Isn't it essential for a democratic society to promote the liberty of individuals to a maximum degree?

The desire to liberalize abortion is explained by a very restricted concept of freedom that many of our contemporaries have. This concept is so extreme that it no longer allows for the idea of equality among men, nor, as a consequence, the idea of duty.

a) In this conception, freedom for each individual consists in doing whatever seems good to him, in behaving in whatever way pleases him. At each instant, individual conscience produces the moral norm that is convenient in such circumstances. Such a conception of freedom leads men to think that there is no need in their behavior to refer to a good they should seek nor to an evil they should avoid. That is why, in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II reminds us that it is the truth which must direct freedom and not the opposite, and that truth is not "a creature of freedom." No one can define good and evil as he pleases.

b) That is why in a society strongly marked by individualism, everything seems to have become negotiable, from abortion to euthanasia, and continuing to all forms of discrimination. No longer is there a search for an ultimate good; no longer is any effort made to aim at justice. The very idea of the common good is emptied of meaning: only individual good exists. Society no longer knows anything but compromise. We must exchange our viewpoints with fair play, in total tolerance of what each one regards at the moment as good or bad.

In order to avoid at all costs the inconveniences of living together with other individuals, and in order to avoid falling into anarchy, particular interests must be harmonized. All options are "equally respectable," but for reasons of utility or interest that does not prevent adhering to a purely "procedural" morality. This is the triumph of committees for ethics, in which one proceeds stroke by stroke without reference to normative, universally-binding, moral principles. Whence comes the appeal to the tyranny of the majority and the tactic of dispensation. Particularly in this latter instance, they transfer the process of casuistry to law: just as this corrupts morality, so the tactic of dispensation perverts law. They reject at once any reference to general principles of moral law in order to accommodate the written law to the pleasures and interests of those whom they wish to please. This is but the triumphant return of sophistry. What is forbidden here and now can be allowed tomorrow, for the only thing that matters at all times and places is to disturb people as little as possible and, of course, to be disturbed as little as possible.

c) From that point onward, there is no longer a place for a morality which would bind everyone, one that underlies the very fabric of our human community. In effect, in such a conception of freedom, everything is relativized. The very idea of a universal Declaration of Human Rights is void of meaning. There are only individuals, and the violently emotional exaltation of the freedom of each person guarantees a future of overexcited divisions among men.

d) Western democracies are fading away because, instead of relating to values like truth, justice, and solidarity, they are governed by a consensus reached through decisions that are purely procedural. National or international, political assemblies have become, so to speak, big committees on ethics in which the strongest try to impose a consensus according to their own interests.

e) Hence, it is impossible to create a more just and humane society, when one refuses to acknowledge that all men have the same fundamental rights.

f) In brief, this ultra-individualist conception of freedom ultimately turns against freedom. In such a concept, the political dimension of human existence is totally impugned, and one sinks into anarchy. Anarchy is the absence of principles, and hence of legitimate authority, and thus of government safeguarding the common good.

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