Senator Rick Santorum: Charge to Revive the Role of Faith in the Public Square
known through the exercise of reason against which the positive or civil law must be measured and if needed amended.
Martin Luther King laid out his approach for ordinary citizens in a Letter from a Birmingham Jail. 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. ... 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. "
That said it's important to exercise prudence in such matters, particularly concerning matters of private personal behavior. Not all immoral conduct should be illegal. There are many good reasons not to fight such behavior with the coercive tools of criminal law. With the common sense of his classical tradition, Thomas Aquinas said that law "does not forbid all the vices, from which upright men can keep away, but only those grave ones which the average man can avoid, and chiefly those which do harm to others and have to be stopped if human society is to be maintained, such as murder and theft and so forth." So as long as this immoral behavior is not done in public or has significant public consequence it should stand outside civil sanctions. Aquinas was clear and practical: "The purpose of human law is to bring people to virtue, not suddenly, but step by step."
An illustration of this dichotomy is the issue of laws pertaining to certain sexual practices and what is called same sex marriage. In 2003 I expressed concern about the court's decision in a case challenging a Texas sodomy statute. I did so not because I would have voted for the Texas law; following St. Thomas' wisdom I would have opposed the Texas law.
I raised concerns about the consequences of the legal reasoning the court gave for invalidating the statute. They created a new constitutional "right" to consensual sexual conduct. I warned such a right would be used as a basis to create new a right that could have profound public consequences -- same sex marriage.
I have been criticized in the media for daring to speak out on these sensitive moral issues. So be it. I've tried, not always successfully, to approach these issues with the appropriate passion for the important matter at hand, with respect for the other point of view, without malice toward my opponent and with the humility that my judgment in some cases may be in error.
As it has been pointed out to me on numerous occasions, there are moral issues where I have differed from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and even the pope -- welfare reform, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and some immigration policies. While all of these issues have profound moral underpinnings none of them involve moral absolutes. War is are not always unjust; government aid is not always just or loving. The bishops and I may disagree on such prudential matters, but as with all people of good will with whom I disagree, I have an obligation to them and my country to listen to their perspective and perform a healthy reexamination of my own position. Let me be clear; I am not arguing here that I have, or our country should, be governed on the basis of religious revelation -- that we should for example have laws against murder, stealing, abortion and polygamy only because the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob decreed it so. I wholehearted agree with C.S. Lewis who said "I love God, but I detest theocracies."
Obviously, not everyone shares the Judeo-Christian moral convictions. All of us have an obligation to justify our positions based upon something that is accessible to everyone irrespective of their religious beliefs. We owe the public arguments based upon reason grounded in truth. In the Encyclical, Fides et Ratio, Pope John Paul II wrote as his opening sentence: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart the desire to know the truth -- in a word, to know himself -- so that by knowing and loving God, men and women can come to the fullness of the truth about themselves."
The principle of the harmony of faith and reason is a crucial contribution that the Catholic Church brings to the debate. Those of us who are Catholic along with a majority of Protestants and Jews believe that God reveals himself through his creation and, as such, moral truths that should govern a just society are accessible to all -- believers and non-believers alike. At the same time, of course, we must hold fast to our convictions of what is right and what is wrong according to our faith, and not fall into the trap of idolizing our own intellects, or trying so hard not to offend that we succumb to a watery political correctness. ...
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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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