In recent editions of the Catholic Voice we have seen examples of the increasing number of warnings from senior figures within the Church calling the attention of Catholics to the increasing threats to our basic freedoms. In a homily last week Pope Francis spoke on the same subject.

He characterised the attitude of our contemporaries with the following words; ‘Today we have to think this way and if you do not think this way you’re not open, or worse.’ We are facing, the Pope said, ‘a dictatorship of a narrow line of thought... it takes up stones to stone the freedom of the people, their freedom of conscience, the relationship of the people to God. Today Jesus is crucified once again.’ ‘Faced with this dictatorship’ says Pope Francis, our Lord’s exhortation “is always the same: be vigilant and pray.’

A clear example of what we will increasingly face in the future can be seen in the case of Brendan Eich, CEO of Mozilla, who was forced to resign because he had made a donation to a group which campaigned in favour of the traditional understanding of marriage. Mr Eich was one of the founders of the internet software company and one of its most significant and respected programmers. Yet he was forced to resign after a campaign was launched by ‘LGBT’ activists. In 2008 Eich had made a donation of $1000 to a Californian campaign group which opposed same-sex “marriage”. This was enough for them to call on him to step down as CEO despite Eich making extensive assurances that he would not discriminate against anyone. The message was simple: if you don’t hold ‘acceptable’ political views you are liable to be removed from your position the moment vocal activists request it.

This story has attracted extensive coverage because of the high profile of the company but there have been many similar cases in recent months. In the US state of Colorado a court has ruled that a baker is legally obliged to make a wedding cake for a same-sex ‘marriage’.  In July 2012 Jack Phillips politely declined to bake a cake for a same-sex couple. The threatening phone calls started a few hours later and over the coming months he faced death threats, boycotts and protests outside his shop. Eventually he was taken to court where, instead of having his basic rights upheld, he was told that he is under a legal obligation to act against his conscience and bake cakes for same-sex ‘marriages’. In Britain we have seen registrars threatened with the loss of their jobs and a street preacher, John Craven, was arrested in Manchester and held for nineteen hours without food, water or access to his medication.  He had simply given a clear answer to a question asked by two young men about his views on homosexuality.

Rarely has public opinion on any matter changed, or seem to have changed, so quickly as on same-sex ‘marriage’. In March 2012 an ICM poll found that 45% of people in the UK supported same-sex ‘marriage’. Nine months later the same poll found that is was supported by 62%. By March 2013 it was, apparently, supported by 68%.  It isn’t just Catholics who find this odd. Atheist writer Brendan O’Neill, commentating on these and similar poll results in America, observes that this ‘just doesn’t happen on major social issues that touch upon tradition, faith, family and culture.’ ‘Yet, somehow’ he continued ‘the idea of gay “marriage”... has turned from a light bulb moment over a few activists’ heads into actual law in less than a decade. What’s going on?’A quote from an American writer, Christopher Caldwell, seems to get close to the truth. ‘Public opinion’ he says ‘does not change this fast in free societies. Either opinion is not changing as fast as it appears to be, or society is not as free.’

The relentless attacks against anybody who speaks out against the dominant ideology are making people afraid of expressing their real opinions. The Church however must stand firm and show courage in the face of persecution. We owe it to future generations not to be intimidated into silence.