Senator Rick Santorum: Charge to Revive the Role of Faith in the Public Square
biblical concept of absolving debt at the Jubilee year of 2000 that motivated me to join Sen. Joe Biden to reduce third world debt. Should I have rejected the instructions from the clergy to relieve debt because it was inspired by the word of God? Did Kennedy reject desegregation because black ministers like the Rev. Martin Luther King arguing from a Biblical premise advocated it? Thank goodness he didn't.
There's a long list of Americans moved by faith who took on great causes for the nation they love: Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose novel Uncle Tom's Cabin shook a nation to war; Jeremiah Evarts, who defended American Indian rights; and Susan B. Anthony, who was inspired by Jesus' radical view of women as equal to men. What would our nation look like had the spirit not moved in them?
If there were any doubts about Kennedy's intent to devalue faith's role in shaping public discourse his concluding words erased it: "Whatever issue should come before me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject I will make my decision ... in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates."
So pressures or dictates from labor unions or environmental groups are smiled upon, and only the religious ones see a frown. To justify this suspicion toward the legitimate claims of faith, notice that Kennedy and his subsequent followers have invoked their conscience as their guide. All well and good. I too use my conscience as a guide, but you are not born with a competent conscience; it is formed and continues to be formed by something and reflects that formation. If faith in objective and eternal truths is no longer going to inform your conscience what moral code will? And where does that code come from? And what is the basis of its authority? Doesn't the public have a right to know? Yet Kennedy's followers never tell us.
What they do tell us is clear: that their consciences are not rooted in faith and as such they can be permitted to freely apply their ideas in making laws and deciding cases. On the other hand, consciences rooted in a belief in God are free to apply their ideas to personal matters, but if your beliefs, in the words of my former senate colleague Chuck Schumer, are "deeply held beliefs" that impact your public positions -- they must be excluded.
Writing in the nineteenth century, whose conflicts were prelude to ours, John Henry Newman said: "Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age ... it is the very right and freedom of conscience ... to be independent of unseen obligations. It becomes a license to take up any or no religion ... to boast of being above all religions and to be an impartial critic of each of them." Without some objective moral touchstone, conscience is no more than self indulgence -- "I can do what I want simply because my conscience tells me to do it."
A major political offshoot of Kennedy's philosophy, sometimes referred to as the "privatization of faith," was best illustrated by Mario Cuomo's speech at Notre Dame in September 1984. There he espoused his nuanced position on abortion: that, as a result of his religious convictions he was personally opposed to abortion. But he then applies Kennedy's thesis and refrains from imposing his values upon others whose views, because the truth is indiscernible, are equally valid. A virtual stampede of self-proclaimed Catholic politicians followed Cuomo into this seemingly safe harbor and remain there today. This political hand washing made it easier for Catholics to be in public life, but it also made it harder for Catholics to be Catholic in public life.
Cuomo's safe harbor is nothing more than a camouflage for the faint of heart -- a cynical sanctuary for concealing true convictions from the public, and for rationalizing a reluctance to defend them. Kennedy, Cuomo and their modern day disciples on the secular left would resolve any conflict between religion and politics by relegating faith to the closet. I see it as a healthy tension that Jesus dealt with directly when he said, "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." The early church under Pope Gelasius pronounced the two swords doctrine defining two realms, the realm of the sacred and the realm of the secular. Our founders understood that the secular realm of positive law would be at times unjust and that is why the more important sacred realm would arm people with, as one of our founder's James Wilson put it, a "principle of revolution" to strive to set things right.
As a senator, whenever I was confronted with an immoral law that was unjust or harmed society, I had an obligation to respect the law, but an equal obligation to work toward changing it to comport with what is moral. I agree with the founders that there is a natural law which can be ...
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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