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That Great Moral Bulwark…Russia?

Claudio Peri/Pool/AFP

Brantly Millegan - published on 12/16/13 - updated on 06/08/17

The United States has obvious moral problems. But is a former KGB agent really making Russia into the new moral compass of the world?

The Telegraph reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cast Russia as the moral arbiter of the world” last week during his annual state of the nation address.

“Mr Putin defended his government’s increasingly conservative values and decried the ‘review of norms of morality’ in the West and elsewhere. ‘This destruction of traditional values from above not only entails negative consequences for society, but is also inherently anti-democratic because it is based on an abstract notion and runs counter to the will of the majority of people,’ Mr Putin said, adding there could be no benefit for society for treating 'good and evil' equally.

“In his 70-minute televised speech from an ornate Kremlin hall, Mr Putin said traditional family values where a bulwark against ‘so-called tolerance – genderless and infertile.’”

Putin’s words come as the culmination of several noteworthy moves in the last year. Last February, Putin called for the Russian Orthodox Church to have more influence in Russia. He has led Russia in resisting the advance of the gay agenda: gay pride parades and the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to minors have been banned. And just this last November Putin met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. Pictures from the historic meeting show both Putin and Francis kissing an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As the caption to a meme based on the meeting put it:

“If you told a Catholic (or any person really) in 1959 that the Russian president would be kissing an image of Mary with the Pope, while the President of the U.S. of A. was supporting abortion, diminishing the embassy to the Vatican, drone warfare, the breakdown of marriage, invasion of personal privacy, spying on the foreign leaders, etc. they would probably think you were smoking whatever the 1959 equivalent version of crack was. Putin is no Saint, but strange days indeed that we live in…”

But not everyone is taking seriously Putin’s newfound moral leadership.

“Putin will do or say anything to promote his nation and his own power,” says Anthony Esolen, who teaches literature at Providence College. “Russia is not the moral compass of Russia, let alone the world.”

Author John Zmirak is similarly skeptical. “We must be suspicious of Putin using the Russian church to support his deeply imperfect regime, which rests on crony capitalism and semi-authoritarian tactics. Still, the Putin regime's policies are much more closely aligned to the natural law than those promoted by the Obama administration. Given that both men were trained as Marxists, Putin has come much closer to the vision of the good that animated the American founders than has our beloved president.”

Associate Professor of Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville John Bergsma sees some good things coming from Putin’s Russia but says major problems remain. “On the positive side, Russia has suddenly become an ally of pro-family NGO's at the UN, in particular being one of the few developed nations to speak or take action against the ‘sexual left’, the international pro-homosexual movement that seeks to glamorize homosexual activity and enshrine it as a human right. On the other hand, the Russian government still suffers from corruption at multiple levels, protection of human rights and adequate policing are lacking in various parts of Russia, and the Russian family structure has not recovered from decades of enforced atheist materialism.”

“Abortion is readily available, abortion and divorce rates are still far above those of the U.S., marriages are uncommon and short-lived. Ironically, Putin himself just divorced his wife earlier this year. So while the Russian ruling party is realizing the need for a return to laws that protect and promote the traditional family, the nation has a long way to go before it becomes an ideal society.”

Keep reading on the next page

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AbortionHomosexualityPoliticsPope FrancisRussia
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