I suggest, gentlemen, that the difficultly is not so much to escape death; the real difficulty is to escape from doing wrong."

"Escape from doing wrong." The phrase suggests life itself is a trial where each day we face the temptation to forget moral principles for the sake of utility, whether to succeed or to win, in short, to avoid suffering from the consequences of seeking what is good in the face of danger.  Those who reliably do what is good in spite of the consequences are called, in classical terms, the courageous.  Those who abandon principles when they become inconvenient or costly are called the opposite, cowardly.  

Socrates chose the ultimate consequence, his own death, in order to exemplify what he had taught his entire life, that a virtuous life was more important than any worldly wealth, honor, or plaudit.

In his classic book, The Death of Socrates (1947), Catholic philosopher Romano Guardini points out the many parallels between the example of Socrates and Jesus Christ who also could have chosen to escape from a death he did not deserve.  Guardini, writing with the wisdom of the Patristic Father, observes the "ultimate, almost absolute meaning" of Socrates' choice, representing a "deep piety that comprehends its own existence on the basis of God's word."

In other words, the life of Socrates exemplifies one that treated a moral absolute as a "hill worth dying on."  In the time of Socrates, those who scorned putting principles first were called "sophists," those who had only the appearance of wisdom.  The sophistry of the Sophists, however, did not die with Socrates but has persisted under various guises throughout human history. 

Many readers will recall the scene from A Man for all Seasons when St. Thomas More says to his son in law, Richard Rich:

"and when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around on you--where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast--man's laws, not God's--and if you cut them down...d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake."

It attests to the power of modern cinema that the essence of Plato's Apology could be captured and embedded in millions of minds without anyone having to read a page, whether in English or Ancient Greek. Indeed, when students are asked to meditate through film on the moral corruption incited by political ambition or simply pure greed, it's this film that is chosen.

Both Socrates and More chose a "hill to die on" and "escape from doing wrong" rather than escape death.  Both were heroic choices, which left their friends baffled and their enemies elated, but at the distance of history we see their "loss" as a "gain" for all of us. What we gain is this: Heroic choices, though they look impractical and foolish, when made plant a seed of human hope for the future. The human person will never be so crushed and disillusioned that they recognize no more hills "worth dying on."

Like that of Socrates, St. Thomas More's dilemma is easily translated to the challenges facing Catholics who enter politics in the 21st century. For 50 years, Catholic politicians have been required to make a choice between life and death; first the abortion issue, then the abortifacient contraception issue, and soon it will be euthanasia. Voting records tell the tale of who chose life and, in doing so, chose to risk losing elections rather than putting principle aside (usually to some deep, dark hole in their private conscience).

Those Catholics in politics who ask whether "this is a hill worth dying on" are usually reluctant to die on any hill, much less recognize the moral high ground in the first place.  When "electability" trumps all other considerations, defeat on election day doesn't leave the candidate lying on a hill representing the principles she fought for. No, she is simply forgotten, because there is nothing left to remember. Those who compromise and lose leave no legacy, no inspiration, their loss has no afterlife of gain.

© Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

-----
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, will begin broadcasting in February on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More U.S.

The youngest convicted murders released from jail after 15 years Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

At just 12 and 13-years-old, two siblings confessed to killing their father's girlfriend and both were charged with first-degree murder as adults, despite evidence they were sexually abused by a family member. Yesterday, the two first faced the world they once knew. ... continue reading


Satanic statue secretly unveiled in Detroit, drawing Christian protest Watch

Image of Satanists secretly unveiled a nine-foot, one-ton statue of Baphomet, the horned devil god of satanic practice in an undisclosed location in Detroit this past weekend.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Satanists secretly unveiled a nine-foot, one-ton statue of Baphomet, the horned devil god of satanic practice in an undisclosed location in Detroit this past weekend. This has spurred on heavy protest from the city's Christian community. Hundreds gathered at Detroit's ... continue reading


Will Pope Francis be warmly welcomed in the United States? Watch

Image of Pope Francis will be in the United States in September.

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis will visit the United States for the first time ever in his lifetime during September. However, amid the excitement, the American populace may have lost some warmth towards the pontiff, who they once believed revived the Catholic Church in the country. ... continue reading


Will religious beliefs be acknowledged when Boy Scouts starts allowing gay leaders, volunteers? Watch

Image of Jennifer Tyrrell of Bridgeport, Ohio, a Cub Scout den leader who was kicked out in 2012 for being openly gay, embraces her son Cruz Burns.

By Kevin J. Jones, CNA/EWTN News

The Boy Scouts of America is moving to change its leadership standards in order to allow openly homosexual adult leaders and volunteers. While the organization promises that individual church-affiliated councils can choose their own leaders, at least one critic ... continue reading


THE THIRD VIDEO: The latest and most shocking footage of Planned Parenthood's abortion practices (WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO) Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

First there was a video revealing Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola casually discussing selling aborted baby organs over lunch, and admitting to using partial-birth abortions to get her hands on intact ... continue reading


Planned Parenthood HACKED, private employee information revealed Watch

Image of

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Planned Parenthood's website was hacked by a group of hackers who managed to gain access into Planned Parenthood and acquire the site's databases, including the names and email addresses of employees. These details were released by the hackers to the public. MUNTINLUPA ... continue reading


Threatening note promising revenge attacks found on U.S. military serviceman's car Watch

Image of The anonymous note comes just a week after the tragic shooting at military locations in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Under the windshield wiper of a car, owned by an unidentified serviceman, was a note warning the military of a revenge under investigation. Authorities believe the car was targeted because of the license plate identified the owner is a part of the military service. ... continue reading


Missouri Sheriff's 'inspiring' phrase on police patrol cars enrages atheists Watch

Image of Stone County police cars now have

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Missouri sheriff made the decision to adorn all of his station's police patrol cars with the words, "In God We Trust." It has quickly sparked up a major debate and inevitably, atheist activists are quite frustrated about it. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES -The Missouri ... continue reading


Humility not Haughtiness: Dana Milbank is Absolutely Wrong about Rick Santorum Watch

Image of Pictured: Rick and Karen Santorum at campaign launch

By Keith A Fournier

Dana Milbank was wrong in insinuating that Rick Santorum's use of the third person in referring to his campaign was akin to a - royal we. To the contrary, it reveals the heart of a humble man who deeply cares about others. Humility is such a rare quality these days ... continue reading


Does Planned Parenthood Contribute Anything of Value to Society?

Image of Margaret Sanger

By Matt C. Abbott

Granted, the Church's infallible teaching on the intrinsic immorality of contraception is derided by the libertine left, and too few Catholics assent to it. (At least some of the blame for this sad reality falls on weak and dissident clergy, but that's a subject ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Gospel, John 11:19-27
19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 29th, 2015 Image

St. Martha
July 29: "Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus." This unique ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter