Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Dr. Frederick Liewehr

9/5/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The extent to which a government aligns itself with the moral order determines its legitimacy, no matter how it came to power.


To any American, at least of my generation, the word "democracy" has a familiar and almost theophanic connotation. America is certainly the most successful political experiment in history, and the fact that it is a democratic republic is credited with much of that success. So, the mention of democracy tends to elicit a knee-jerk unquestioningly positive response from most of us. Being elected by a majority does not make a government legitimate. In fact, being elected by 100% of the population does not make a government legitimate. Only to the extent to which governmental actions are consistent with God's law and the moral order is a government legitimate.

Highlights

By Dr. Frederick Liewehr

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/5/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Democracy, American Experiment, Muslim, Islam, Sharia law, human rights, religious liberty, Syria, government, public policy, human rights, morality, Dr. Frederick Liewehr


RICHMOND, VA (Catholic Online) - To any American, at least of my generation, the word "democracy" has a familiar and almost theophanic connotation. America is certainly the most successful political experiment in history, and the fact that it is a democratic republic is credited with much of that success. So, the mention of democracy tends to elicit a knee-jerk unquestioningly positive response from most of us.

Americans have long been aware of their favored status, and particularly since their successful prosecution of the Second World War, they have encouraged their government to export our system of government to nations considered less fortunate than we are. Although there were never a set of principles that defined Manifest Destiny per se, it was nonetheless keenly felt in the 19th Century, along with the notion of American exceptionalism.

Andrew Jackson spoke of "extending the area of freedom", and used the concept of manifest destiny to increase the size of the Continental United States. Other Presidents used it to annex Texas, annex Indian lands, and annex Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines overseas. In more recent times, the United States has had no desire to annex foreign nations, but rather to export our system of government, believing it to automatically guarantee that the recipients would become as free and prosperous as our own citizens. 

The flaw in this thinking is that the means are confused with the ends. Saying that the goal of a nation is to have a democratically elected government is like saying that the goal of our vacation plans this summer should be to have a car. The car may get us to our vacation destination, assuming it is in good repair, but sitting in a car does not a fun vacation make. The real goal, of course, is to get to our vacation destination and enjoy ourselves.

Thus it is with government. What is the real goal of government? To elucidate that issue, we turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. CCC #1897 says, Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all.(italics added)

CCC #1901 then defines what consists of a morally acceptable political regime: The diversity of political regimes is morally acceptable, provided they serve the legitimate good of the communities that adopt them. Regimes whose nature is contrary to the natural law, to the public order, and to the fundamental rights of persons cannot achieve the common good of the nations on which they have been imposed.

Thus, man has need of government to organize society and enable it to operate efficiently, which serves the good of all. There exists a "diversity of political regimes" that are morally acceptable, so long as they serve the good of the people they govern. Democracy is not unique in being able to accomplish that end.

There is no reason why a monarchy or an appointed benevolent leader could not do as well. One has only to think back on the reign of St. Louis in France or St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia, about who the term rex justus was coined to realize that a sovereign could be a saintly man and a just ruler, which is far better than many democratically elected leaders could ever hope to be.

Recently, the deposition of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, an ostensibly democratically elected official, has caused many, particularly in Egypt, to have second thoughts about the results of this democratic election. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood won the elections a year ago by promising reform, freedom, and economic progress.

What they actually did was to rewrite the constitution, institute sharia law, and further impoverish the people. Notably the attacks on Coptic Christians increased dramatically, either perpetrated or at least sanctioned by the government. Seeing that Morsi was not what he promised, the people took to the streets, and ultimately the army stepped in and deposed him.

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, however, claim that he is the legitimate head of Egypt. Obama and his group agree, because Morsi was "democratically elected." It is instructive to note that on March 6, 1933, the Nazi party received 44% of the vote in Germany, making them the largest party in the Reichstag, or parliament.

When President Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, Hitler's cabinet passed a law transferring the power of the presidency to Hitler as both Chancellor and Führer (Leader). In mid-August a plebiscite was held, and 85% of the people voted to sustain Hitler as supreme leader of the state, people and military. Thus though not technically elected, once he was in place he was democratically ratified. Did that make his government legitimate?

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood do not depend on his democratic election, however, when they speak of him as the legitimate ruler. Democracy means nothing to Muslims, a fact of which our government does not seem to be aware. It is, in fact, anathema to them because it would subvert the authority of Islam. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, leader of Al Qaeda, weighed in on the "legitimacy" question saying to Morsi supporters, "We have to admit first that legitimacy does not mean elections and democracy, but legitimacy is the Sharia . which is above all the constitutions and laws."

Although our secular administration would argue that any government put in place by a vote of a majority of the people is legitimate, Muslims believe that legitimacy comes from Sharia law and their interpretation of the Koran and the Hadith. But if Morsi was legitimate, what about the persecution of Christians that his government fomented? What about the myriad human rights issues that only became worse under Morsi that made the people finally revolt?

To understand what any clear-thinking person would intuit, let us turn again to the Catechism. CCC #1902 says, Authority does not derive its moral legitimacy from itself. It must not behave in a despotic manner, but must act for the common good as a 'moral force based on freedom and a sense of responsibility'. A human law has the character of law to the extent that it accords with right reason, and thus derives from the eternal law. Insofar as it falls short of right reason it is said to be an unjust law, and thus has not so much the nature of law as of a kind of violence. (Italics added)

CCC #1903 says further, Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience. In such a case, 'authority breaks down completely and results in shameful abuse'. (Italics added)

Thus there is no support theoretically, or in the specific case of Morsi, for the assumption that someone who was democratically elected is automatically a good legitimate leader. Democracy, as Alexis de Tocqueville noted in his "Democracy in America", is nothing but a tyranny of the majority. Consider a lynch mob; does the fact that the decision to hang someone was reached democratically by the mob make it just?

Being elected by a majority does not make a government legitimate. In fact, being elected by 100% of the population does not make a government legitimate. Only to the extent to which governmental actions are consistent with God's law and the moral order is a government legitimate.

What is the #1 reason you hear people give for why the Third Reich was not legitimate? The leaders were in fact chosen, as we have seen, democratically. The judgment of history, however, is not based on that fact. It is based on the fact that the Holocaust resulted in the deaths of some 6,000,000 Jews, not to mention Slavs, gypsies, Christians, mentally defective people, homosexuals, etc.

If the taking of those innocent lives was a great crime against humanity, then what about the legitimacy of our government sponsoring, encouraging, and bankrolling the ongoing slaughter of over 54 million innocent babies since Roe v. Wade in 1973? What about the legitimacy of Muslim governments that either practice and condone, or at best turn a blind eye, to the torture and slaughter of Christians in their countries?

With the denial of the existence of objective moral values, often associated with a contemporary form of secularization, we are witnessing in our own nation, a loss of religious and human rights which we thought were set in stone - and it is happening through our democratically elected officials.

In Syria, a group of so-called "rebels", consisting of Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaida soldiers and other assorted terrorists, are committing horrible atrocities as they wage a war of genocide on Christians, other religious minorities, Kurds, and anyone who does not actively support them in that beleaguered country, and our government wants to support their rise to power.

Ultimately a government is judged not by the type of political system it incorporates but by the extent to which it conforms with and to God's law. The respect for human dignity and life must always and everywhere be the foundation of any society and the protection of life must be the mission of any legitimate government.

The extent to which a government aligns itself with the moral order determines its legitimacy, no matter how it came to power. As Matthew 7:16ff says, By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.

----------

Dr. Frederick Liewehr is an endodontist who teaches and works in private practice. He converted from Protestantism to Catholicism in 1983, having been drawn ineluctably to Christ's Church by the light of Truth. He is a member of St. Benedict parish in Richmond, a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus and a Cooperator of Opus Dei. 

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for May 2015
Universal:
That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbours who suffer, especially the sick and the poor.
Evangelization: That Mary's intercession may help Christians in secularized cultures be ready to proclaim Jesus.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Politics & Policy

All for naught? FBI admits that Patriot Act didn't lead to cracking major terrorist cases Watch

Image of Opponents, with the inspector general conclude that no major cases have been broken by use of the Patriot Act's records-snooping provisions.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It granted the Federal Bureau of Investigation bold new powers - but now the FBI admits that the Patriot Act didn't help them crack any major terrorism cases. The Justice Department's Inspector general Michael E. Horowitz now says there are issues that keep key ... continue reading


Karl Rove's American Crossroads no longer as powerful as it once was Watch

Image of American Crossroads began by Karl Rove and other powerful Republicans were at one time a most powerful force in American politics.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

American Crossroads, created by Karl Rove and other powerful Republicans, was at one time a most powerful force in American politics. There is evidence, however, that this is changing. The American political landscape is changing, and the group is seeing the ... continue reading


Disappointing Congress: Both the right and the left ladle out heavy disapproval for Congress Watch

Image of Republicans at 36 percent are about as likely as Democrats at 38 percent or independents at 38 percent to say Congress is accomplishing less than they expected.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Even republicans have very little good to say about the republican-led Congress. Just 23 percent of Americans say congressional Republicans are keeping the promises they made during last fall's campaign. The vast majority, at 65 percent say they are not. LOS ... continue reading


ENROLLMENT ZERO: No one signs up for Obamacare in Hawaii - NO ONE Watch

Image of Suppose they gave universal health care - and no one came?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Suppose they gave universal health care - and no one came? That appears to be the case in Hawaii, where Hawaii's Obamacare Exchange enrolled a grand total of ZERO - simply no one, people during its special enrollment period. While Hawaii's enrollment was a ... continue reading


ANOTHER LIE: Hillary Clinton's email scandal grows Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hillary Clinton is caught in another lie regarding her private email account usage. According to the New York Times, Clinton used more than one private account while serving as secretary of state. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The news of another private email ... continue reading


President Obama seeks to end immigration enforcement on part of local police Watch

Image of President Obama hoped to rebut the notion that he is insensitive to the plight of police officers on the front lines.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Barack Obama, while in Camden, New Jersey, said that in order for local police to rebuild trust within their communities, immigration enforcement must be taken away from state and local police and remain strictly the domain of federal law enforcement. ... continue reading


The Clintons have earned WHOPPING $25 million to deliver speeches since last year Watch

Image of Hillary Clinton has made $3.2 million from the tech sector. One of her last speaking gigs on the paid lecture circuit; she addressed an eBay summit aimed at promoting women in the workplace. Her 20-minute chat garnered a $315,000 check.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Former first family, the Clintons, at one time claimed they were broke. If so, this was before last year, when both Bill and Hillary delivered 104 speeches for a total of $25 million. Hillary Clinton is especially popular with high-tech firms, who eagerly shell ... continue reading


President Obama cracks down on military equipment for U.S. law enforcement Watch

Image of Making his announcement in Camden, New Jersey, the president praised efforts by the police department to improve their relationship with a poor community struggling with violence.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

U.S. President Barack Obama gave law enforcement a dressing down this week - literally. Obama has placed new restrictions on the amount of combat-style equipment local law enforcement can use. The gesture is intended to smooth over relations with racial ... continue reading


'Iraq is the biggest disaster in American history,' former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declares Watch

Image of Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright believes

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke plainly when discussing the ongoing Middle East crisis. "Iraq is the biggest disaster in American history," Albright declared late last week. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "I have believed that Iraq is the ... continue reading


Somebody's 'Mook?' Hillary Clinton's campaign manager interned for George Stephanopoulos Watch

Image of Yo, Mook!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

George Stephanopoulos is in hot after currently donating to the Clinton Foundation. Adding to the web of deceit, it was discovered that Stephanopoulos thanked Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook in the acknowledgement section of his 1999 tell-all ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 28:16-20, 30-31
16 On our arrival in Rome Paul was allowed to stay in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 11:4, 5, 7
4 Yahweh in his holy temple! Yahweh, his throne is in ... Read More

Gospel, John 21:20-25
20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 23rd, 2015 Image

St. John Baptist Rossi
May 23: This holy priest was born in 1698 at the village of Voltaggio in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter