[My headline originally was, "Remarks by G. K. Chesterton on the road to 'compulsory contraception'". I suspect the meaning of that particular phrasing with either confusing, misleading, or otherwise unfortunate, especially since Chesterton never walked on such a road.]
The quote below is from The Wells and the Shallows, which Chesterton wrote near the very end of his life. In the passage, near the conclusion of the book, Chesterton responded to the misuse, or sloppy abuse, of the word "Catholic", and then criticized those Catholics who use the mantle of being "Catholic" to cloak or confuse their true intentions, which are contrary to what is really Catholic (goodness, does that sound familiar at all?). At the end of this excerpt, he noted that England of 1935 had a far more mild and jolly disposition, in general, than that found in Prussia; but he lamented that this more civilized air was weakened by an "absence of a militant creed of Christian morals, and the power to define and defend." And he surmised that if "Compulsory Sterilisation or Compulsory Contraception really stalks through the modern State, leading the march of human progress through abortion to infanticide", the Germans would accept it with "barbaric joy", while the citizens of England will accept it meekly, "as something between well-trained servants and bewildered children."
Without drawing exact parallels, Chesterton's observations of less than eighty years past are more than a little interesting in light of current events, especially the way in which some of the citizenry of our nation (the denizens of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and other death merchants) have been reacting with barbaric joy at governmental measures meant to further their uncivilized kingdom, whereas many others are merely lowering their head and quietly, even meekly, accepting the directives from on high:
Touching Mr. C. E. Douglas, the smeller out of putrid paradoxes, I need only record that he complains of "an unhistorical use of the word Catholic," and assures us that we should be content with the fact that clergy of the national church are attached to nearly all our institutions, as a guarantee that "in theory, the Catholic religion is the official religion of the nation." I can only say that if he used his imagination about our point of view, as much as I try to use my imagination about his, it would, I think, dawn upon him that it is not altogether unreasonable in a real Catholic, or even a real Anglo-Catholic, to find this official reassurance a little thin.
Certainly, in that sense, there are "Catholic" priests attached to all sorts of things; there is a "Catholic" bishop preaching that science has destroyed the whole original Christian scheme; there is a "Catholic" dean who booms Birth-Prevention like a quack medicine; there is a "Catholic" canon who is ready to "break bread" apparently with anybody from Mormons to Moslems; at least I myself should rather prefer the Moslems. But I cannot believe that either Mr. Douglas or the Editor of the paper really regards that retrospective breakfast as a substitute for the Blessed Sacrament.
But though Mr. Douglas's view of our scruples is not highly sympathetic or discerning, there is one point on which Mr. Douglas endears himself to me, though I dare not hope that I am likely to endear myself to him. He may think what he likes about me, so long as he will go on thinking what he now thinks about Prussia. Because I classed Prussia with England among the Protestant countries, he protests against anything like a suggestion that they are the same sort of countries; and there I am warmly with him. They have certain negative things in common; but even in these it would be true to say that the Prussian prefers to be bullied where the Englishman only submits to be blinded.
But England is a thousand times jollier and more human as a national culture than Prussia; the disease is milder and the mood more healthy. But it is a mood which is weakened by the absence of a militant creed of Christian morals, and the power to define and defend. The test could best be made by the introduction of some of the new abnormal laws already threatening the world in the name of science. Suppose something of the type of Compulsory Sterilisation or Compulsory Contraception really stalks through the modern State, leading the march of human progress through abortion to infanticide. If the heathens in North Germany received it, they would accept it with howls of barbaric joy, as one of the sacred commands of the Race Religion; the proceedings very probably terminating (by that time) with a little human sacrifice. If the English received it, they would accept it as law-abiding citizens; that is, as something between well-trained servants and bewildered children. There is a great difference; but not so great as the certainty that the Irish would not accept it at all.
As for accepting falsehoods and coercion with the naivity and meekness expected of a good, law-abiding citizen, consider the recent words of race-car driver/model Danica Patrick (reportedly a practicing Catholic) when asked about the HHS mandate: "I leave it up to the government to make good decisions for Americans.” That, I submit, is a powerful example of blind faith. Fortunately for Catholics, faith is not a matter of being blind—especially not when it comes to matters of government. If modern history has a good lesson for us, it is "Don't let strangers who live far away and who have a nose for power and money take complete control over essential matters related to your life, liberty, rights, and beliefs."
Besides, aren't we as Americans supposed to be self-governing? And doesn't some document or another say something such as, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."? Not to pick on Patrick, who seems like a very smart lady who just might be trying to avoid making waves (and who may have been put on the spot with a political question). But I think she fails to understand, as Mark Steyn notes in a recent column, that the issue of rights cannot just be meeky and blindly entrusted to those elected, as if they somehow are infused with great holiness and profound wisdom upon entering the halls of governmental power:
The transformation of “human rights” from restraints upon state power into a pretext for state power is nicely encapsulated in the language of Article 14 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which states that everyone has the right “to receive free compulsory education.” Got that? You have the human right to be forced to do something by the government. ...
This perversion of rights is killing the Western world. First, unlike real rights — to freedom of speech and freedom of religion — these new freedoms come with quite a price tag. All the free stuff is free in the sense of those offers that begin “You pay nothing now!” But you will eventually. No nation is rich enough to give you all this “free” stuff year in, year out.