St. Dominic is often quoted as having said, “A man who governs his passions is master of the world. We must either rule them or be ruled by them. It is better to be the hammer than the anvil.”
A corollary follows. To the extent that we can’t control ourselves, it will be necessary that we be controlled by an outside force, police, for example, or some other government entity. Either that or things become uncontrollable.
This isn’t an original thought, of course. It’s why our Founding Fathers believed that our constitutional republic could only survive and thrive, as envisioned, if its people were moral and religious. Religion, Christianity in particular, if taken seriously, engenders internal control, helps us to live in harmony with others, and limits the need for external constraints.
We see this truth played out in families, schools, and society at large. Good kids, good students, good citizens require fewer external constraints than unruly, undisciplined, misbehaving ones. It’s not rocket science, just common sense. It should be obvious. And it’s one reason, not the only one, that I’m a Catholic priest. I’m in the self-control business. I’m into promoting restraint and discipline as the path to individual, familial, and societal peace, freedom, and happiness.
Unfortunately, I and those of a similar mindset, including the official Church, have failed miserably in making our case, in consequence of which freedom has come to be understood largely as the right to do anything we please, so long as it doesn’t immediately injure anyone else.
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