Catholic Social Doctrine: What Does the Church Teach About Democracy and Values
different political trends. It must be observed in this regard that if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political action, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.'" (Compendium, No. 407)
Like all other forms of government, democracy is but a form of government. It is a means, and not an end in itself. Like all human government, democracy has been de-divinized by Christ. Democracy has no more claim to worship than did Caesar.
Being but a means of government, democracy needs something extrinsic to it so that it may have an end. Though written constitutions and statements of rights attempt to impose such an extrinsic order, there has to be a law above these, what Constitutional Law Professor Thomas E. Cronin called the "Higher Law."
In fact, traditionally, the notion of this "Higher Law"--the natural moral law--was a central value held by all the signers of the Declaration of Independence and all the ratifiers of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The founders of our form of government recognized what the Compendium states is essential for democracy to recognize: that there is a law outside process, there is an objective realm of morality to which it must answer:
"Democracy," the Compendium states again drawing from John Paul's encyclical, "is fundamentally "a 'system' and as such is a means and not an end. Its 'moral' value is not automatic, but depends on conformity to the moral law to which it, like every other form of human behavior, must be subject: in other words, its morality depends on the morality of the ends which it pursues and of the means which it employs." (Compendium, No. 407)
For a variety of reasons, the moral consensus of the good behind our democracy has collapsed. We no longer hold to a central core of objective moral truth. A radical individual autonomy--freedom for freedom's sake--where we define what we want to be and what is to be our good has replaced any notion of an objective moral order. Indeed, there has been a revolution of sorts, and it has infected even the highest institutions who have institutionalized this ethical relativism.
In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), the majority of the Supreme Court refused to overturn Roe v. Wade. In that case, Justice Anthony Kennedy defined the "heart of liberty" to be this radical autonomy where each individual defines his or her good, where each individual has "the right to define one's concept of existence, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." A few years later, that passage was referred to in the Supreme Court case which overturned all laws that criminalized homosexual sodomy. In a scathing dissent, Justice Scalia referred to this "sweet-mystery-of-life" passage, as the "passage that ate the rule of law." Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 575 (2003).
In his book Liberal Purposes, the liberal political philosopher William Galston--who was critical of his liberal colleague John Rawls--insisted that there had to be a minimum level of consensus regarding the good--a minimal perfectionism--for a liberal democracy to function. Such a consensus had to disavow secular nihilism, Nietzschean irrationalism, and barbarism. The "sweet-mystery-of-life" passage which has entered our Constitutional jurisprudence courtesy of Justice Kennedy comprehends all three of these demons.
Let us not be fooled by the "sweet-mystery-of-life" passage. It is nothing other than a pleasant way of saying: "Evil, be thou my good." And by these saccharine words we have justified as good--for the mere reason that they were chosen as good and for no other reason--and institutionalized such moral enormities as contraception, abortion, and sodomy, all of which are sins which cry to heaven for vengeance. (Gen. 4:10, 18:20).
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil. (Isaiah 5:20) It presents a real danger to our democratic way of life and to the political patrimony our fathers bequeathed us.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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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.
Keywords: Democracy, moral values, government, civil government, Catholic Social Doctrine, Andrew Greenwell
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