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Mitt Romney: Mormon Candidate at Baptist Liberty University Moves Catholic Editor
By Keith A Fournier
May 15th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Governor Romney did not attempt to argue the compatibility of his own religious faith and that of most of the graduates. I was relieved. He told the graduates and their guests, "People of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology. Surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview." He is right.
LYNCHBURG,VA (Catholic Online) - On Saturday May 12, 2012, Mitt Romney, the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party who will contend with President Barack Obama in one of the most important Presidential elections in the history of the United States, surprised many, including me.
The fact that a Mormon, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, would be the commencement speaker at the Baptist University founded by Dr Jerry Falwell speaks to the urgency of the hour. Add to this the fact that this Catholic Editor in Chief of Catholic Online would consider the speech important enough to make it the lead article, and the point is made even clearer.
Governor Romney addressed a graduating class of 14,012 and a crowd estimated at over 30,000 people. That made it the largest crowd of the 2012 campaign. His speech was deeply respectful. He affirmed the founder of the University, the late Dr Jerry Falwell:
"The calling Jerry answered was not an easy one. Today we remember him as a courageous and big-hearted minister of the Gospel who never feared an argument, and never hated an adversary. Jerry deserves the tribute he would have treasured most, as a cheerful, confident champion for Christ.I will always remember his cheerful good humor and selflessness"
He affirmed the Liberty graduates noting, "You know what you believe. You know who you are. And you know Whom you will serve. Not all colleges instill that kind of confidence, but it will be among the most prized qualities from your education here. Moral certainty, clear standards, and a commitment to spiritual ideals will set you apart in a world that searches for meaning."
Mitt Romney even managed to weave in an affirmation of his former rival, my friend and preferred candidate, former Senator Rick Santorum. In his emphasis on the importance of the culture, he told the graduates, "You enter a world with civilizations and economies that are far from equal. Harvard historian David Landes devoted his lifelong study to understanding why some civilizations rise, and why others falter. His conclusion: Culture makes all the difference. Not natural resources, not geography, but what people believe and value. Central to America's rise to global leadership is our Judeo-Christian tradition, with its vision of the goodness and possibilities of every life."
Then, in the line quoted most from the speech by the media, Romney stood firmly and squarely for marriage and the family and free society founded upon it noting, "As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate. So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman."
This was a well delivered speech filled with excellent content which the Romney campaign should use more frequently in the campaign ahead. The signal was sent to many who, like me, who are deeply concerned that the moral issues not be separated from the economic issues. It appears that the presumptive Republican candidate has listened.
Governor Romney did not attempt to argue the compatibility of his own religious faith and that of most of the graduates. I was relieved. He told the graduates and their guests, "People of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology. Surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview. The best case for this is always the example of Christian men and women working and witnessing to carry God's love into every life - people like the late Chuck Colson."
The Governor concluded with these remarks: "The call to service is one of the fundamental elements of our national character. It has motivated every great movement of conscience that this hopeful, fair-minded country of ours has ever seen. Sometimes, as Dr. Viktor Frankl observed in a book for the ages, it is not a matter of what we are asking of life, but rather what life is asking of us. How often the answer to our own troubles is to help others with theirs.
The Romney candidacy raises a certain irony. Here we had a Mormon candidate who went to Liberty University and addressed a crowd which has major disagreement with his religious faith. However, it was this candidate who affirmed the fundamental moral values which inform the foundations of the American experiment in ordered liberty. He did so in a way which even made this Catholic Editor look twice at his candidacy.
I contend that I have more in common theologically with Liberty's Baptists as a Catholic Christian - though I am sure some present in Lynchburg on Saturday would disagree. However, Mitt Romney hit a home run in Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday. That commencement address was not only a great speech, it also inspired me at an important moment.
Article VI, Paragraph 3 of the US Constitution includes these words, "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
This Mormon candidate who spoke at that Baptist Liberty University is looking better and better to this Catholic citizen as the fall Presidential race approaches. The future of the American experiment in ordered liberty is at risk.We do indeed share common values which are essential for our future as a free people. Mitt Romney is correct, "we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview."
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