I. Shawn McElhinney, combining the insights of theology and philosophy, takes on the enemies of Catholic print shops everywhere in http://rerum-novarum.blogspot.com/2003_10_12_rerum-novarum_archive.html#106619251233499470 his latest commentary. As always, Shawn’s treatment is comprehensive and thought provoking.

While I greatly appreciate his stalwart defense of my rights as a printer, nevertheless I am uncomfortable with the classical liberal formulations that seem to cement his argument. He writes:

“For one cannot demand liberty for a particular faculty for themselves which they then turn around and deny to others: this stance is blatantly hypocritical … if one demands liberty for their own conscience, then they must extend the same to the consciences of others who do not agree with them. Thus, the homosexual activists who would appeal to not being coerced against their conscience -by enemies either real or imagined- cannot be credible in their complaints if they are hypocritically trying to coerce the consciences of those who do not agree with them.”

Is this really true? Many people make appeals to conscience in order to excuse their misdeeds. The fact is that homosexuals should not be extended “freedom of conscience” when it comes to acting upon their homosexual desires. More to the point, public authorities should grant freedom to Catholic printers while restricting the propogation of homosexualist literature — or any literature which undermines the social order.

When I was business broker a few years back, I picked up a book on the desk of a colleague and was stunned at what I had read. It was a slick-looking book about how to commit mail order fraud and get away with it! No kidding! Yet this hideous book was legally printed and sold by mainstream book outlets. All in the name of “freedom of the press”, no doubt. It is hard to imagine what kind of “conscience” would justify printing this book, but this is not harder than imagining what kind of conscience would justify the practice or promotion of homosexuality.

Therefore, I think Catholics should be very careful about adopting the language of “freedom” and “rights” unless they are unequivocal about the kinds of things to which legitimate freedom does not apply.