Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

2/9/2011 (3 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 (3 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'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2015
General Intention:
That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Missionary Intention: That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

Keith A Fournier: Why I Will Not Give Up On Politics Watch

Image of

By Keith A Fournier

Like many in the United States, I am trying to make sense out of what is happening to this Nation which we love. The temptation, so clearly present in our circles, is to fall into two separate approaches, both of which can lead to error. One is to completely ... continue reading


TIME TO PAY: Uninsured in 2014 will have to pay tax penalty Watch

Image of Take a married couple with $100,000 in income - their bill comes to $797, according to the Tax Policy Center ACA penalty calculator.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It is time to pay the piper. If you disregarded signing up for Obamacare in 2014 or failed to make payments - you are going to have to pay a fine. As Americans sit down in coming weeks to compile their tax returns, they will have to contend with Obamacare's ... continue reading


'You have to know who your enemy is' Downplaying and mislabling Islamic extremism is a dangerous path for the U.S. Watch

Image of Islamic extremism is terrorism, it is not simply criminal conduct.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Obama administration refuses to acknowledge the terrorism attacks around the world for what it is, Islamic extremism. This blatant disregard of the real problem can be harmful for the country. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Secretary of State, John Kerry was ... continue reading


Striking back at the Dems! Koch brothers allocate nearly ONE BILLION DOLLARS for 2016 presidential race Watch

Image of David Koch, one of the leaders of a political action network that has the monetary power to spend hundreds of millions on political races.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It seems the Koch brothers have no plans to ease their political spending habits in 2015, as top officials in the brothers' political network released a budget of $889 million to be spent on the vast political network ahead of the 2016 presidential race. LOS ... continue reading


Turning off spigot: Obama aims to possessively guard oil-rich Alaskan coastline from development Watch

Image of Alaska's coastal plain has been at the center of a fight between conservationists and advocates of greater energy exploration in the U.S. for a very long time.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Just because there's been relief at the corner gas pump doesn't mean that the United States won't need any more oil in the near future - far from it. As such, many are infuriated that U.S. President Barack Obama seeks to designate the vast majority of Alaska's ... continue reading


And the field gets thicker! Rubio joins Bush, Romney, Walker and Christie as 2016 presidential hopeful Watch

Image of Marco Rubio, a Senator from Florida may be crafting a campaign team for a potential 2016 bid.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A fifth Republican is making noise that could be interpreted as intent to make a 2016 presidential run. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Florida Senator Marco Rubio is possibly gathering a campaign team, planning out a slew of state visits starting in February, and ... continue reading


Scott Walker enters the 2016 Republican nomination ring with speech attacking Obama's failed policies Watch

Image of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker gave a speech in Iowa, a move which may put him in the running for the Republican nomination.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney may have been the first Republicans to make it clear-though still unofficial-that they intend to run for the Republican nomination in 2016, but ... continue reading


Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney hold summit meeting: Are they plotting election strategy? Watch

Image of There have been stories in a number of outlets that Jeb Bush proposed the meeting weeks ago, in order to thank Mitt Romney for his past party leadership.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Former governors Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are having a summit meeting. The meeting will be in Utah. Speculation swirls about what the meeting will entail. Some GOP party officials hope "the two former governors will find a way to avoid competing presidential campaigns ... continue reading


An average of 27 late-term abortions happen every day in the United States; the bill to protect the unborn from this cruel pain was dramatically dropped by the GOP Watch

Image of 10,000 babies are killed each year through late-term abortions.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An estimated 10,000 unborn babies are killed each year through late-term abortions. This averages out to 27.4 abortions taking place 20 weeks or later per day or 1.14 per hour, according to the Congressional Budget Office. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Pain ... continue reading


Father Frank Pavone on Pope Francis, Politics, and Catholic Social teaching Watch

Image of Fr Frank Pavone - Fidelity to the Gospel requires that we be able to prophetically challenge the positions of all political parties, and that our loyalty to Christ and his teaching supersedes our loyalty to any political party, although such loyalties are not per se incompatible with being a Christian.

By Matt C. Abbott

It remains true that the right to life is the most fundamental right and that the duty to defend it is a more urgent priority than other social justice priorities. But to what extent that fact helps or hurts a political party depends upon the party, and his ... 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, Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19
1 Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope ... Read More

Psalm, Luke 1:69-70, 71-72, 73-75
69 and he has established for us a saving power in ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 4:35-41
35 With the coming of evening that same day, he said ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 31st, 2015 Image

St. John Bosco
January 31: What do dreams have to with prayer? Aren't they just random ... 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