I just can’t help thinking that some of G.K. Chesterton’s ideas could greatly help our Supreme Court Justices as they ponder the question of so-called same-sex “marriage” these next few weeks.
The giant of English Letters (1874-1936), who converted to the Catholic Faith in 1922, always defended marriage and the family, the home, the Faith, and common sense. He is hardly mentioned today outside of Catholic circles. He is not studied in most universities—they have a real flight from quality these days. His cause is under consideration for canonization now. So you might be reading the writings of a future saint.
He comments on every subject: religion, politics, history, literature, law … and cigars. I hope he inspires, amuses, and informs our readers like he does me every day. He might even convert someone, like he did me, by the grace of God.
Who knows? He might still even influence a Supreme Court Justice or two? After all, six of them are Catholic.
Here are my ten favorite Chesterton quotes: (My comments are in brackets.)
1. “Right is right even if nobody does it. Wrong is still wrong even if everybody is wrong about it.” Saying that everybody thinks this so it must be right is an excuse and not a sound basis for guiding our actions. Saint Pope John Paul II said, “The truth is not always the same as the majority decision.”
2. “The pursuit of pleasure is merely the pursuit of fashion. The pursuit of fashion is merely the pursuit of convention only that it happens to be a new convention…But the enjoyment of convention is not really the same thing as the enjoyment of liberty.” To base marriage merely on the romance and pleasure of the adults is not marriage. Why should the state even be involved in romance?
Kyle Duncan, the original lead attorney in the Hobby Lobby case, and who filed an amicus brief on behalf of several states, said on EWTN’s The World Over this week, “Marriage is an age old bedrock social institution…Before 2001 in the Netherlands, and before 2003 in Massachusetts, no state and no country had ever recognized this new form of marriage … Two-thirds of the states now favor traditional marriage…If the courts were not forcing the states to recognize same-sex marriage you might have same-sex marriage in eleven or twelve states and the District of Columbia, but you wouldn’t have it in two-thirds of the states.”
Al Kresta said on Kresta in the Afternoon, April 30, “Traditional marriage consists of the sacrificial love of a couple which would eventually lead to children.” Along with the bonding and commitment of the complementary man and woman it involves sacrifice for the protection and providing for of children, the future of society, for the good of the society. Marriage existed since before there were governments, before there were religions, even before there was history.
3.”When you break the big laws, you do not get freedom. You do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.” “The commandments are the big laws,” says Dale Ahlquist in The Complete Thinker: The Marvelous Mind of G. K. Chesterton. “The conventions are the small laws. The key to sanity and salvation, and even good humor, is to keep the commandments and break the conventions but we have it exactly backwards…We have come to the point where our laws are actually contrary to the commandments and enforce the breaking of the commandments—abortion, which is murder; no-fault divorce [and homosexual acts] which [are] adultery.” [Not inclinations alone.]
4. “Chesterton warned [in 1926] that the next great heresy would be right here, and it would be an attack on morality, especially sexual morality. He said: ‘The madness of tomorrow is not in Moscow but much more in Manhattan.’ He correctly predicted that there would be a ‘fashionable fatalism, founded on Freud.’ He said we would at once ‘exalt lust and forbid fertility.’ We would be no different than the commercial centers of antiquity, like Carthage, where they threw babies into the fire.’ He predicted that abortion would be considered a sign of ‘progress.’ He said that ‘our materialistic masters would put birth control into an immediate practical program’ before anyone was even aware that it had happened….The old parental authority,’ he said, would be swept away. Its place would be taken, ‘not by liberty or even license, but by the far more sweeping and destructive authority of the state.’ The state would become the only absolute in morals, so there would be ‘no appeal from it to God or man, to Christendom or conscience, to the individual or the family or the fellowship of all mankind.’” (Dale Ahlquist, G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense, pg. 175-76). Just look around.
5. “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” It is so easy to go along with the culture. It takes fortitude and fire to go against it.
6. “There are no Fascists; there are no Socialists; there are no Liberals; there are no Parliamentarians… There is only the Catholic Church and its enemies. And its enemies are ready to be for or against violence, for or against liberty, for or against representative government, and even for or against peace as long as they can be against the Church…Anything less than the Catholic Faith is narrow and shallow and ultimately barren. But we have come out of the shallows and the dry places to the one deep well; and the Truth is at the bottom of it.” It seems like the Secular Relativists, the Pro-Choice-rs, the hookup culture (both straight and gay), Big Business, Big Government, the Communists, the tyrants, most Democrats, and many Republicans, and many in other religions, are all against us. “In this world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
If a constitutional right to same-sex marriage is established ministers and churches could be forced to perform same-sex weddings. Duncan said that churches, schools, or any religious group could lose their tax exempt status if they adhered to traditional views of marriage.
7. “Nine out of ten of what we call new ideas are simply old mistakes…the madness of the Manicheans [a Christian heresy that began in the 3rd century and the Catholic Church has been fighting ever since], said that a suicide is good because it is a sacrifice [and it gets you to heaven sooner], that a sexual perversion is good because it produces no life.” They opposed regeneration and hated marriage most of all. Now we hear the same tired old ideas bubbling up again as they have for the past 1800 years. They are “narrow and shallow and ultimately barren.”
8. “[The Catholic Church] is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.” The culture can permeate every waking moment if we let it. There are thousands of messages to conform. It seems to take heroic virtue to keep doing church activities and to steer towards spiritual internet use, reading, and TV viewing such as EWTN.
9. “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.” Yes, we have a right to sleep around, and to drink and drug—at least in Colorado and Washington, D.C—until we are drunk, stoned and stupid. But, believe me, I tried it decades ago and my life was so unfulfilled and wasted.
10. “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” We hear talk of ‘modern morality,’ as if there are sins that it is now fashionable to ignore. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that many leave the Church [and hate it] not because of its doctrine but because of the commandments, because of morality.
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I hope that our readers will be inspired by his writings also. I would recommend St. Francis of Assisi, The Everlasting Man (the history of the world as it relates to Jesus), or The Man Who Was Thursday as good books to start on. Dale Ahlquist’s three books on Chesterton are exquisite, giving overall glimpses of the great writer’s works. He also hosts a brilliant TV show on EWTN G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense.
One final quote that I hope will leave you smiling: “The whole modern world [in 1924] has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” Sound like today? Maybe this is one mistake we can prevent.
In recent years I have put my faith not in politics, but where it belongs, in God. I have been far more joyful and peaceful.
And as for the Supreme Court?
May the Holy Spirit guide your deliberations this Easter Season.