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Campaign 2008: Whose Vision of the Common Good?

Deacon Keith Fournier
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Catholic Online


The Presidential campaign of 2008 is upon us. The candidates are lining up; the rarified air of “the beltway” is filled with political talk, the metro-plex area surrounding Washington DC is experiencing the influx of all who “set up shop”. Offices are being set up in Old Towne Alexandria and the other favorite haunts, consultants are being chosen, teams are being formed and themes are being developed. I am familiar with the process because I have participated at the intersection of faith, culture and politics for years, informed and inspired by my Catholic Christian faith.

I have tried to take one particular treasure of the Church, her Social teaching, and make it accessible to others in order to influence the building of a truly just society. In furtherance of this effort I started and led several organizations. I also cooperated with other Christians and other people of good will. I have written numerous popular pieces and have been published in various venues. Sadly, I have also had ideas, names, and concepts that I developed in this effort taken by others and used for purposes which I did not intend.

But, I guess all of that is simply par for the course as they say when you deal with anything that touches the political arena.


The Social teaching of the Catholic Church is NOT simply for Catholics, other Christians or even just “religious people”. It is for all people and all Nations. Its principles are offered by the Church to those who seek to build a truly just society and promote the Common Good. The Church, who is an “expert in humanity ”and walks the way of the person (inspired words of the Second Vatican Council), offers these insights because she is called to continue the redemptive work of her Lord which includes the promotion of social justice.

This body of teaching called the Social teaching is not “left” or “right”, “liberal”, “conservative” or “neo-conservative”, Democrat or Republican. In fact, efforts to co-opt this body of teaching by each of these groups in the past have brought me to a decision. In this upcoming political season I will commit myself even more to the task of making this teaching known and offering it as a framework for the debate which will accompany this campaign. I make this prediction: the entire Presidential campaign of 2008 will be framed around a wonderful phrase which is at the heart of Catholic Social teaching and good political philosophy.

That phrase is “The Common Good”.

Years ago, I founded two organizations bearing that name. I wrote a multitude of articles attempting to summarize much of this teaching, organizing it around what I called the four pillars of participation, life, family, authentic freedom and solidarity. I wrote numerous articles articulating that this Social teaching is “whole life/pro-life” (respecting the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death, through every age and stage), pro-marriage and family, pro-freedom (as both a freedom from and a freedom for), pro-poor and pro-peace.

Because of my bedrock belief in the important principles found within Catholic Social teaching and its integrated approach, I have repeatedly rejected efforts to use it improperly. For example, I distanced myself from the errors which I saw in the so called “religious right” movement. My opposition was expressed in an article I wrote entitled “Requiem for the Religious Right” which still circulates widely on the internet. With the rise of the so-called “neo-conservative” movement, and its attempts to co-opt the Social teaching to promote its war effort, I publicly opposed and exposed this effort as well, writing numerous articles defending the Church’s position and opposing the initial foray into Iraq as incapable of being supported, even under a “Just War” analysis.

Needless to say, I have upset some folks.

Yet, I will not and cannot stop in my work because I am totally convinced that it is this Social Teaching which is capable of paving the path to truly promoting the “Common Good” in our time.


This wonderful term is being co-opted once again. I will give just two of many examples.

An organization calling itself both “Catholic Alliance for the Common Good” and “Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good” (using another label for a failed organization with which I was once associated) is presenting itself as the guide for those who truly want to understand and apply the social teaching of the Catholic Church to policy and political participation. In my opinion, some of their positions are consistent with the Social Doctrine of the Church; some others are not and promote a partisan agenda. Setting themselves somewhat in opposition ...

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