On April 6, 1941, Bishop Fulton John Sheen gave a sermon on his radio show "The Catholic Hour" in which he reminded listeners that, "The basic spirit of the modern world for the last century has been a determination to escape the Cross." He told his audience as well that, "There is no such thing as living without a cross. We are free only to choose between crosses." And then he asked them: "Will it be the Cross of Christ which redeems us from our sins, or will it be the double cross, the swastika, the hammer and sickle, the fasces"?
Bishop Sheen believed, as I do, that America is at a crossroads. In his own words, "We in America are now faced with the threat of that double cross...Our choice is not: Will we or will we not have more discipline, more respect for law, more order, more sacrifice; but, where will we get it? Will we get it from without, or from within, Will it be inspired by Sparta or Calvary? By Valhalla or Gethsemane? By militarism or religion? By the double cross or the Cross? By Caesar or by God? That is the choice facing America today. The hour of false freedom is past. No longer can we have education without discipline, family life without sacrifice, individual existence without moral responsibility, economics and politics without subservience to the common good. We are now only free to say whence it shall come. We will have a sword. Shall it be only the sword that thrusts outward to cut off the ears of our enemies, or the sword that pierces inward to cut out our own selfish pride"?
Thus far, America has chosen the double cross. Fleeing from the Cross of Christ and the supernatural kingdom established by the Son of God; one of sacrifice and sanctity, America has chosen to pursue a terrestrial kingdom of pleasure and power founded upon a distorted idea of what constitutes liberty or freedom. But this city of man, which has certainly achieved astounding advancements in various spheres while increasing the affluence of some, has also contributed to a climate where men are regarded as mere machines whose only value is to be found in what they produce or consume. This in turn destroys the individual’s sense of personal dignity and responsibility.
Americans, in their tragic desire to flee from the Cross of Christ, have rushed to embrace this distorted notion of "freedom" and have forgotten that, as created beings, they only possess contingent rights. That is to say, rights which are accorded by Almighty God. Consequently, in their zeal to promote the fallacious idea that the basis of public morality should be whatever the majority of citizens are prepared to accept, they have also forgotten that man does not possess, and never will possess, the right to perform or engage in any act which is displeasing to God.
And where has this flight from the Cross of Christ led us up to this point? Was Bishop Sheen being an alarmist? In the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, taken from his Commencement Address at Harvard University entitled "A World Split Apart": "Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. This is considered to be part of freedom, and theoretically counterbalanced by the young peoples’ right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil."
Getting back to Bishop Sheen. What did he mean when he said that, "Our choice is not: Will we or will we not have more discipline, more respect for law, more order, more sacrifice; but, where will we get it"? I believe Pope Benedict XVI was providing us with a hint toward an answer when he spoke of the "dictatorship of relativism." Americans who have gleefully embraced the tenets of liberalism have not learned the lesson the concentration camp and the gulag. These unfortunate souls refuse to acknowledge that atheistic ideology (and make no mistake, the current idea of "freedom" which has taken root in America is itself rooted in atheistic ideology) always, and without exception, gives birth to sheer violence. This is the lesson of atheistic humanism. A lesson which the majority of Americans would rather not think about.
Who would deny that Bishop Sheen’s warning, issued some 64 years ago, was highly prophetic? America, and the West in general, is at a crossroads. We have before us two crosses: The Cross of Christ and the double cross (which may also be referred to today as the "dictatorship of relativism"). Which will we choose in the end? Will we continue on our present course or change direction and finally come to embrace the Cross of Christ? Will we embrace Christ and His kingdom of sacrifice and sanctity or continue to rush headlong into the idolatry of unbridled hedonism while declaring ourselves, albeit tacitly, to be God?
If we continue to choose the latter, then we should remember the words of Fr. Vincent Miceli, S.J., "When man becomes God, history testifies that then millions of men become imprisoned slaves, terrified automatons and murdered corpses. Society, in the words of Gabriel Marcel, becomes a ‘termite colony.’" (The Gods of Atheism, p. 463).