Those who know that there is a moral basis to a free society - and that we have lost our moral compass - know that the economic crisis has a moral foundation. There are few Catholics, or other Christians, in public life who still have the courage to say so. After all, saying so opens one to the perfidious attacks of a chattering media class, taken with themselves, who love to disparage those who do not buy their propaganda. It takes courage to stand up to bullies.
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
2/13/2014 (1 year ago)
Published in Politics & Policy
Keywords: politics, government, Congressional elections, social doctrine, social justice, pro-Life, pro-Marriage, 2014 congressional elections, 2016 presidential elections, Compendium of the Social Doctrine, Keith A Fournier
WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - In his introduction to The Screwtape Letters, a book 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 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.
In a sense, the same could be said of politics. Like many of you, I am still 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 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 actually 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 own 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 virtue 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. They become slaves to disordered appetites.
The West is in a moral mess, just as Lewis warned. With its decline we face the eclipse of true freedom. Lewis' words in that book are timely: And all the time - such is the tragicomedy of our situation - we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive,' or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity.'
In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
The 2014 Congressional elections in the United States will be consequential. The speculation of political insiders has reached a pitch I have not seen this early in the cycle. Everyone seems to sense the Nation we love is in a crisis.
I know there are lots of smiley people appearing on the various media venues, propping up the spin that the economy is recovering. Real folks know better.
In addition, the supporters of the social and Cultural Revolution have painted themselves as the new liberators while they dismantle marriage and the family. They are enabled by a media class which long ago gave up both objective reporting. They are acting more as a ministry of propaganda then a free Press.
Those who know that there is a moral basis to a free society - and that we have lost our moral compass - know that the economic crisis has a moral foundation. There are few Catholics, or other Christians, in public life who still have the courage to say so.
After all, saying so opens one to the perfidious attacks of a chattering media class, taken with themselves, who love to disparage those who do not buy their propaganda. It takes courage to stand up to bullies.
When I see their faces on television or hear their propaganda on other media sources, I am struck by the intolerance they show to those who hold a different worldview, and particularly classical Christians, be they Catholic, Protestant or Catholic. I am reminded of a comment that one of my champions, GK Chesterton, made in 1928 to the illustrated London News, These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.
I am receiving notifications almost daily from sincere Christians, Catholic and Protestant, who are considering running for political office, hoping to turn this mess around. That is what prompted this article. I write it is a private citizen.
We recently commemorated Dr Martin Luther King Jr. by celebrating the Holiday which bears his name. Last year, the nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. King, Jr. delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech.
He was an evangelical protestant minister and heroic champion of fundamental human rights. He was unafraid to remind us that there is a moral basis to a free society. He had no qualms in declaring there is a Natural Law which must inform our civil law. His Letter from a Birmingham Jail is an example of how reliance on the Natural Law is the ground of true freedom. He 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 Law gives us guidance needed to build truly just and human societies and govern ourselves. It should inform the positive law of a Nation or it becomes lawless and devolves into anarchy. It loses its moral ground, and loses its soul. Sadly, America is there. Our greatest challenge as a Nation is a moral challenge.
We need men and women to run for office this year - unafraid to acknowledge this fact and ready to say so with clarity and conviction. By making the following observations I am not endorsing a particular political party in the current American polity. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church says of Political Parties:
Political parties have the task of fostering widespread participation and making public responsibilities accessible to all. Political parties are called to interpret the aspirations of civil society, orienting them towards the common good, offering citizens the effective possibility of contributing to the formulation of political choices. They must be democratic in their internal structure, and capable of political synthesis and planning. (Par #413)
I am a Republican, though there is no formal registration requirement in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I left the Democratic Party many years ago, after its leadership was taken over by the morally incoherent coalition of social and cultural engineers who lead on the National level. I could not stay in a party which purported to care about the poor but failed to hear the cry of the poorest of the poor, our first neighbors in the womb.
However, I am concerned about some in the current leadership of the Republican Party. They are retreating from defending the moral foundations of a free society. The Party is at a place similar to the crossroads it faced in the 1970's. In 1977 at the 4th Annual Conservative Political Action Convention, a man named Ronald Reagan gave a speech in which he called for a New Republican Party. In that speech he asked whether:
The time has come to see if it is possible to present a program of action based on political principle that can attract those interested in the so-called social issues and those interested in economic issues. In short, isn't it possible to combine the two major segments of contemporary American conservatism into one politically effective whole?
The last Democratic Party candidate for the presidency I supported was the late, former Governor of Pennsylvania, Bob Casey (the father not the son). This truly Pro-Life Democrat was denied a speaking role at the 1992 Democratic nomination convention because of his defense of the Right to Life.
The late Governor wrote a book entitled Fighting for Life, which I still have on my shelf. It should be read by anyone who wants to be exposed to a truly Pro-Life Democrat because they are an endangered species. The book details the censorship of the Governors speaking role at the 1992 Democratic convention and the Governors courage in the face of those who sold out that once great Party.
Governor Bob Casey wrote concerning legalized abortion: It's hard to think of anything more foreign to the principles of the Democratic Party or the whole American experience. Far from being "inclusive", it excludes an entire class of fellow human beings from our care and protection. It's the only "constitutional right" we're ashamed of, avoiding the word abortion with contorted euphemisms like "reproductive rights" and "termination" and "evacuation".
Far from liberating women, abortion has become a lucrative industry, exploiting young women beyond anything ever imagined. When pregnancy comes at a difficult time, which is the worthier response of society: To surround mother and child alike with protection and love, or to hold out the cold comfort of an abortion clinic? Where is America's true character to be seen- in an adoptive home or at the abortion clinic? In which role is a woman more empowered - giving life or taking it?
These are questions that rest uneasily on the conscience of today's Democratic Party. We have traded our principles for power - the fleeting power offered by loud and well financed factions like NARAL and Planned Parenthood. We can choose to extend once again the mantle of protection to all members of the human family, including the unborn. We can choose to provide effective care of mothers and children.
To me and many others my age (59) and background (blue collar Catholic family) the censoring of Governor Bob Casey from speaking at that 1992 Democratic convention because of his support of the rights of all people including our first neighbors in the womb was wrong. It caused me to leave the once great Party of the working poor, middle class and disenfranchised with which I used to be affiliated. Sadly, his son is now Bob Casey Jr. is serving in the Senate from pennsylvania and has thrown off his fathers convictions.
It was Ronald Reagan - his views, his character, courage and manner - which drew me into identifying with the Republican Party. He attempted to build a coherent political party. An example of his morally coherent leadership can be read in Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation. I encourage every one of my readers to take the time to read this address. You can find it here.
The idea that we can separate moral issues from fiscal issues is a serious error. This effort to categorize and separate social conservatives and fiscal conservatives is a sign of the rejection of the Reagan synthesis. There is a moral basis to every political and social concern, including economics and economic life. Just as we cannot separate the body and soul in a human person, we cannot separate the social and the fiscal in the body politic.
The Republican Party is at a crossroads. What is needed is a New Republican Party and New Republican Party candidates for this hour. I am looking for such men and women. When I find them, I intend to do all I can to help them get elected.
I would welcome the same kind of effort taking in the other major Party in the United States, the Democratic Party. Sadly, I do not see that happening any time soon.
I think it would be wonderful if both major political parties in this nation began with a bedrock commitment to the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death, the primacy of marriage and the family and society founded it, a commitment to authentic human freedom, respecting religious freedom as the first freedom, and a commitment to solidarity as expressed through subsidiarity.
Then, we could have a robust and healthy discussion on the size and role of government outside of the family and the role of mediating associations in good governance, the proper role of the nation in being a neighbor internationally, the proper understanding of a free economy as ordered toward promoting the freedom of the person and the common good. We could agree on our obligations to the poor and debate the best way of fulfilling them.
However, for right now, the likelihood of that occurring soon is slim. I am looking for Catholics running for office who are morally coherent and courageous. If you know of any, please let me know. I will research their positions and then write about them.