Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

2/9/2011 (4 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The question 'Is conservatism a three-legged stool or not?' is incomplete

The controversy over the direction of the CPAC convention and the conservative movement presents an opportunity to reflect on the basis of Christian citizenship. I suggest it is time for Christians who are concerned about the lack of recognition of a "family values" leg on a metaphorical three legged stool to find a better foundation for their political participation than the conservative movement.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/9/2011 (4 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: CPAC, conservative movement, Robert George, Ronald Reagan, Catholic Action, religious right, American Conservative Union


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - I am a fan of Robert "Robby" George. With both a law degree and a Doctorate in Philosophy, this Princeton Professor and good Catholic is raising the water level of conservative political discourse. In a career of achievements, one of his more noteworthy ones was founding the "American Principles Project" which seeks to reaffirm the universal principles which form the foundation for the American experiment. His efforts to develop a language with which to reassert the existence of the Natural Law in order to prevent the collapse of western civilization is respected even by those who, like me, hold to a different approach to the Natural Law.

Recently he asked a question which provoked a response being labeled as a sign of a division in the "conservative" movement in America. The question was "Is conservatism a three-legged stool or not?" Dr. George used the imagery of the late Ronald Reagan whose 100th birthday we recently observed. I am a great admirer of the late Ronald Reagan. Like many other Catholics, I was deeply impressed by his book "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation" published in 1984. The three legs to which Dr George referred are social conservatives, foreign policy conservatives and economic conservatives. The late President Reagan built an alliance of these three groups of conservatives which changed the political landscape of the Nation.

One of the organizations identified with this three legged stool metaphor for the American conservative movement was the American Conservative Union (ACU). They are the sponsor of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The conference meets between Feb. 10 and Feb. 12 this year. This year's conference is embroiled in controversy because of some of the invitees.  What is clear is that the "three legged stool" may no longer be as sturdy as it once was. In fact, it may not be the best of metaphors.

The strongest reaction was registered by the leaders of over two dozen groups who ran a full page ad in the Washington Times entitled "What Would Ronald Reagan Think of CPAC Today". It called the social conservatives, using that three legged stool metaphor, to not attend the conference this year. It further called for the leadership of the American Conservative Union to reaffirm its commitment to what is called "family values" in the shorthand of contemporary political parlance. The ad asks this important question, "Why is the free market an inviolable conservative principle, but not family values?"

I understand the frustration of those who ran the advertisement. I share their concern over the high profile placement at this conference of some who oppose the truth about marriage and the family and society founded upon it. I also share their disappointment at efforts to infer that "social issues" are "private" or "religious" and should be put on the back burner in a "truce" as one potential presidential contender asserted. The groups in question promote the homosexual equivalency movement. They insist that a legal equivalency in the civil law be given to partnerships incapable of ever being a marriage and that the police power of the State enforce this new cultural revolution. 

I suggest that my Christian friends who question this turn of events at CPAC consider the roots of the problem. I, like Robby George, write as a Catholic. However, I long ago rejected the label "conservative". I am most certainly NOT a liberal. I am a Catholic Christian. I was never comfortable in the so called "religious right" and am not surprised by the turn of events in the conservative movement.  I suggest that some Christians who accept the label 'conservative" share similar policy positions with me. However, we arrive there a bit differently. Let me share a few thoughts to demonstrate what I mean.

I affirm the classical Christian assertion that there is a law written on every human heart which can be known by the exercise of reason and should inform our positive or civil law. It is the foundation upon which a truly free society must be built. This is what has long been called the Natural Law. It is a participation in God's Law. At the foundation of the Natural Law is the recognition of the Right to Life which affirms the dignity of every human person from conception though the entire continuum of life and until natural death. All men and women are created in the Image of God and have an inherent dignity which must be recognized, respected and received.

The recognition of a Natural Law Right to Life is not about a single political issue. Nor is it only a "religious" position, though it is expounded upon within the Jewish and Christian tradition. Rather it is a framework through which I view every issue. Human rights are goods of the human person and not just concepts floating around somewhere. They are endowed upon us by a Creator in whose Image we have been fashioned. 

Any Nation which allows the intentional killing of its young in the first home of the womb and calls that intrinsically evil action a "right" is in danger of losing both its soul and its future. Medical science confirms what our conscience has long confirmed, the child in the womb is one of us, our neighbor, and it is always wrong to kill our neighbor. The specious arguments used to defend the indefensible, that it can ever be a proper choice to take innocent human life, are being eroded on every front. We operate on children in the womb. We prosecute those who kill them in the course of the commission of a felony. We all know the truth, abortion is the intentional killing of a human person. 

The Natural Law reveals - and the cross cultural history of civilization affirms - that marriage is between a man and a woman, open to children and intended for life. Further, marriage is the foundation for the family which is the privileged place for the formation of virtue and character in children who are our future citizens. The family is the first society, first economy, first school, first civilizing and mediating institution and first government. All other government grows out of - and must support and not usurp -  the primacy of this first government.

I support the principle of subsidiarity. Its application insists that the family should be helped by other governing units and not replaced or usurped by them. I affirm small or "limited" government not because I think government is "evil" but because I value self government and insist that the family is the first government. Good governance beyond the family must be closest to those being governed and defer to an objective morality which helps to ensure it remains good. I affirm another existential and objective truth; human persons are by nature social. We cannot be truly happy, pursue happiness, or even be fully free without one another. We were made for relationships. 

In the economic arena, I insist that economics is not in the first instance, about capital, it is about human persons. A truly free economic system recognizes that freedom is a good of the person. Only human persons can be free because we are capable of making free choices. It should further recognize the primacy of moral values, support the family, foster ingenuity, provide incentive, promote and reward creativity and innovation, expand participation, provide for private ownership, and foster human flourishing and advancement. That is why I extol the potential in the market economy and the free market system; it promotes human flourishing and opens the door to human advancement.

Finally, I affirm that we are our brother and sisters keeper. We have an obligation to one another. That is what is meant by solidarity. How that truth works its way into public policy requires the recognition of what was discussed earlier. It also leaves room for the application of prudential judgment in many areas of application. This kind of vision of the human person and the family, as well as the lessons of history, affirm that big government is not very good at charity. Charity begins in the home and works its way out through local communities, churches and other mediating institutions. It is bottom up and not top down.

All of what I have written above is not about my being a conservative. It is not based on conservative philosophy. It is based on Catholic Social thought. It is an example of my efforts as a Catholic Christian to be a faithful citizen and engage in political participation according to first principles as Dr. Robert George invites. It informs my effort to fulfill my civic duty to work toward a future of authentic freedom for all men and women and promote the true common good.  I suggest it is time for Christians who are concerned about the lack of recognition of a "family values" leg on a metaphorical three legged stool to find a better foundation for their political participation than the conservative movement.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

What TOP-SECRET information is the Obama Administration keeping from you? Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It seems as though the Obama administration is trying to bury significant materials away from the public. Seventeen unclassified Iran deal items have been placed away in ultra-secure facilities that are normally used solely for top secret evidence. MUNTINLUPA, ... continue reading


SEVENTEEN VERY SCARY SECRETS: Obama administration keeping details on Iran nuclear deal hidden Watch

Image of Important facts are being kept from the public, just as Congress is deciding whether to support or oppose the Iran deal.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Obama administration is keeping details of the Iran nuclear agreement close to the vest. To date, only one aspect of the agreement has been made public. Seventeen other points made in the agreement is being kept secret with the exception of a few lawmakers. ... continue reading


California lawmakers run to the aid of communities suffering the worst in drought Watch

Image of The new legislation focuses on obtaining federal funding to get costly water projects off the ground. Feinstein and Boxer's bill pinpoints 26 promising desalination projects in California.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As the record-breaking California drought stretches into its fifth year, lawmakers are passing legislation intended to help the communities hardest hit by water shortages. California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have both introduced emergency drought ... continue reading


Why two religious Republican presidential candidates weren't invited to a major Christian event Watch

Image of The reason is not as controversial as many speculated.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Some were left puzzled as to why two Southern Baptist presidential candidates from the GOP were left out of a major Christian event; the reason was not as bad as some speculated. According to the official statement from the organizers of the event, the two candidates ... continue reading


Judge threatens to hold IRS chief John Koskinen in contempt for failing to turn over Lerner emails Watch

Image of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was threatened with contempt charges by a federal judge this week.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was threatened with contempt charges by a federal judge this week. Koskinen failed to produce, by decree, newly recovered emails of former IRS official Lois Lerner. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan had ordered the IRS at ... continue reading


Mitch McConnell says he will wipe out Obamacare with simple 51-vote majority Watch

Image of In the waning days of President Barack Obama's presidency, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is vowing to overthrow his signature legislation.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In the waning days of President Barack Obama's presidency, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is vowing to overthrow his signature legislation. Health care reform, better known as "Obamacare" has been a cause of disagreement with conservatives and ... continue reading


Moves made to oust John Boehner from Speaker of the House position Watch

Image of Rep. Mark Meadows [not pictured] declared his intention a day before the House was set to leave town for its five-week summer recess. Described as a rare procedural move, it's by far the most serious expression of opposition to Boehner's [pictured] speakership.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Many of his fellow conservatives and Republicans were taken by surprise when North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows said he was trying to oust Speaker John Boehner. Many say it's a bad idea, coming just before August recess. Others say such a move could plunge the House of ... continue reading


Ivana Trump hotly denies that ex-husband Donald Trump ever raped her Watch

Image of Ivana Trump, the former wife of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has denied claims that he ever raped her.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Ivana Trump, the former wife of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has denied claims that he ever raped her. "I have recently read some comments attributed to me from nearly 30 years ago at a time of very high tension during my divorce from Donald. The story is ... continue reading


HILLARY LIED! Inspector General says personal emails contained classified information Watch

Image of Only allowed to review a sample of 40 out of the total of 30,000 emails from Hillary Clinton's private email server, four of those emails contained classified information.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hillary Clinton's personal email account "contained classified information when they were generated," "remain classified today" and "should never have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system." Those are the findings of the U.S. Intelligence ... continue reading


GLOVES ARE OFF: Donald Trump denounces Bush, Walker and Clinton as being beholden to donors Watch

Image of Speaking east of Des Moines, Donald Trump was most concise in his attack upon Walker. Criticizing the Wisconsin governor's handling of his state's economy, Trump accused him of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

At a "free-wheeling" press conference, GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump says he is putting no cap into the money he is going to pour into his campaign. A self-made billionaire in real estate, Trump denounced Republican candidates Jeb Bush and Scott ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Numbers 11:4-15
4 The rabble who had joined the people were feeling ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 81:12-13, 14-15, 16-17
12 So I left them to their stubborn selves, to follow ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 14:13-21
13 When Jesus received this news he withdrew by boat ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 3rd, 2015 Image

St. Lydia Purpuraria
August 3: Lydia Purpuraria (1st century) was born at Thyatira (Ak-Hissar), ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter