What’s Happening to Civil Society?
The Marxist government of Nicaragua placed a Catholic bishop and several priests under house arrest last week and closed a half-dozen Catholic radio stations. It previously banned hundreds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – groups we used to talk about as constituting “civil society,” i.e., the human networks where life, in normal circumstances, can take place in real face-to-face community, free of political interference. All Marxist or totalitarian regimes – from Nicaragua to China, Cuba to Russia – try to suppress and replace these natural formations, especially religion and the family (the basic cell of society in Catholic social thought) because they have real potential to resist encroachments by the State.
Banana republics can arise almost anywhere, as we’re seeing even in America these days. And we usually think of these sorts of problems as “violations of religious liberty.” But the deeper problem has remained mostly out of sight: the modern State’s efforts, almost everywhere, to usurp functions that properly belong elsewhere – particularly the shaping of moral and social behavior best left to parents, churches, (independent) schools, local communities, etc.