We Must Resist Indoctrination
José Antonio Mendez interview with Michael D. O’Brien,
Alfa y Omega, Madrid, July 30, 2009 issue.
1. In your novel La ultima escapada [Plague Journal], you describe a State that indoctrinates children in schools, promotes abortion and euthanasia, imposes relativism, talks about creating new rights and liberties, but silences everybody who criticizes its ideology. Is it only a warning signal about the future, or a photograph of the present?
Michael D. O’Brien: When I wrote the book more than twelve years ago, the situation in my country was beginning to move in the direction of the new “soft” totalitarianism described in the novel. I wrote it as a warning. But I did not foresee how quickly events would develop in that direction. The situation is not yet as bad as I portray in my novel, but new federal and provincial laws in my country gravely invade family life (for example, the rights of parents to instruct their children according to their beliefs on moral issues without harassment, and to keep their children out of social engineering programs regarding gender and abortion and “sexual orientation.”). Freedom of speech and religious freedom have been seriously undermined by the new “Human Rights Commissions” which are tribunal-courts for investigating and punishing “hate crime.” In Canada this term is so vague that it is virtually undefined. It is often interpreted by judges to mean any questioning of the aggressive social-revolutionary agendas of militant homosexuals. Homosexual activists have used the tribunals to harass ordinary citizens, including Catholic priests and bishops, and Catholic media, for simply speaking the truth on the disordered nature of homosexual acts. The Church, in fact, is the first defender of the dignity of the homosexual person, but it speaks clearly about the psychological wound and the sin in overt activities. The government in its new laws has simply erased the distinction between person and act, and it prosecutes anyone who continues to uphold the distinction publicly. The tribunals do not always make unjust rulings, but they are used to harass any resistance, mainly by the threat of imprisonment and the high legal costs in defending oneself from unjust accusations. This is only one dimension of the Materialistic social revolution in my country—one that exalts “rights” without responsibilities.
2. Is it possible that a Western democracy violently persecutes citizens who disagree with what is “politically correct”? Which kind of violence does the Establishment exert against those who do not think like the social majority?
O’Brien: The most dangerous form of totalitarianism is that which hides its true nature under the banners of “freedom” and “democracy,” because in this way it can always argue that it is not what it is. It is of utmost importance for those who love freedom to observe carefully the decisions made by governments and the fruits of those decisions, and we must make every effort to resist indoctrination. We must especially avoid the seduction of “small” compromises, because these always lead to greater compromises. What is to prevent the present low-level persecution from becoming overt and highly dangerous persecution?
Christians in my country are not being driven into concentration camps. But it has frequently happened that normal Christian families have had their children confiscated by the State after being accused of “abuse.” The term “abuse” can mean anything under the law, including “psychological abuse” which also can be interpreted any way one wishes. School teachers and neighbors on your street, for example, can place an anonymous phone call to the authorities, and immediately police and social workers will arrive at your home or the children’s school and take your children and put them in a foster home without your knowledge of where they are, until a court trial decides whether you are guilty or innocent of abuse. This is violence against the family, and violence against the child. It has become an instrument of terror, which makes parents extremely hesitant to resist the State. The government justifies this by saying they are defending the rights of the child….ironically in a nation that kills hundreds of thousands of children every year through abortion, and forces every citizen to pay for this murder through taxation under our government health care system.
3. Canadian and Spanish schools impose subjects that indoctrinate children with moral relativism and gender ideology. Why do both governments seek such control through the education system?
O’Brien: Governments of every kind (the good, the flawed, and the extremely oppressive) know that education is the key to formation of the people’s consciousness. They understand the vulnerability of the young, know that this is the crucial stage when fundamental opinions are shaped, which will affect the sociopolitical order. This is true in Marxist regimes, various Socialist regimes, Fascist regimes and also in certain kinds of Capitalist regimes based in a materialist anthropology. Even bastions of “democracy” are now enforcing radical social change on their people, violating the founding principles of those nations. In democracies this is possible only if it is done in the name of “freedom.” As a number of Catholic philosophers have noted, the propaganda rhetoric about freedom always increases as the real thing declines.
4. However, both countries are witnessing the wake of a conscientious rights movement against state indoctrination. Is there still some hope against this “21th century totalitarism”?
O’Brien: There is always hope—always. But the degree to which the resistance to Statism will succeed depends greatly on the courageous witness of the Church, combined with families defending their inherent rights whenever the State attempts to sweep these aside. The third factor is also crucial: men and women of strong moral character must be willing to stand firm on absolute principles in the public sphere. Politician-law-makers, journalists, educators, and people in all levels of influence must be willing to defend truth against the tide of moral relativism, even if it means risking the loss of their personal careers and security to do so. The materialist revolution that has seized the entire Western world in a deadly grip has succeeded this far because we have lacked the courage to defend the integral relationship between Truth and Love. The Holy Father’s new encyclical Caritas in Veritate examines this problem, in part, and posits a new vision for finding our way through present dilemmas. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio and Centesimus Annus are also extremely important encyclicals about the rights of the family and our need to understand the nature of real democracy (and how democracies can degenerate into totalitarianism in “democratic” forms.)
5. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this imposition is that it is presented as a liberating revolution?
O’Brien: Exactly so. If you consider the major anti-human totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, some of which continue into the 21st, without exception they all present themselves as liberators.
6. You wrote in Plague Journal: “The enemy isn’t this or that ideology, it is a redefinition of the meaning of the human person.”
O’Brien: The specific ideologies, “left” or “right,” “liberal” or “conservative”, socialist or fascist or exploitive capitalist, ultra-nationalist or globalist, hard or soft totalitarianism, are all manifestations of a deeper problem in the human condition. All are flawed by distorted theories about the meaning and value of the human person. Materialist social philosophies, which are especially dangerous when elevated to positions of maximum power, consider human lives as material for social experiments, the theoretician’s Art. We must ask why so many, if not all, social engineering projects end up making a massive amount of damage and in the worst cases they destroy real human beings in the name of “humanity” and corrupt genuine democracy in the name of “democracy.”
Politics has sometimes been compared to medical therapy for the human condition. If a physician treats only symptoms, he can reduce some suffering for a sick person, but this is not enough to ensure survival. A gifted physician who respects his patient will seek to know his patient’s nature, and to understand the cause of the sickness. He will treat the cause, not just the symptoms. The root cause of our complex problems in the modern age are based in the loss of the sense of the Fatherhood of God, and the subsequent loss of awareness of the hierarchical cosmos. This in turn damages man’s concept of himself as a child of God with an eternal sacred value, each person with a unique identity and mission in life. The only complete and life-giving anthropology is to be found in Christ. Without Him it is very difficult for us to know who we are. Every ideology is driven by an anthropology, but if it reduces the meaning of the human person to “the masses” or to a geopolitical statistic or to an economic utility, this will have the negative fruit of denying the humanity of some portion of mankind. Inevitably it will expand the culture of death.
7. You also ask: “Why didn´t we fight against the corruption of our culture? Why didn’t we pray like we should have? Did we defend our children against the wolf’s attack?” Do Catholics need to react socially, culturally and politically?
O’Brien: Yes, and I still ask it, more urgently now than before. I think we were unprepared. We coasted on social Christianity, and did not interiorize the Catholic faith as a vital dynamic path of life. Most people of good will did not understand the nature of the Great War that will last until the end of time, the war in which we are all involved. Until the revolution hit the West in the 1960’s (I am speaking more of the spiritual crisis not so much in political terms), we floated on the apparent security of social institutions that had been slowly and carefully built up by centuries of Christian civilization. When these began to erode at the same time as the technological revolution began to reshape human consciousness, we felt confused, exposed, endangered, yet we did not know how to resist. Now, a generation later, we are learning to resist and more importantly we are learning to build toward an authentic civilization of love. Yet we are now building with interior strengths, in communion with each other in a way that we have not been since the first centuries of the Church. Moreover, our personalist strengths are increased by union with our bishops, in union with the universal Church under “Peter.”
8. Europe sees Obama as a “political Messiah” who will resolve our every problem. In El Padre Elias [Father Elijah], you warn about the danger of a politician like this, one who in the end turns out to be the Antichrist…
O’Brien: Obama is indeed a trans-national “icon” of the Leader, the great solver of insoluble difficulties and the reconciler of unbearable tensions. Apparently a world-healer, negotiator, peace-maker, ecologist, a kind of ideal “secular humanist” who is also a religious syncretist. He is supposedly a new kind of “philosopher-king” if one believes the propaganda about his public persona. He is in fact a secular messianist. I would urge your readers to reflect on section 673-677 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church where the true nature of secular messianism is discussed. I do not know if Obama is an Antichrist figure, but beyond any doubt his radical anti-life policies are in the realm of the spirit of Antichrist.
9. Do Catholics talk and teach too little about the devil?
O’Brien: To over-emphasize the reality and the activities of the devil is a danger, of course. Jesus Christ is infinitely stronger. However, the activities of evil spirits are increasing dramatically in the lands of former-Christendom, as faith declines and as other “spiritualities” invade. Pope John Paul II instructed bishops throughout the world to appoint exorcists in every diocese, which many bishops have done, though not all. While we must take care not to mistake psychological disorders for the diabolic, neither should we presume that all human obsession or evil activity is purely psychological in origins. Such a presumption is incredibly naïve.
10. All your books are best-sellers. Why are there so few successful Catholic journalists and writers? Moreover: What should a Catholic writer do to be success?
O’Brien: The cause is two-fold. First, very large numbers of gifted Catholic writers have decided that it is “unrealistic” to express overtly Christian themes in their work. Many of them hope to succeed as artists or journalists according to the rules set by the social revolution, and they hope that later in their lives they will produce something overtly Christian. I know a large number of these young people and I love them very much. Their creative and intellectual gifts are often better than mine. Yet like the rich young man in the Gospel, they turn away from the call to go higher, to walk a more dangerous and more beautiful path. They forget that if they choose that path, they will be doing it with Christ, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, before whom impossible barriers will fall. Ultimately it is a question of faith, and of hope.
The second cause is the powerful counter-force itself, which works against development of genuine culture in our times. In many Western nations there is no overt suppression of Catholic cultural voices. Instead, we are ghettoized, banished from the mainstream of culture. This is how the materialist revolution most effectively neutralizes dissent, not by violence but by removal of oxygen from the atmosphere, by denial of space in which to grow. Thus, the vast majority of authentic culture goes underground. Is this not also a symptom of totalitarianism?
To summarize: the gifted person of faith faces two daunting problems: the external situation that confronts him, and his own internal struggle. Of the two, I would say that the latter is the more formidable.
11. What kind of problems have you had to publish your novels (with publishers, with the devil or with yourself)?
O’Brien: If I told the long story of how my books were denied publication in a free democracy for twenty years, and how they eventually came to be published, you would probably not believe me. None of my novels have been published in Canada, my native land, the land where I have always lived. My books were first published in the United States, where there is more “breathing-space” for Catholics, and since then they have been translated into nine foreign languages. Throughout those twenty years of “hopelessness” I just kept writing in obedience to the gentle inner promptings of the Holy Spirit, even though I was absolutely convinced that my books would never be published. I was certain that the forces which suppress Catholic culture had won. I was wrong. To answer your second question, Yes, my major adversaries have been the secular publishers, the devil, and myself. Of the three, myself is the biggest problem. That is why every day of my life I need the fullness of the Catholic faith, fullness of life in Christ, prayer, sacraments, living my faith in every dimension.
12. What’s the influence of your prayer life when you write?
O’Brien: I always pray the normal prayers of a Catholic. However, my novels usually are born as a seed of inspiration that is given to me when I am resting poor and empty before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, or when I am full and deeply quiet after receiving holy Communion. From the little seed of inspiration the tree grows. But it must be watered by prayer continually. When I begin to write a novel, I consecrate it to the Lord, and invoke particular saints’ intercession, and especially I ask the Holy Spirit’s active presence in its creation. I pray on my knees for this, I beg from my Father for the “bread” of inspiration, that I might tell a story which is true and beautiful and will feed others. Every day when I am writing a novel I ask for the particular graces for that day’s work. I also ask for a holy angel of inspiration to be with me, to assist the creation of the work. On occasion, when I am lazy and forget to do this, the writing is much harder, and it does not “breathe” as a living work.
13. Do you spend more time doing research or praying?
O’Brien: I do not measure it, but I would guess more hours are spent in research than in prayer. No, maybe it is the other way around. I’m not sure.
14. In Father Elijah there are some pages with a very deep theology and spirituality. How much time do you need to write texts like this?
O’Brien: Mysteriously, these parts of my novels flow most easily from my inner life onto paper. I think that at such moments it is an extraordinary grace, a very big help from the angels. Sometimes I do not know where a thought or a fictional scene has come from; it suddenly appears as a living reality in my imagination. This is the mystery of what the Church calls “co-creation.”
Time? When I am writing creatively, time dissolves and I do not feel its passage.
15. Why do you only write books related to faith and a Christian worldview, and not commercial books?
O’Brien: I have been told by several secular publishers that they would be eager to publish my novels if I strip all the Catholicism out of it, or warp it into a kind of deformed Christianity. Those offers have always filled me with horror. It is as if someone invited you to turn your beloved spouse into a prostitute, and argued reasonably that the increased financial income would help your marriage. Of course, I also realize that a Catholic writer can write a book that is true and good in its art without overt Christian themes. But that is not my personal calling. I understand the need for both implicit and explicit Christian fiction in the restoration of culture. Yet the explicit has been badly neglected in our times. A man has only a few short years to live, and I am getting older, and there are so many stories I would like to tell, but I will not be able to tell them.
Above every other factor, a true artist creates what he loves most. He is a person deeply in love. If a Christian loves God not merely in the abstract, and loves mankind not merely in the abstract, he realizes that he passes through this world as if through a garden of wonders and miracles. He tells stories about what he sees, because he wants others to see what he sees, both the tragic and the glorious. He desires that Love be loved and Truth be loved. He desires that the reverent wonder he feels, the wonder which draws us towards Paradise, will grow and bear fruit that will last.