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By Deacon Keith A. Fournier

8/7/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

We live in a Nation led by men and women without chests. Many of them serve in public office, from both major political parties. Others occupy judicial benches at every level. We are suffering under their poor leadership. However, this is no time to retreat from politics. We must change it.

Both major political parties are corrupted. Many who lead them have either forgotten or denied that there even is a moral basis for a free society. Their leaders insist that social and economic issues are separate, proposing a form of social schizophrenia. They are mistaken. Just as the human person is a unity of body and soul - and the separation of the two can lead to dualism - so, in the body politic, the separation of moral truths from economic and international concerns erodes a Nations foundation and leads to collapse.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith A. Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

8/7/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: politics, political party, Third Party, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Moral, Natural Law, Natural Moral Law, Deacon Keith Fournier


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - In his introduction to The Screwtape Letters, a work exposing the unseen spiritual warfare taking place around us through a series of letters between two demons -  the older Screwtape, an instructor, and the younger student named Wormwood - CS Lewis wrote: 

"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."

There is a way in which this can be applied to politics and our own political involvement. The temptation is to fall into two separate approaches, both of which can lead us to error. One is to completely retreat from that area of culture and social responsibility referred to as politics.

The other, is to pursue the path of the modern zealot or utopian and believe that politics alone can effect enduring change in the hearts of people and thus in the broader culture. To paraphrase Lewis, The devils, so clearly active in the current political climate, "hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."

In 1947, C.S. Lewis addressed the decline of his beloved Britain in an insightful book entitled "The Abolition of man: How Education Develops Man's Sense of Morality." He warned of the subjective and relativistic trends in the British educational system of the time. He reasserted the timeless moral truths of Christianity as the solution. 

Lewis called for a return to the Christian vision of the human person and the cultivation of virtues as the path to true human flourishing and freedom.  He defined what he called "the chest" in this work as the "higher emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments or character." He wrote that without this "chest", men and women devolve into self-idolatry, losing their human dignity and true freedom.

We live in a Nation led by men and women without chests. Many of them serve in public office, from both major political parties. Others occupy judicial benches at every level. We are suffering under their poor leadership. However, this is no time to retreat from politics. We must change it.

The reason for the crisis we face was expressed well by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the recipient of the Templeton prize in 1983 - Men Have Forgotten God. The mistaken idea that the exercise of freedom can ever be divorced from moral norms to govern our behavior is wrong. It will never promote the true common good. 

We must reject the claim that one can separate moral issues from economic or international issues. There is a moral basis to every social and economic and international concern. There is a Natural Moral Law which can be known by all men and women because it is written on the human heart. It can be discerned through the exercise of reason. It must inform every aspect of our our life together.

The existence of a Natural Moral Law is the ground upon which every great civilization has been built. This Natural Moral Law gives us the norms with which we can build a truly free society and govern ourselves. It must also inform the positive or civil law of our Nation or we become lawless and risk devolving into anarchy.

The American founders spoke of the pursuit of happiness with reference to an understanding of virtue as a key to living a happy life. They presupposed such virtue as a necessary component of freedom. The struggle we face involves a rejection of those roots which informed our worldview and once enabled us to rise to greatness. What we need is a recovery of the classical Jewish and Christian social vision which influenced the American founders, whether they were religious or not.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) once warned of the emergence of a Dictatorship of Relativism. Relativism is a philosophy which, in effect, denies the existence of any objective truths. The notion that "your truth" is as good as "my truth" is a recipe for anarchy and moral collapse. We are living under its cloud and reaping the whirlwind.

Morally based positions are not simply religious. They are based upon this Natural Moral Law which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason. Acknowledging the existence of such a Natural Moral Law, and seeking to conform to it, is the ground upon which every great civilization has been built. It is the source of every great and authentic human and civil rights movement.

We rightly honor the life and legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the evangelical protestant minister and a heroic champion of human rights. His Letter from a Birmingham Jail is an example of how reliance on the Natural Moral Law is the ground of true freedom. Dr King wrote:

"There are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

"Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law."

"To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality."

The Natural Moral Law gives us norms to build a society and govern ourselves. It must inform the positive law of a Nation or it becomes lawless and devolves into anarchy. Our greatest challenge as a Nation is a moral challenge. We need men and women in to run for office and govern who are unafraid to acknowledge this fact.

Is it time for a new political party? Is it time for an unaligned political movement which asserts its influence in the political arena without any institutional link to either major party?  I offer four pillars or principles which I propose could inform a national discussion and lead to the formation of such a party or a movement; life, family, freedom and solidarity. 

Life

We must affirm that there is a hierarchy, or proper ordering of rights, which begins with the first Right, the Right to Life. When there is no recognition of a preeminent right to life, there follows an erosion of the infrastructure of all human rights. Human rights do not exist in a vacuum; they are goods of the human person. Without the freedom to be born, there is no person to be the recipient of such rights.

Our failure to recognize that our first neighbors in the womb have a right to be born and live a full life in our community is foundational. Our denial of that right undermines our claim to be a truly free and compassionate society. All the talk about compassion for the poor rings hollow when we fail to hear the cry of the ones whom Teresa of Calcutta rightly called the "poorest of the poor". It rejects our obligation in solidarity to one another.

The child in the womb is our first neighbor. Medical science confirms what our conscience has long told us. We operate upon her in the womb. We send 3 and 4D ultrasound photos of him as he grows in that first home of the whole human race.  We all know the truth. These children are members of our human family. It is always and everywhere wrong to kill an innocent neighbor.

The shared knowledge of what is right is the basis for our criminal justice system. We all know it is always wrong to kill an innocent neighbor. This is true even if that neighbor lives in the first home of the whole human race, their mother's womb. We hide voluntary abortion behind Orwellian language such as choice and abortion rights in an attempt to make it sound noble, but it is barbarism. It does not free us; it enslaves us.

Legalized abortion on demand is an open rejection of the entire ethic of being our brothers (and sisters) keeper and its implications. There can be no enduring lasting solidarity upon which to build a secure future in a culture that kills its own children and calls it a right.

Marriage and Family

We must defend authentic marriage as what it is, ontologically, a bond between one man and one woman, intended for life, and open to the gift of children. Marriage and family form the first vital cell of society, the first church, first school, first economy, first hospital and first government.  We must stand in solidarity to defend marriage as between one man and one woman, intended for life, and open to the gift of children.

The effort to redefine marriage out of existence by opening the definition to include relationships which can never be marrieges, threatens our future as a free, virtuous and healthy Nation. Marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of creation and relation. In the words of the first book of the Bible we read these words, "it is not good for man to be alone". (Genesis 2:18) Society begins with marriage and the family. We can only be fully human - and experience human flourishing and freedom - in relationship with one another. We are by nature - and by grace - social creatures. 

Marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of the universe. Marriage as between one man and one woman marriage was not somehow manufactured by the Christian Church. It precedes Christianity. Though affirmed and elevated by Christian teaching, it is not based on religion or revelation, but on Natural Moral Law.

Marriage is the first society into which children are to be born, learn to be fully human, grow in virtue, flourish and take their role in families and communities. We must not be afraid to make the claim that children have a right to a mother and a father. They do.

Marriage is the first society into which children are to be born, learn to be fully human, grow in virtue, flourish and take their role in families and communities. We can only be fully human - and experience human flourishing and freedom - in relationship with one another. We are by nature - and by grace - social creatures.  Of course we care about the single parent family and the many broken homes. However, their existence does not change the norm necessary for a stable and healthy society. In tact marriages and families are the glue of a healthy and happy social order.

Our claims concerning marriage and family is not an outdated notion of a past era but provides the path to a future of freedom. The recognition and implementation in law and public policy of the truth concerning marriage is the path to true progress. This position is not about being left or right, liberal or conservative - within the contemporary politicized use of those words.  It is about right and wrong. It insists upon the existence of objective truth in this age of relativism.
 
Freedom

There is no word which echoes more passionately within the human heart than that word freedom. The United States of America was founded by men and women who experienced threats to freedom's promise and risked everything to secure a future of true freedom.

Authentic freedom has a moral constitution within which we must exercise our rights as individuals, families, communities and Nations. Freedom is much more than a freedom from; it is a freedom for responsible and virtuous living. The early American founders spoke of the pursuit of happiness with reference to virtue as a key to living a happy life.

We must reaffirm as a Nation that there is a moral foundation for the exercise of authentic freedom. We may be free to choose, but some choices are always and everywhere wrong. We know this is true because it is written on the human heart. It does not require religion to reveal it or to make it obligatory. It is a part of a common morality which should form the foundation of our life together.

Yes, Christians affirm that that the fullness of truth concerning what is good and true has been revealed to all who choose to embrace the Gospel - in the Person, message and mission of Jesus Christ. However, the moral norms upon which our Nation was founded are not simply 'religious' and they are essential to the survival of a truly free society. 

Freedom will only grow and flourish when we choose what is good, respecting the truth about the human person, marriage and the family and society founded upon it and what advances the real common good. It is weakened and lost when we choose against what is true and right. In fact, it results in fracturing our common bond as a free Nation.

We must insist that Religious freedom is the first freedom and cannot be denied. It ensures that the leavening role of revealed truth helps us to form our conscience and shape the choices we make as individuals, families and as a truly society. It is under assault and we must rise to defend it. 

Religious faith, religious institutions and religious speech are protected by the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution for good reason. It is a fundamental human right and serves the real common good. We must affirm and defend Religious Freedom against the growing assaults against it and reassert it as one of the sources of our liberty.

Solidarity

Finally, we must affirm thatthis  freedom brings with it an obligation to do what is right and to care for others. We have an obligation in solidarity to one another and, in particular, to the poor in all of their manifestations. Poverty is not limited to economic deprivation or scarcity. We are our brother/sister´s keeper. That is neither left nor right, in the tired political labels; it is simply part of being human.

The division between social concerns and economic concerns is a false dichotomy. The market was made for man and not man for the market. Only a moral people can ensure that a market economy remains free. That is why I prefer the term free market economy. Freedom is a good of the human person.

The division between moral concerns and international concerns is also a false one. We live in a broader network of international relations which obligates us to work with other nations to promote and defend the common good.  Of course, how we apply that requires leaders who respect proper principles of such international relations.

We should always apply the social ordering principle of subsidiarity in discharging our obligation in solidarity in the exercise of government as well as in the economic order. This principle insists that governance should always be exercised at the lowest practicable level - first - beginning with the family.

Larger governing entities must never usurp the rightful role of families and the mediating structures of society such as religious institutions, associations, charities and small self governing structures between the family and the institutions of civil government.

The American founders constructed a system which enshrined and affirmed a separation of powers and limited government for good reason. This principle was institutionalized in the American polity and is also under assault. We must defend it and rebuild its protective influence.

Statism and collectivism never work, whether of the rightist or the leftist version. They squelch freedom, creativity, and initiative. They can impede genuine human compassion by arrogating to the State what should be done by families, associations, churches and other mediating associations. The State should support the efforts of mediating institutions not usurp them.
 
Not because government is intrinsically evil - it is not. However, large governmental approaches are usually not very good at caring for the poor. Nor are they efficient. Finally, history evidences that they quickly devolve into tyranny by fueling large bureaucracies which lose their focus and their soul. 

The question we should ask in evaluating the exercise of governance at every level beyond the first government of the family is whether that government is 'good' - in the sense of efficient and effective as well as healthy and moral. That can best be assessed by considering who does the governing, where it happens and whether such governing reflects truly moral values.

Concluding Thoughts
 
The American founders carried a vision of authentic freedom into the experiment in ordered liberty called the United States of America. They did not come up with this ennobling and enabling vision on their own. They received it from the treasury of Western civilization which is found in Christendom and its Jewish roots.

It is the reassertion of the Jewish and Christian vision of the dignity of the human person, as created in the Image of God, the primacy of marriage and the family founded upon it, and the acknowledgement of the existence of normative, fundamental moral truths, which must be reaffirmed in the United States of America.

The truths revealed by the Natural Moral Law have fueled our determined efforts to build a truly free society. They have ensured our survival against totalitarianism of every ilk and every political persuasion. When embraced and welcomed once again, they can properly govern our life together and keep the flame of freedom burning in the torch of Lady Liberty. When rejected, we succumb to the various forms of tyranny which pretend to liberate but only lead to slavery. That is the current trajectory we are on as a nation.  We must act.

Both major political parties are corrupted. Many who lead them have either forgotten or denied that there even is a moral basis for a free society. Their leaders insist that social and economic issues are separate, proposing a form of social schizophrenia. They are mistaken. Just as the human person is a unity of body and soul - and the separation of the two can lead to dualism - so, in the body politic, the separation of moral truths from economic and international concerns erodes a Nations foundation and leads to collapse.

We need men and women in public office who champion authentic freedom and inspire people to sacrifice for it. We need candidates who promote authentic freedom; not a libertinism masquerading as liberty or a selfish individualism rejecting our obligation to one another. They will need thick skin because they will face the brunt of the intolerant secularists along with the derision of some within their own political circles. 

The secularist censors of the hour want any truth claims to be confined within the Walls of church buildings. That is because they disagree with our truth claims concerning the dignity of every human life and our defense of marriage and the family founded upon it. First, they claim they are only religious positions, in order to disparage those who hold them and offer them for the common good. 

Then, they insist that such positions are not an appropriate subject for public policy or political discourse. They seek to prevent them from being heard. Finally, they deny the Constitutional safeguards of our cherished freedoms of speech, press, assembly and religion with a mistaken legal analysis and use the Police power of the State to silence us. This is not freedom but tyranny. We must not let it continue.

There is a difference between a secular state, a state which welcomes all religious expressions or none at all, and a form of secularism, an oppressive anti-religious regime which seeks to censor out of the public forum the wonderful contributions of the Church, people of faith, and the great ideas informed by faith which have shaped the West.

Maybe it is time for a new Political Party in the United States, or at Least a New Political Movement. Let's begin the discussion.

---


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.



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