But what about the U.S.? Can it still claim the moral high ground?
“Not in any way given abortion, pornagraphy, and the destruction of marriage,” says Church historian Fr. C. John McCloskey.
Esolen agrees. “[W]e in America sure are not the ‘moral compass of the world,’ since we have abjured the very notion of a moral law binding all people, in all ages. We are instead the amoral confuser of the world's compass; our money and power, and the immense gravitational pull of our degraded mass entertainment, overpower any feeble attempts by other peoples to orient themselves toward the truth. We are the sorts of people that our great-grandparents would not have wanted our grandparents to associate with.”
Zmirak stands by America’s founding principles but thinks they have been largely lost. “In political terms, the United States was a magnificent experiment in liberty. I fear that the liberty our ancestors treasured is slipping away, as more citizens seek the stifling security of a European-style welfare state, which imposes its secular values on every citizen by controlling ever larger swathes of the economy. (Soon there may be no more Catholic hospitals. How long will we be permitted Catholic schools?) Russia emerged from a hellish totalitarian system, and has made many strides in the right direction, even as we slide down the path to stagnation and bureaucratic tyranny.”
“Have the two countries met in the middle yet? I'll say this: Thanks to the HHS mandate, Russia is a freer country for Christians than the U.S. is. Appalling as that sounds, I'm afraid it's true. God help us.”
Is there a moral leader left in the world?
“Pope Francis has emerged as the world's conscience and moral compass,” says Bergsma. “Time magazine's designation of him as ‘Person of the Year’ is effectively a recognition of that fact.”
The following Aleteia Experts contributed to this article:
John Bergsma is Associate Professor of Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He specializes in Old Testament and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Anthony Esolen teaches Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College. A senior editor for Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, he writes regularly for Touchstone, First Things, Catholic World Report, Magnificat, This Rock, and Latin Mass.
Fr. C. John McCloskey is a Church historian and Research Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington DC. His personal website is www.frmccloskey.com.