The Source of Rights

At the source of the hottest debates throughout the last 50 years or so in our country is a presumption of “rights”.   It is the flag in which which the sexual revolution began and it is the banner for which  laws are proposed and mandates have been issued.    Some of the well known more recent slogans arising out of the sexual revolution are, for example, “Privacy Rights”, “Equal Protection Rights”, the “Right to Marry”, “Reproductive Health Rights” and, so on.

However, the most interesting thing, and the most troubling, is how the entire discussion from these advocates is disconnected from the actual source and context of “rights” in the Constitution, and the fact that these founding principles are  rooted in a divine being from whom all rights are given.   According to the Declaration of Independence upon which the Constitution is based, all human rights are “inalienable” granted to us by “the Creator”, with the most basic being “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”.   In other words, as  a country, we do not invent rights and no right can be contrary to those that are rooted in, and arising from, God Himself.   Any so called “right” that is detached from the divine source and these basic principles must be suspect in terms of motive, and must certainly be consistent, not contrary to, to the founding documents.   Thus, if “Life” is primary, then “Reproductive Health Rights” that involves the direct destruction of human life and the crush of liberty and religious freedom of its citizens is an invention and has no Constitutional protection to trump existing laws that protect life and liberty.   Roe vs Wade that relied on privacy arguments and allowed one person’s inconvenience to trump the life and liberty and pursuit of happiness of an innocent child is fatal from its very beginning.   From God come our values say our Declaration, from these values come principles, and from principles come laws for the common good.    This was the first 200 years of our history as a nation.

Now, it appears that many who work this flow in reverse are, in effect, severing themselves and the country from the very source of all rights and turn themselves into gods, inventing and then demanding home-grown rights.   This is done most effectively by placing a sheepskin on the wolf, the age old tool of sophistry, by using positive words like “rights” and “equality”, “fairness” and “tolerance” that cleverly dislodge and twist the virtues and traditional values imbued in the Constitution, and concealing something much darker and base at its core.    Absent from the modern discussion are the founding father’s terms of “virtue”, ‘prudence” and “morality”.   In the case of the sexual revolution and all the destruction it has wrought, it is posited this way:  “I have a ‘right’ to have sex with whomever I want, whenever I want, no matter what the effects on myself and others, and so the government must not only overlook any personal responsibility in controlling my destructive behavior, they must also pay for my abortions and free contraception, redfining marriage, and silencing any “religious” dissent to my behavior, etc., whatever is necessary for my sexual happiness.”   With this primary value, then by principle it is only “fair and equitable” that every means be given to ensure everyone has access to these “services” and help pay for these new “rights”.   Next, flow the laws to enact this totalitarian and truly intolerant regime and even, where necessary, to use the courts to reinterpret what they consider to be a confounded and outdated Constitution and First Amendment.   Thus we tell God he is no longer relevant or the Author of rights, and we “progress” toward the edge of a cliff.  Perhaps the most ironic thing of all is that this God-centered American tradition has led to the greatest freedom, tolerance, equality and fairness that the world has ever seen while the more radical moral relativistic and atheistic movements have proven historically to lead to totalitarianism, tyranny and the loss of the most basic freedoms.

As Catholics, we believe that all civil laws should flow from the “natural law” that is instilled in each human being by God.  We know this by our conscience – that  innate desire to be formed into the source of all law, “Divine Providence” as termed by those who founded this country.  All our faculties and reason are gifts that reach their peak when they comes in line with what we know is true and right as he has revealed it.   This inner longing for virtue and union with Him does not belong to the few, but to all.  He has said, and we know, that our laws are but a shadow of a higher Law, that man and woman alone constitute marriage as co-creators with Him, that each conception of life is sacred, that no government can trample on our consciences and force us to act contrary to what we know is good and holy as He has revealed to us.

The founders had it right.  They knew, and we know, that once “rights” are divorced from the objective and universal laws of our Creator, then we become a nation floating on thin air, devolving into subhuman instincts and anarchy.   Perhaps these quotes from our first three Presidents say it best:

“Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.”  - – George Washington

“It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.”  - – John Adams

“Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift of God?”  – - Thomas Jefferson

There is only one cure for the moral decay and relativism that has gripped our nation – it is only through prayer and a conversion of the each human heart beginning with our own, to rely upon the mercy of God and to be transformed by Him , to pick up our cross each day, to become transparent and radiant in the Divine Providence that animates us and gives us hope and joy that we can return this nation to the Source of Rights.   Our first act of patriotism is to bend our knees in prayer, the second is to stand up and reclaim our heritage with charity and truth.  This Lent, let us especially remember our country and our leaders in our devotions.

Johnny Hebert