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From Reagan to Ratzinger: Diagnosing the Root Cause of Subhumanism

From Reagan to Ratzinger: Diagnosing the Root Cause of Subhumanism

Catarina Carneiro de Sousa

Jason Jones and John Zmirak - published on 12/02/13 - updated on 06/08/17

Both the former president and former pope knew that liberty, misconceived, leads men and women to self-hatred and the culture of death.

A once-controversial, now-beloved American president spoke out bluntly about the inexorable creep of Subhumanism only two years after taking office—though he didn’t use the word. Too few stalwarts in his political party, which still venerates his image, remember what Ronald Reagan wrote in 1983:

“Abortion concerns not just the unborn child, it concerns every one of us. The English poet, John Donne, wrote: ‘. . . any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’

“We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life — the unborn — without diminishing the value of all human life. We saw tragic proof of this truism last year when the Indiana courts allowed the starvation death of ‘Baby Doe’ in Bloomington because the child had Down’s Syndrome….

“The real question today is not when human life begins, but,
What is the value of human life? The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother’s body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being. The real question for him and for all of us is whether that tiny human life has a God-given right to be protected by the law — the same right we have.”

How was it that such a fundamental right could be obscured?  Being brutally candid, we can say that such a forgetting was willful and conscious, an example of empathy failing in the face of selfish desires wrapped up in Utopian slogans: With the rise of contraception and the apparent defeat of “venereal diseases” by antibiotics, modern man (we choose that noun advisedly) saw the glimpse of a promised land of sexual freedom that had eluded wistful libertines throughout human history: Sex could be freed from its biological moorings and used as a pleasure balloon. Unhinged from commitments that outlast fleeting desire, unburdened by reproduction, without the ballast of guilt and shame, what advocates hopefully labeled “free love” could serve the cause of Progress, dissolving the unwanted social bonds and inherited social structures that the New Left saw as repressive: the nuclear family, the church, and “bourgeois” codes of behavior.

Indeed, in the 1960s there were relatively few student activists who were well-versed in Marx and Engels, or more than passingly interested in improving the lot of the “workers.” Instead, the New Left cannily channeled youthful rebellion toward the barriers to pleasure. The hard-won peace and prosperity that the World War II generation had scraped together from the rubble, amidst the graves of more than 60 million dead, seemed to prosperous young Westerners a mere entitlement of birth; few apart from reactionaries and churchmen thought to warn how fragile social order would prove when the acid of adolescent desire was applied to its bricks and mortar.

There was just one snake in the garden—the inconvenient fact that human beings are mammals, and reproduce the species through sexual intercourse. The human reproductive system is cunning, and over time will defeat most methods of contraception. (If your failure rate is “only” 10 percent, and you fool around for ten years…even Americans can do that kind of math.)  The result was that the rise of birth control was accompanied by an explosion of unwanted pregnancies—the increase of promiscuity always outracing the improvements in contraception. By the middle 1960s, the barrier to sexual liberation was no longer the tut-tutting of priests and prudes, or the fear of social disgrace, but a constant crop of squalling, unwanted infants. The progressive movement to free man from every obstacle to his desires was suddenly faced with a purely human obstacle—the reverence that pregnant women felt toward their very own unborn children.

A feminist movement which had begun with Susan B. Anthony calling abortion a monstrous crime that men imposed on women adopted instead the ethic which Simone de Beauvoir had cribbed from her abusive lover, Jean-Paul Sartre: a search for self-liberation from every societal bond or external influence, which entailed women reengineering their sexuality to match that of “playboy” males. Abortion went from an illegal convenience mainly favored by single, promiscuous males to a fundamental human right demanded by female activists, and favored with quiet philanthropy by population controllers, such as the Rockefeller Foundation—whose alarmist reports, with strong overtones of eugenics, would influence Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe v. Wade.

Just as owners of slaves during the Enlightenment found “scientific” rationales for the immoral practice on which their own “liberty” rested, so sexual libertarians looked for support in the tenets of modern Subhumanism. Then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger exposed the dynamics in his famous essay, “The Problem of Threats to Human Life,” which traces the role of misinterpreted liberty in creating our culture of death:

“If we look briefly at the modern age, we face a dialectic which continues even today. On the one hand, the modern age boasts of having discovered the idea of human rights inherent in every human being and antecedent to any positive law, and of having proclaimed these rights in solemn declarations. On the other hand, these rights, thus acknowledged in theory, have never been so profoundly and radically denied on the practical level….

“The fundamental dogma of the Enlightenment is that man must overcome the prejudices inherited from tradition; he must have the boldness to free himself from every authority in order to think on his own using nothing but his own reason….

“The idea of the good in itself is put outside of man’s grasp. The only reference point for each person is what he can conceive on his own as good. Consequently, freedom is no longer seen positively as a striving for the good which reason uncovers with help from the community and tradition, but is rather defined as an emancipation from all conditions which prevent each one from following his own reason. It is termed ‘freedom of indifference’…

“An individualistic type of anthropology, as we have seen, leads one to consider objective truth as inaccessible, freedom as arbitrary, conscience as a tribunal closed in on itself. Such an anthropology leads woman not only to hatred toward men, but also to hatred toward herself and toward her own femininity, and above all, toward her own motherhood.

“More generally, a similar anthropology leads human beings to hatred toward themselves. Man despises himself; he is no longer in accord with God who found his human creation to be ‘something very good’ (Gn 1:31). On the contrary, man today sees himself as the destroyer of the world, an unhappy product of evolution. In reality, man who no longer has access to the infinite, to God, is a contradictory being, a failed product. Thus, we see the logic of sin: by wanting to be like God, man seeks absolute independence. To be self-sufficient, he must become independent, he must be emancipated even from love which is always a free grace, not something that can be produced or made. However, by making himself independent of love, man is separated from the true richness of his being and becomes empty. Opposition to his own being is inevitable. ‘It is not good to be a human being’—the logic of death belongs to the logic of sin. The road to abortion, to euthanasia and the exploitation of the weakest lies open.”

The solipsistic, “create-your-own-world-ex-nihilo” quality of Subhumanist morality would become clear only one year after Ratzinger wrote those words, in the logic of the Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), whose key passage is this: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Think about that assertion for a moment. Does the “heart of liberty” include my “right” to define “my own concept” of liberty, too? And what if my concept doesn’t match yours—whose will prevail? And if each of us defines his own concept of meaning, how do we know what the court’s decision means when we read it? If I have a different concept of “the universe” than you do—as is my right—does that mean I can deny the existence of gravity and shove you out the window? According to the Supreme Court, it does, as long as you haven’t been born yet.

What the Court presents as the noble logic of American liberty is in fact a string of incoherent babble, dressed up in the language of rights, which if taken seriously would make it impossible not just to govern, but to communicate or even think. It is delusion, grounded in wilfullness, the madness that follows a tantrum. It’s the outcome when your only axiom, finally, is, “I will not serve.”

Jason Jones is a producer in Hollywood.  His films include Bella, Eyes to See, and Crescendo. Learn more about his human rights initiatives at

John Zmirak is the author of The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Catechism. His columns are archived at The Bad Catholic’s Bingo Hall. This column is from Jones’ and Zmirak’s upcoming book, The Race to Save Our Century (Crossroad, 2014).

AbortionPope Benedict XVIPracticing MercyPro-life
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