By Connecticut Catholic Corner Contributor Tim Siggia
"These are the times that try men's souls." -- Thomas Paine
A most disturbing incident occurred this week at Florida Atlantic University, when students were given an exercise by their professor, Diandre Poole, which consisted of a physical act of blasphemy toward our Lord and Savior. The students were instructed to write the name Jesus in large letters on sheets of paper. They were then told to place those sheets on the floor by their desks, with the name facing up, and then stand up. The professor then ordered his students to stomp on those sheets.
One student refused. Rather than do as he was directed, Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon, picked his sheet up off the floor and placed it on his desk. He later reported the incident to Poole's superior at the university. For this act of courage, Rotela was suspended from the university. The story was picked up by Fox News, and broadcast on several of their programs. In response to the negative publicity, Florida Atlantic University issued a public apology to Rotela, and ordered him to be reinstated and allowed to retake the course in question -- but without Poole, an activist for the Democratic Party, as his instructor.
Though Ryan Rotela is certainly to be commended for having acted courageously and in keeping with the tenets of his faith, the incident raises a number of questions. First, why was Rotela the only student to protest this professor's actions? Could he truly have been the only professed Christian in the class? Was the name of Jesus merely one more name to the other students? Second, why was no disciplinary action taken against Poole, who is still teaching at Florida Atlantic? Rotela rightly called his actions unprofessional, and his criticism apparently was ignored by the university staff. And third, why was Fox the only broadcast news network to report this story? The "mainstream" news media -- ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and PBS, as well as the far-left network MSNBC -- have all conspicuously ignored it.
This is just one instance of a rise of secularism not only in academia, where all but "progressive" thinking has for generations been suppressed, but within our society as well. For nearly 50 years now, atheist groups have been working to get the motto, "In God We Trust," expunged from our currency. Efforts to replace the traditional greeting of "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays" have lessened in recent years in reaction to public protests, though in Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee refused to call the state Capitol's Christmas tree a Christmas tree, calling it instead a "Holiday Tree." Now, in some parts of the country, similar efforts are being made to eradicate Easter, giving rise to such absurdities as "Spring Egg Hunts" and the "Spring Bunny." It would be comical were it not so tragic.
The issue of same-sex marriage now has found its way to the Supreme Court, where justices are currently deliberating over whether Proposition Eight, which bans same-sex marriage and was passed by the California legislature in accordance with the wishes of the people there, is constitutional. It is also considering, again on constitutional grounds, an overruling of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed by President Bill Clinton with popular support. The secular "progressive" line here is that opposition to so-called gay rights is bigotry and comparable to racism. Our Catholic teaching in this as in other matters is to hate the sin but love the sinner. Most of us do not hate those whose sexual orientation is toward those of their own gender. We do not, however, want to see the institution of marriage, known to us as the holy sacrament of matrimony, redefined in the name of political correctness.
Unfortunately, here in Connecticut that has already happened. By judicial fiat, same-sex marriage is now the law of the land in the Constitution State, where liberalism has taken on the force of a state religion. For over 40 years now abortion has been legal in the United States. As if that weren't enough, our legislature is now considering legalizing physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. It is one thing to allow those whose time has come to die naturally, and quite another for physicians to assume the role of God in deciding who is fit to let live, and whose life must be ended. The moral teaching in such matters actually predates Christianity. It was first formulated by a Greek physician named Hippocrates, whose oath to make every effort to preserve life is still taken by doctors to this day.
Unfortunately, in today's Connecticut, the doctrine of liberalism seems to trump all other considerations in this and other matters. I have written to my state representative on the subject of physician-assisted suicide, and I have yet to hear a response from him. I'm not holding my breath.
Most practicing Catholics I am sure will agree with me that it isn't easy to live in a Blue state such as Connecticut and remain faithful to the teachings of the Church. Consider, for instance, how many of our legislators identify themselves as Catholic in the face of what they profess politically. As Thomas Paine so eloquently put it back in the days of our country's beginnings, these are indeed the times that try men's souls. It is also the time to choose sides: shall we be Catholics, or shall we be Progressives? It is becoming increasingly clear that in today's society one cannot be both.
-by Contributor Tim Siggia -