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 May 2015
Universal:
That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbours who suffer, especially the sick and the poor.
Evangelization: That Mary's intercession may help Christians in secularized cultures be ready to proclaim Jesus.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More U.S.

MASSIVE OIL SPILL: Santa Barbara declares state of emergency over massive oil spill in Pacific Ocean Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

About 9 miles of the Pacific ocean, across a popular spot on the California coast, was damaged after a pipeline leaked massive amounts of oil in the water earlier this week.     MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - According to officials, up to ... continue reading


UC Santa Barbara massacre survivor speaks on the day's events and his journey to recovery Watch

Image of www.thisischriswhite.com

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The fateful night of May 23, 2014, Antoine Cherchian managed to survive being shot by the virgin killer, Elliot Rodger, during his killing spree at UC Santa Barbara. While Cherchian sustained fatal injuries, along with six other students murdered, he is thankful for ... continue reading


Crackdown by federal agents on 'Pill Mills' in four southern states Watch

Image of An average of 44 people in the U.S. dies every day from opioids. These drugs include Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Drug Enforcement Administration and other authorities are raiding pharmacies, pain clinics and other facilities in four southern U.S. states. It is all part of an aggressive crackdown on prescription pain drug abuse. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Matt C. Abbott: Why I wrote Pope Francis about an exorcist

Image of Father William S. Bowdern, S.J. Father Bowdern was the chief exorcist in the 1949 exorcism of Robbie, the teenaged boy whose case inspired William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel The Exorcist, which subsequently was made into a feature film.

By Matt C. Abbott

Here's one name I haven't heard mentioned in regard to possible canonization, yet it seems he'd be a good candidate: Father William S. Bowdern, S.J. Father Bowdern, who was born in 1897 and died in 1983, was the chief exorcist in the 1949 exorcism of "Robbie," ... continue reading


FBI lectures High school students on resisting ISIS recruitment Watch

Image of The FBI is planning to take its message to other schools in the Tri-State Area to reach kids at critical adolescent ages.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

High school students at Bergen County School, in Bergen County, New Jersey got a surprise lecture from FBI agents. They warned students away from sophisticated new techniques used by Islamic State to join their ranks. In particular, a new ISIS-produced video ... continue reading


Bin Laden's secret files: What we found and what's been released Watch

Image of The U.S. Department of National Intelligence has released a report of documents that were captured during the May 1, 2011 raid in Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. government has begun declassifying and releasing documents that were captured during the 2011 raid of Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan, and some of what has been released shows that America's number one enemy for almost a decade was obsessed with ... continue reading


Are there weapons aboard? U.S. Air Force space shuttle's secret contents no longer a secret Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. Air Force's X-37B space shuttle, launched into Earth's orbit, was revealed not to contain weapons as many feared. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - According to the published manifest, the space shuttle carries a new form of Hall ion-powered ... continue reading


Catholic University removes insensitive mural honoring convicted killer Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Marquette University in Wisconsin has officially taken down a mural of Assata Shakur, one of the FBI's most wanted. Shakur was convicted of killing a state trooper in New Jersey before fleeing to Cuba in 1973. The Catholic university's authorities were warned of the ... continue reading


As John Wayne would say, YO! America's biggest ranch up for sale for $725 million Watch

Image of  The Waggoner Ranch includes the 510,000-acre ranch spread over six North Texas counties, with two main compounds, hundreds of homes, about 20 cowboy camps, hundreds of quarter horses, thousands of heads of cattle, and 30,000 acres of cultivated land.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Waggoner Ranch, America's biggest ranch stretches over 510,000 continuous acres, or 796 square miles, making it a plot of land bigger than the island of Oahu and New York City. It is up for sale for $725 million. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Realtors are hoping ... continue reading


See what is REALLY killing Americans with macabre 'Death Map' Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While heart disease and cancer are the most common killers in the United States, a new map proves that these causes vary from state to state. Said "Death Map" shows the most distinctive cause of death, which is the rate higher than the national average. LOS ... 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

Reading 1, Acts 2:1-11
1 When Pentecost day came round, they had all met ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
1 Bless Yahweh, my soul, Yahweh, my God, how great ... Read More

Gospel, John 20:19-23
19 In the evening of that same day, the first day of ... Read More

Reading 2, First Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
3 Because of that, I want to make it quite clear to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 24th, 2015 Image

St. David I of Scotland
May 24: David, the youngest son of Scotlandís virtuous queen, (Saint) ... 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