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Defending the Constitution by Edward B. McLean

Defending the Constitution

by Edward B. McLean

August 31, 2012 
 In Defense of the Constitution, by George Carey
Liberty Press, Indianapolis, IN 1995.
Most Americans are puzzled that their belief in limited government is not matched by government officials who persistently intrude into their daily lives. Also, their settled beliefs regarding what is right— what they are permitted to do— and what they must not do, are changed for them by functionaries in a distant Byzantine capital, far removed from the reality with which most Americans deal. For example, we are told that we may not open public activities with prayer, that a woman may kill her unborn child, and that we may not inquire about a person’s marital plans, sexual perversions, or high school grades when interviewing them as prospective employees. All of this occurs in a nation with a constitution that limits what the government may do. One may well ask if we have a limited government, why then does the government do whatever it pleases? George Carey, distinguished scholar and professor at Georgetown University, reveals for us— clearly and pointedly—how we have reached this sorry state.
His book, In Defense of the Constitution, is of signal importance in explaining what has happened to the American Republic, and it “sets straight” what the intentions of the founders were regarding the nature of the republic. Carey’s book is at odds with the prevailing orthodoxy in American academic and professional communities regarding American constitutional government. This, of course, is what commends it so highly.
Many of the mischievous views regarding the role of the Supreme Court of the United States, the doctrine of separation of powers, and the nature of the federal union, stem from misreadings of the Constitution by “revisionists” such as Parrington, Beard, Croley, and others. Carey reveals the inadequacy of their scholarship, their imposition of preconceived doctrinal positions in their textual analysis, and their mis-statement of the founders’ views. By exposing these writers, whose views dominate modern academia and the minds of federal judges, Carey exposes their distortion of the constitution. These “revisionists” argue that the constitution may be used to rationalize every act of government. They allege that since there is no coherence in the views of the founders regarding the republic they formed, the Constitution may be interpreted in whatever manner one wishes. Carey’s careful examination of Madison’s and Hamilton’s ideas about the nature of the extended republic, the nature of the federal union, the role of the separation of powers, and the constitutional role of the supreme court, demonstrates clearly that the revisionists’ conclusions are insupportable.
For instance, Carey demonstrates the falsity of the claim that Hamilton favored an oligarchical form of government while Madison favored a republic. Those who maintain otherwise distort the words of these two men and evidence a studied refusal to understand what they actually said. Both Madison and Hamilton accepted the value of an extended republic, and they believed it could survive only if the national government was powerful enough to prevent centrifugal forces from tearing it asunder. Due to this fact, neither believed in a totally centralized, national government. Instead, the national government’s power would be conditioned by the particular circumstance at hand and would require ad hoc responses to particular issues at particular times.
In examining the causes for this and other departures from the Constitution, Carey points to the effects that the philosophy of “secular, scientific humanism” has had on our culture, our government, and our understanding of the constitution. This philosophy has its roots in natural rights doctrines spawned by the “enlightenment.” Accordingly, each man is gifted with “individual rights” that precede the existence of both society and government, which are products of the reason and will of those who create them. Each man is considered a “moral universe” unto himself, and no corporate claims may legitimately be made upon him without his agreement. The created state is not bound by any transcendent standard or objective. Its functions and the legitimacy of its acts are thus self determined, and the state may exercise its power as it wishes. It becomes the embodiment of all the aspirations, values, and purposes of individuals—including their very rights to life. This current religious myth of the state, Carey demonstrates, is buttressed by a notion of “scientism” that assumes that the “proper” distribution of goods and services of the society can be decided by those who can act with accuracy and neutrality. This idea is merely an updated version of the ludicrous “felicific calculus” of simplistic utilitarian thought. Such reactionary doctrine is standard fare among many academics, media “personalities,” and national political leaders.
One of the direst consequences of this reactionary thought is reflected in the “myth” that the court is objective and neutral, and that it is not entrapped in the sullied political process. Therefore, the court is best equipped to determine the proper distribution of the goods of society, and to extend or restrict human activity. We are to be the beneficiaries of this wisdom of the court, which is the only institution of national government that can, with a straight face, create and justify discovered rights as “emanating from an penumbra!” The court has further denominated itself as the “final arbiter” of the Constitution.
Carey observes that the most basic organic document that reveals the founders’ ideas of what the court was created to do is Federalist 78. This paper clearly shows that they believed that the court was a necessary element in the constitutional scheme, for the very logic of the separation of powers required it. The founders understood that all government is potentially dangerous to the liberty and well- being of its citizens. This danger is magnified under any arrangement where the legislative, judicial, and executive powers are concentrated in one branch. The separation of powers was designed to prevent this from occurring. As Carey notes: “[The] separation of powers [is] in many respects the most important of the constitutional principles…” (p. 51).
There is, however, widespread confusion—among liberals and conservatives— regarding the purpose of this principle. It is widely believed that the principle is designed to protect minorities from majoritarian rule. This view is completely contrary to that of the founders’. The only real danger to republican government lay in the legislature being tempted to abandon the limits on its powers. The separation of powers would serve to limit such attempts by the legislature. The respective branches would have the power to act and the personal motive to do so.
Obviously, the legislature could not be left free to self-define the constitutionality of its acts. What then was the role of the court in preventing this? First of all, as Carey points out, the court, in assessing legislative acts, was to exercise judgment and not will. Carey clearly explains here that these are not ambiguous terms. Will, he says, “connotes at least a choice among alternatives or goals with the concomitant capacity to achieve, implement, or move toward the attainment of the choice” (p.131). This is clearly distinguishable from the passive quality of judgment, which is used to determine whether the choice effected by the will exceeds the limits of the legislature’s powers. This passive role was to be played by the court, which was not to determine the desirability of the choice made by the legislature. Rather, it could reject such legislation, on only two grounds: (1) did the act violate the “manifest tenor” of the constitution; or (2) did it contain provisions irreconcilably at variance with the constitution. The court was to act within these narrow confines, and was to be “bound by strict rules and precedent” (p. 133).
These prescriptions do not control the power exercised by the court today. Instead, today’s court engages in wholesale rewriting of legislation passed by the people’s duly elected representatives at both national and state levels. Such regulation is based solely on the displeasure the court feels about the policy adopted—not whether the policy violates the manifest tenor of the constitution and contains provisions that are irreconcilably at variance with the language of the Constitution. This unconstitutional behavior of the court is particularly egregious given the fact that it operates in an adytum far removed from the practical affairs of the citizens whose lives it affects. The court does not have the benefit of the “give and take” of opinion and information that is central to the legislative process. Carey also notes that the law schools from which the members of the court are graduates do not provide them with the breadth of information or experience needed to make prudent and intelligent decisions.
The court feels free to exercise its will in place of judgment, and acknowledges no constitutional limit on its power. It imposes its often particularized, narrow, and ill-informed policy choices on the entire nation. It has, in effect, replaced the political processes of the republic in many instances.
Nowhere is this seizure of power more evident, Carey explains, than in the court’s Roe v. Wade decision. It is in response to this decision that Carey suggests the remedy that might be used to compel the court to return to its constitutional role. He rejects both the idea that the correction should be by constitutional amendment and the idea that the court should return the decision to the states. Carey’s objection lies in the fact that to do either is to approve the court’s unconstitutional behavior. Such actions would indicate that the court is empowered to do what it has done. Rather, Carey says the Congress of the United States should enact legislation that would end the “national right” to abortion “on demand.” Such an act would leave the court with only two alternatives: (1) it could accept Congress’ decision and abandon its self-styled supremacy, or (2) it could declare the act unconstitutional and reaffirm its “right” to be the sole interpreter of the Constitution. In the first case, the congress would have effectively stripped the court of its pretentious claims to supremacy, and in the second case should not hide from the threat of impeachment of those justices who insist on extending their powers beyond that permitted by the constitution itself. Were, for example, the congress, under its specified powers in the Fourteenth Amendment, to pass legislation defining the fetus as a person entitled to the full protection of the law, the court would be put on notice that it would either have to admit to legislative supremacy in this case, or risk taking the congress on in a battle which it could not hope to win. In addition, such an action by congress would revive the discussion regarding the appropriate role of the federal judiciary under our constitution; a discussion that unfortunately has not been held for years, but one that is desperately needed. In either case, Carey notes, the actions would help move the United States back to its constitutional anchor, by compelling the court to recognize the fact that its members, like all government functionaries, are to operate under the constitution and not above it, and that there are sanctions to which it is subject if it chooses to abandon constitutional limits on its powers.
It does not seem to this reader, however, that Carey gives sufficient attention to the possibility that the national government approves of this judicial misconduct. The mutuality of interest of all national governmental functionaries in seeking a strong, centralized, and uncontrolled national government, induces each of the three branches of government to tolerate the excesses of the other. Not only does the congress indulge the court in its endless spinning out of vacuous theories of rights, but the court also indulges the congress in its movement to control every facet of American lives by continually pouring out legislation that is presumably based on Interstate Commerce powers; by remaining unwilling to check the excesses and patent abuses of administrative behavior; and exempting itself from obeying the laws it passes for others.
The supposed contest between the branches may be considered only a ritual that never results in the checking of what all of them seek, i.e., national government that can operate above the Constitution. Other methods that might possibly be used to counter the abuses of national governmental power—ones that Carey does not examine fully—are those of interposition and nullification by the states. Most assuredly these are severe remedies, fraught with danger, but ones that the founders understood might need to be employed. One may legitimately ask, however, whether their potential dangers are more troubling than the continued abuse of the constitution by the court and the other branches of the national government.
These minor oversights do not detract from the great merit of Carey’s book. The book is recommended enthusiastically and unqualifiedly to a broad reading audience, which should include anyone associated with the legal and political systems of the nation. Carey’s excellent scholarship and carefully reasoned argument are not the only qualities that commend it. Even more important is the sharp insight it provides into America’s profound political and social crisis.
Edward B. McLean was Professor of Political Science at Wabash College. He was the editor of Derailing the Constitution: Essays in American Federalism (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1995). Reprinted with the gracious permission of The Intercollegiate Review (Fall 1995).

Prayer is best source of courage for facing hostile world, Pope says. by David Kerr

Prayer is best source of courage for facing hostile world, Pope says.
by David Kerr

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 29, 2012 / 10:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI says the heroic sanctity of St. John the Baptist proves that a solid life of prayer is the best source of courage for Christians facing a modern world that is hostile to God and those who love him. 

“The martyrdom of St. John the Baptist reminds us, Christians of our time, that we cannot stoop to compromises with the love of Christ, his Word, the Truth. The Truth is the Truth and there is no compromise,” the Pope stated in his Aug. 29 general audience address at Castel Gandolfo.

Christian life, he said, requires a “daily martyrdom of fidelity to the Gospel” which can be defined as the “courage to let Christ grow in us and direct our thinking and our actions” and can only occur through a “solid relationship with God.” 

Pope Benedict also reflected on the contribution of prayer.

“Prayer is not a waste of time, it does not rob much space from our activities, not even apostolic activities, it does the exact opposite: only if we are able to have a life of faithful, constant, confident prayer will God Himself give us the strength and capacity to live in a happy and peaceful way, to overcome difficulties and to bear witness with courage,” he said.

The Pope’s words were part of his ongoing weekly catechesis on the theme of prayer, with today’s focus being on the prayer life of Saint John the Baptist.

Since Aug. 29 is the liturgical memorial of the martyrdom of John the Baptist, Pope Benedict noted that he is the only saint whose birth and death are celebrated on the same day.

St. John the Baptist was martyred following his denouncement of King Herod’s incestuous marriage to Herodias, who was his brother Philip’s former wife and also King Herod’s niece.

“For the love of truth, he did not stoop to compromises with the powerful and was not afraid to use strong words with those who had lost the path of God,” said Pope Benedict. 

“Where does this life of rectitude and coherency, this interior strength, completely spent for God and to prepare the way for Jesus, come from?” asked the Pope. 

“The answer is simple: from his relationship with God, from prayer, which is the main theme of his whole existence.”

Reflecting upon the life of St. John the Baptist, Pope Benedict observed that since his conception the prophet’s existence was underpinned by prayer, beginning with his father Zechariah’s song of praise, the “Benedictus,” which is now recited by many Catholics during the early morning prayer of the Church.

His example of a prayerful life is so significant, suggested the Pope, that when the disciples asked Christ to teach them the Our Father, their request is formulated with the words “Lord teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

“St. John the Baptist intercedes for us, so that we always maintain the primacy of God in our lives,” concluded the Pope, before leading the faithful in the singing of the Our Father in Latin.

On Enemies of the Church by JC Sanders

On Enemies of the Church

| Wednesday, August 22, 2012
In my previous post, I took stock of the possibility that President Obama is an enemy of the Church. Supposing that he is, what would this mean for us as Catholics? For one, it would obviously exclude voting for him or otherwise supporting his campaign for re-election: the exhortation that “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Proverbs 25:21) does not extend to lending our enemies aide in the act of actually persecuting, harming, oppressing, or otherwise attacking us.

Actually, we have a pretty clear set of principles for what to do about our enemies—whether they are elected officials or something a bit more local. Our own society has raised tolerance to the level of a civic virtue, telling us constantly that we must tolerate the people we disagree with, that we must tolerate them and their ideas and their lifestyles. But, as the venerable Fulton Sheen noted in Old Errors and New labels,

“Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience towards evil, and a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. But what is more important than the definition is the field of its application. The Important point here is this: Tolerance applies only to person, but never to truth. Intolerance applies only to truth, but never to persons. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error.”

We can tolerate President Obama as a person, but not his enmity, his hostility towards us. We have a duty—moral as well as civic—to resist those policies of his administration which will erode our freedom of religion and chip away at our rights of conscience. If, moreover, these policies are to be the centerpieces of his administration, then we have a duty, not so much as Catholics but as citizens, to work to remove him from office at the ballot box.

But tolerance alone is not enough for us as Catholics. We are called to take things a step further, not merely to tolerate our enemies but to love them.

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

We do not merely tolerate our enemies: we must love them and pray for them, even as we hate their sins and persecutions. Moreover, we find that we should do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27), which is clarified to mean that we should engage in the various corporal and spiritual works of mercy on their behalf (e.g. rebuking sinners, instructing the ignorant, praying for them and for their conversions, but also taking care of their material needs when they are finally cast down).

It may not be the seven princes of hell, but hey, it was good enough for Dante. Image source.

Here, then, we encounter one of the paradoxes of the Faith. The Church may have many enemies—those who persecute her or work to undermine her, those who would subvert her authority in public and in private—she herself is the enemy of very few. President Obama may be an enemy of the Church; there have certainly been others before him, from the Mohammedans to Marx to Nietzsche, from the Tudors to Bismarck to the caliphs to Juarez and Calles, from Hitler to the heresiarchs to Dawkins and his ilk, and from Turks and Saracens to vikings to the Roman emperors of the first few centuries AD.

All of these men persecuted the Church or worked to undermine and destroy her, many by force and often with direct intent to do so. Yet none [1] of them can lay claim to being the true enemy of the Church, that is, the true enemy of the Church, the only one who can make the claim that the Church really is his enemy. That enemy is Lucifer, Satan (literally, “the enemy”), the devil; I suppose that we must also count his minions, the devils and demons, the legions of fallen powers and principalities. These are ultimately our true enemies, and we are ultimately theirs. Prayer can only be against them, for their defeat and for God’s protection of us against their devices. They alone can we hate and curse. And since it is ultimately suffering to willingly serve them, we may pity their instruments on earth and pray for their release and conversion.

“For our struggle is not with flesh and blood,” we are warned by St Paul, “but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12). Saint Augustine, for his part, tells us that many people who will become holy are now hidden among the ungodly (there are many unexpected converts), and that there are many false Christians within the Church (think “devoutcafeteria Catholics or “Church hating Catholics,” though even these may change their hearts and minds). In The City of God, Saint Augustine tells us that the Church

“must bear in mind that among these very enemies are hidden her future citizens; and when confronted with them she must not think it a fruitless task to bear with their hostility until she finds them confessing the faith. In the same way, while the City of God is on pilgrimage in this world, she has in her midst some who are united with her in participation of the sacraments, but who will not join with her in the eternal destiny of the saints. Some of these are hidden; some are well-known, for they do not hesitate to murmur against God, whose sacramental sign they bear, even in the company of his acknowledged enemies. At one time they join the enemies in filling the theatres, at another they join with us in filling the churches.

But, such as they are, we have less right to despair of the reformation of some of them, when some predestined friends, as yet unknown even to themselves, are concealed among our most open enemies. In truth, these two cities are interwoven and intermixed in this era, and await separation at the last judgment” (City of God Book I Chapter 35).

We cannot therefore treat as true enemies even those who are openly enemies of the Church, for even among them are to be found future friends. Our only true enemy is the devil, and we fight him best through prayer, fasting, penance, the sacraments, and joyful obedience to the Church; and above all by placing our whole trust in God. In short, we fight a spiritual battle which we can win only by becoming faithful, hopeful, and loving men: that is, by becoming saints. In the words of Saint Paul:

“Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good…Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality, bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them…Do not repay anyone evil for evil..Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good” (Romans 12:9, 11-14, 17, 21).

President Obama may be an enemy of the Church—but the Church is not and can not be the enemy of President Obama. We may not be able to vote for him in good faith or with clear consciences: but we can and even must still pray for him. There are no wasted prayers, even if the only effect is to prepare us for another four years under his rule (or worse). In the end, we can but pray and persevere; these tasks are difficult enough, but the rest are for God.


[1] Unless we want to count such things as Nietzsche’s claim to being anti-Christ.

About the Author ()

JC Sanders is a cradle Catholic, and somewhat of a traditionalist conservative. He is currently a physics Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas, where he studies high-intensity laser-plasma interactions and Raman processes. He is a lay member of the Order of Preachers, with a three year commitment to the Order. JC has been happily married since June of 2010. He has at times questioned – and more often still been questioned about – his Faith, but he has never wandered far from the Church, nor from our Lord. “To whom else would I go?”

Barack Obama: Enemy of the Church? by JC Sanders

Barack Obama:  Enemy of the Church?

| Tuesday, August 21, 2012
This is part one of a two part series.


There is a meme which is beginning to make its rounds on facebook stating simply that President Obama is an enemy of the Church. Given his tyrannical HHS mandate, which seems to be specifically targeted at Catholics [1], there does appear some truth to the statement. His administration has a history of being overly-antagonistic and/or discriminatory against faithful Catholics. This includes:

  • Denial of funding to Catholic campaign against human trafficking due to their refusal to perform/refer abortion to the people they are aiding
  • Classification of pro-lifers (meaning faithful Catholics) as potential terrorists
  • The current HHS Mandate requiring all employers (including faithful Catholics) to provide their employees with coverage specifically of contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients as “healthcare”
  • The hidden $1 abortion surcharge, whose sole purpose is ultimately to to force all insurance policyholders to pay directly for abortions
  • The US Department of Justice’s increasing ideology that “traditional” marriage (which is the Catholic teaching on marriage) equals bigotry
  • The US Department of Justice’s attempts to abrogate to itself the authority to determine who can and cannot be a minister (e.g. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. E.E.O.C., which could set the precedent to do so in the future).
  • The administration’s attempt to dictate what does and does not count as a “Catholic Institution,” both in the context of the HHS Mandate and in other contexts (e.g. US Department of Labor’s declaration).

Obama has gone so far as to make the HHS Mandate a centerpiece of his campaign. Miss Sandra Fluke, the “poor” poster-girl for the “need” for this mandate, has taken to the campaign trail with him, presumably to continue the discredited narrative that contraception is expensive though necessary for women [2]. Tellingly enough, the penalty for not providing these supposedly necessary services of contraception, sterilization, and abortion is less than the penalty for simply refusing to provide health insurance altogether.

President Obama has been a little bit quieter about the $1 abortion-surcharge which will be added to many peoples’ insurance plans [3]. Many people will not be given the option of opting out of this surcharge, which will come directly from their own pockets. The fact that the fee is paltry is irrelevant, though it would be insult to injury if the fee were large. Both this fee and the HHS mandate demand that Catholics and others of good faith burn the proverbial grain of incense before the altar of Caesar. G.K. Chesterton describes the scene aptly:

The Temple of Divus Julius, that is, of Julius Ceaser under his divinized title.

The life of the great civilization went on with dreary industry and even with dreary festivity. It was the end of the world, and the worst of it was that it need never end. A convenient compromise had been made between all the multitudinous myths and religions of the Empire; that each group should worship freely and merely give a sort of official flourish of thanks to the tolerant Emperor, by tossing a little incense to him under his official title of Divus. Naturally there was no difficulty about that; or rather it was a long time before the world realized that there ever had been even a trivial difficulty anywhere. The members of some Eastern sect or secret society or other seemed to have made a scene somewhere; nobody could imagine why. The incident occurred once or twice again and began to arouse irritation out of proportion to its insignificance. It was not exactly what these provincials said; though of course it sounded queer enough. They seemed to be saying that God was dead and that they themselves had seen him die. This might be one of the many manias produced by the despair of the age; only they did not seem particularly despairing. They seemed quite unnaturally joyful about it, and gave the reason that the death of God had allowed them to eat him and drink his blood. According to other accounts God was not exactly dead after all; there trailed through the bewildered imagination some sort of fantastic procession of the funeral of God, at which the sun turned black, but which ended with the dead omnipotence breaking out of the tomb and rising again like the sun. But it was not the strange story to which anybody paid any particular attention; people in that world had seen queer religions enough to fill a madhouse. It was something in the tone of the madmen and their type of formation. They were a scratch company of barbarians and slaves and poor and unimportant people; but their formation was military; they moved together and were very absolute about who and what was really a part of their little system; and about what they said, however mildly, there was a ring like iron. Men used to many mythologies and moralities could make no analysis of the mystery, except the curious conjecture that they meant what they said. All attempts to make them see reason in the perfectly simple matter of the Emperor’s statue seemed to be spoken to deaf men. It was as if a new meteoric metal had fallen on the earth; it was a difference of substance to the touch. Those who touched their foundation fancied they had struck a rock.

The fate of many early Christians. Image source.

With a strange rapidity, like the changes of a dream, the proportions of things seemed to change in their presence. Before most men knew what had happened, these few men were palpably present. They were important enough to be ignored. People became suddenly silent about them and walked stiffly past them. We see a new scene, in which the world has drawn its skirts away from these men and women and they stand in the center of a great space like lepers. The scene changes again and the great space where they stand is overhung on every side with a cloud of witnesses, interminable terraces full of faces looking down towards them intently; for strange things are happening to them. New tortures have been invented for the madmen who have brought good news. That sad and weary society seems almost to find a new energy in establishing its first religious persecution. Nobody yet knows very clearly why that level world has thus lost its balance about the people in its midst; but they stand unnaturally still while the arena and the world seem to revolve round then And there shone on them in that dark hour a light that has never been darkened; a white fire clinging to that group like an unearthly phosphorescence, blazing its track through the twilight’s of history and confounding every effort to confound it with the mists of mythology and theory; that shaft of light or lightening by which the world itself has struck and isolated and crowned it; by which its own enemies have made it more illustrious and its own critics have made it more inexplicable; the halo of hatred around the Church of God.

Persecutions of the sort found in the Roman Empire (or, for that matter, in many places today) may or may not be forthcoming from all of this. Nevertheless, the Obama Administration has at the very least implemented a variety of policies which have been so many little attacks on the Church, on the freedom of religion and on the rights of conscience [4].

Many will dismiss all of these “little” attacks on the Church by noting that they are policy measures meant to advance a vision of the world which “happens” to be in opposition to Catholic moral teachings. Thus, Obama is pro-abortion, pro-contraception, pro-sterilization, pro-”gay marriage” more so than anti-Catholic. There are plenty of people who could say they are opposed to Church teaching without actually being intentionally anti-Catholic or intrinsically hostile to the Church.

On the other hand, the claim to not being hostile to the Church herself implies some measure of tolerance, a live-and-let-live attitude which disagrees with the Church, and perhaps even attempts to minimize her authority in the public square. This is, after all, what President Obama himself claimed, both in his keynote speech at Notre Dame [5] and in his broader speech to the nation as (Senate) candidate Obama [6]. This is somewhat less reconcilable with using the power of government to compel cooperation with intrinsic evils. A coincidental pattern of antagonism and hostility may not make him an outright enemy of the Church, but he is no friend to Catholics and others of good faith.

In the next piece, I will consider what this means for us as Catholics.



[1] See religious exemptions for Amish, but not for Catholics.

[2] In truth, it is expensive: morally expensive to use, but not financially expensive to obtain. But then, the Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t care about economic cost effectiveness.

[3] Perhaps this point is kept quieter because more people acknowledge that abortion is evil than acknowledge that contraception is evil, and thus this plan is more disfavorable to the voters.

[4] Speaking of which, it is also very telling that the group “Catholics for Choice,” which until recently has been all about the primacy and freedom of conscience over against Church teachings, is so suddenly against that same primacy and freedom when the government under a pro-abortion president makes policies which violate the conscience of the citizens. The organization’s goals are apparently not the support of conscience rights so much as the demand for ready access to contraception and abortion-on-demand, as well as opposition to the authority of the bishops.

[5] In his keynote speech during the Notre Dame graduation, he said (emphasis mine):

“Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions. So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women”

Nothing in the policies of his administration has in the least suggested that he actually honors the consciences of those who disagree with him; this is especially true in the HHS mandate, the abortion surcharge, the lack of a conscience protection clause in the Obamacare bill which was ultimately rammed through both houses of Congress by Democrat majorities.

[6] This is his once famous and now perhaps forgotten Call to Renewal keynote address about religion and politics in America. This speech was one of the speeches which put him on the map, so to speak, and was widely praised by the media at the time. The relevant passage is (with my emphases):

“what I am suggesting is this – secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. To say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”


About the Author ()

JC Sanders is a cradle Catholic, and somewhat of a traditionalist conservative. He is currently a physics Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas, where he studies high-intensity laser-plasma interactions and Raman processes. He is a lay member of the Order of Preachers, with a three year commitment to the Order. JC has been happily married since June of 2010. He has at times questioned – and more often still been questioned about – his Faith, but he has never wandered far from the Church, nor from our Lord. “To whom else would I go?”

Obama’s Infanticide Votes by Patrick Brennan

Obama’s Infanticide Votes By Patrick Brennan

February 29, 2012 4:00 A.M.

Then-Senator Barack Obama in March 2008


In last Wednesday’s debate, when the Republican candidates were asked about their positions on birth control, Newt Gingrich parried with one of his usual tactics, a fusillade against the mainstream media. He told CNN’s John King, “You did not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide. If we’re going to have a debate about who is the extremist on these issues, it is President Obama, who, as a state senator, voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion.”

Two points of Gingrich’s barrage warrant assessment. First, did Barack Obama, as a state senator, vote “in favor of legalizing infanticide,” by voting “to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion”? And second, has no one in the elite media ever discussed his record on the issue? Yes; and no, but essentially yes.

 Gingrich’s assertion rests on then–State Senator Obama’s opposition, in 2001, 2002, and 2003, to successive versions of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, an Illinois bill that was meant to provide protection for babies born alive after attempted abortions. The bill gave them protection as legal persons and required physicians to provide them with care, rather than allowing doctors to deal with them as they would, literally, with medical waste. In 2008, Obama’s campaign repeatedly claimed that he opposed the bill because it was unnecessary, since Illinois law already provided protection for infants born alive. However, as Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out on NRO at the time, this extended only to babies whom physicians deemed to have “sustainable survivability.” Thus infants who were not expected to survive could be killed or left unattended to die. Obama, Ponnuru wrote, “did not want the gap filled.” (The National Right to Life Committee has a report on Obama, Illinois’s legal loophole, and its horrific consequences here.)

 Obama maintained at the time, with support from Planned Parenthood of Illinois, that the bill wasn’t really about protecting infants’ lives or mitigating their suffering, but was in fact a backdoor attempt to restrict abortion. The argument (which is constitutionally dubious, anyway) goes that, by providing legal protection and “recognition as a human person” for a pre-viable infant, the law could be used to threaten Roe v. Wade. Thus, in his 2004 Senate campaign, and then during the course of the 2008 campaign, Obama claimed that he would have supported a law like the 2002 federal born-alive statute, which stated explicitly that it could not be used to dispute the legal status of fetuses prior to their birth.

In committee in 2003, however, Obama voted against a version of the Illinois bill that contained the same protection included in the federal bill (which passed 98–0 in the U.S. Senate). Thus, Obama’s tenuous constitutional argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

One other excuse for Obama’s opposition to the Illinois bill has been proffered: that the final version of the bill was coupled with another piece of legislation that imposed criminal or civil consequences for doctors who did not properly treat infants who were covered by the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Obama and others deemed this second bill unacceptable. However, this doesn’t begin to defend Obama’s vote on the first bill.

As Ponnuru pointed out back in 2008, FactCheck.org and PolitiFact admitted the above facts as such, but have disputed whether they constitute “legalizing infanticide”; FactCheck argued that that question remains a value judgment. Since the Illinois bill would have provided legal protection for born-alive infants who had not been protected before, by opposing it, Obama voted to continue to make it legal to kill them. Thus, the only question remaining in order to determine whether it was “infanticide” is: Were the subjects of the bill fetuses or were they infants? In order for them not to be considered infants, one would have to contend that an unviable prematurely born baby is not an infant — a claim few would be willing to make. And yet, Obama’s votes, three times over the course of three years, indicate that he believes that fetuses who have been born alive, but have not yet reached the age of viability, are not human persons worthy of protection by our laws. Such a position on abortion is, to say the least, extreme, and deserves attention.

Which leads to the second question Gingrich raised: Have the media questioned Obama’s position on the Illinois infanticide bill? Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple has turned up a few media references to President Obama’s extreme abortion stances from the 2008 campaign: two CNN segments discussing his record, including the Illinois legislation specifically; one instance in a debate, where John McCain raised the question of Obama’s record, and he defended his position on the Illinois bill; and one interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News, in which Obama was queried on partial-birth abortion, though not the Illinois legislation specifically.

The attention was most intense in August of 2008, after the NRLC managed to generate national debate about Obama’s position on the Illinois bill. Obama was asked about it during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, where he offered a thoroughly deceptive response to the question, saying, “Here’s a situation where folks are lying” about his position. However, Obama was the one lying: He told the interviewer, David Brody, that he opposed the bill because of its threat to Roe v. Wade, and that existing Illinois law already protected infants who were born alive. As we have seen, the first assertion is implausible; the second is just plain false.

This seems to be the one instance in which a journalist asked candidate Obama directly about his support for the bill, and he was unfortunately let off, even by a conservative reporter, with his mendacious explanation.

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times reported on the controversy, noting the points the NRLC had raised about Obama’s inconsistent and extreme positions. The Times, citing sources on both sides, explored Obama’s claim that he opposed the final Illinois bill because of its unacceptable companion bill. However, Obama’s claim has no solid legal basis: Two different bills are two different bills.

Thus, while one cannot say, as Gingrich did, that the media have literally never questioned Obama’s extreme record on abortion, we can certainly say that there has not been a sufficiently revealing discussion of his views. An honest appraisal would depict him as having voted repeatedly to protect a form of infanticide. Instead, the media have willingly accepted explanations that don’t stand up to scrutiny.

And they deserve scrutiny, for two reasons. First, as explained above, Obama has offered deceptive explanations of his own pro-abortion legislative work, while simultaneously accusing his pro-life opponents of being dishonest. More important, Obama’s record as a state senator was not merely pro-choice, but radically pro-abortion. His voting record indicates that he does not believe infants deserve protection even once they have emerged from the womb if they are deemed to be below the age of viability, and he did in fact, three times, vote to keep a form of infanticide legal.


— Patrick Brennan is the 2011 William F. Buckley Fellow at National Review.

The Marriage of Rights and Duties by Russell Kirk

The Marriage of Rights and Duties
by Russell Kirk  February 17, 2012
In 1755, the year when there began the French and Indian Wars, George Mason, gentleman freeholder, commenced the building of Gunston Hall. Ever since I was a boy I have come upon pictures of this lovely house, at once homely and eye-catching; I have longed to visit it; and at last here I am, aged seventy-three winters, being honored beyond my deserts on this plantation of the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Bill of Rights, and much else, a wise opponent of centralizing power.
Just half a century ago, while I was writing my first book – John Randolph of Roanoke – I first became acquainted with Mason, one of the three Virginian statesmen most admired by Randolph. Under the wings of the federal butterfly, said Randolph, Mason had perceived the poison – that is, the potency for the future growth of arbitrary political power.
As everybody knows, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the United States owe much to Mason, who feared that the powers of the several states might be swallowed up by a central administration, and that personal liberties inherited from the English political experience might be broken in upon by an innovating regime. No sooner had the federal Constitution been drawn up than Mason published his “Objections to This Constitution of Government,” in which he declares, “When we reflect upon the insidious art of wicked and designing men, the various and plausible pretenses for continuing and increasing the inordinate lust of power in the few, we shall no longer be surprised that freeborn man hath been enslaved, and those very means which were contrived for his preservation have been perverted to his ruin.” During the past two centuries, matters have not gone all that far under the Constitution of the United States; yet one thinks of a prescient book, published by a Frenchman in the 1950’s entitled The Coming American Caesars; and of the character and administration of President Lyndon Johnson.
In hope of forestalling such usurpation of power, George Mason specified in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, in 1776, some sixteen provisions, some of which reappeared fifteen years later among the first eight amendments to the United States Constitution. (It might have been well if certain other articles of the Virginia Declaration had been included in the federal Bill of Rights, particularly the seventh article, on the suspending of laws; and the fifteenth article, on the need to adhere to virtues.) More than Jefferson, more even than Madison (who, a young man then, was Mason’s coadjutor in this matter, at Williamsburg in 1776), George Mason institutionalized America’s civil liberties.
Mason knew that individuals’ liberties can exist only within a civil social order – that is, in community. Commendation of true community runs through Mason’s writings; he champions the powers of the several states and the volition of communities within those states against a central political administration. He certainly held no anarchistic notion of liberty. With this in mind, it is interesting to note a denunciation of the idea of community, in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, by Ira Glasser, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. (Mr. Glasser replied in that newspaper, on November 1, 1991, to an earlier article in the Wall Street Journal by Professor Amitai  Etzioni, in which Etzioni had written of “A New Community of Thinkers, Both Liberal and Conservative,” who seek the restoration of true community as an alternative to state coercion and a means of regaining civic and moral order, for the sake of the common good.)
To such a proposal, the present director of the American Civil Liberties Union replied (in part) as follows:
It is ironic indeed that at a time when the early American idea of individual rights as the highest purpose of government is reasserting itself all over the world – in the Soviet Union and elsewhere – Prof. Etzioni would choose to revive in this country the profoundly dangerous and statist notion that individual rights and the common good occupy distinct and oppositional spheres.
Now the highest purpose – or rather, the fundamental purpose – of government is to keep the peace. Government defends a country against external enemies, and endeavors to repress violence and fraud at home. The rights of individuals are found and maintained within a community – not against a community. As professor Etzioni replied to Mr. Glasser, “It seems necessary to reiterate that those who care about individual rights should be sure that legitimate community needs will be attended to.” Among those needs are “at least a modicum of public safety and public health and civility.”
Our present point is that apparently the American Civil Liberties Union has quite forgotten George Mason’s emphasis upon community as the source of civil liberties.  Those “individual freedoms” arise from hundreds of years of common experience, mostly in Britain and America. When community begins to collapse altogether – as in Detroit today, say – the most fundamental civil liberties, including even the right to life, cannot be secured. If, as Professor Etzioni points out, organizations such as the Civil Liberties Union endeavor to obstruct moral education and persuasion, to protest against even the intervention of public authorities, as a last resort, against gross misconduct – why, in desperation the public may turn to force and a master. As a justice of the Supreme Court remarked once, the Bill of Rights is not a suicide pact.
George Mason did not fancy that rights are an individual’s defiance of law and convention. As Robert Rutland, editor of George Mason’s papers, remarks in his short biography of that great Virginian, “He wrote as an English-American, working on behalf of rights that arose from natural law and were assumed to be the birthrights of every free American. Those rights were also anchored deep in English common law and in the history of the American colonies.
Nor did George Mason think of rights as commandments that the federal judiciary would thrust upon unwilling states and communities. (He had from the first a deep uneasiness with the federal judiciary, fearing that federal judges would overrule state judges – which, of course, has come to pass, even in an extreme degree.) He would have been astounded that the majority of the Supreme Court of the United States should conjure up a constitutional “right of privacy” not mentioned even in statute, and deduce from that conjectural right the further right of mothers to slay their progeny in the womb.
Nowadays, new alleged rights spring up mushroom-like; and entitlements, too. Zealots for “animal rights” burst into departments of zoology and public zoological gardens to rescue their oppressed brethren of the animal kingdom. Or there are discovered global rights: everybody in the world should enjoy the right to shift to the United States, should he so choose, to partake of the American cornucopia. We approach the point at which it will be emphatically declared that everybody has a right to anything he desires – at public expense. Belligerent and malignant “minorities” can claim rights not possessed by the common man: thus homosexuals claim, and in some states and municipalities obtain, the right to be employed, “regardless of sexual preferences;” and potential employers hesitate to deny such applicants, lest they fall under penalty of law. But employers labor under no compulsion to engage the services of mere run-of-the-mill adulterers, or polygamists.
Such fantastic enlargements, misinterpretations, and perversions of constitutionally sanctioned rights grow apace. A few months past, a New York publishing firm declined to bring out a vile novel in which occur detailed descriptions of the flaying alive of women. Promptly the civil libertines burst into fury at this “violation of freedom of the press,” even though a less scrupulous publisher speedily accepted the book. Does an alleged right to publish the obscene impose upon the book trade an obligation, moral or legal, to print and distribute anybody’s pornography, willy-nilly?
Or there is the curious Constitutional right, enlarged by federal courts over the past three decades, to prevent other people from praying in public-school buildings, even if not in regular class sessions, or even silently, or even through tolerating a moment of silence in which obdurate little wretches might be praying. I have been present in federal courtrooms in New Jersey and Alabama when such decisions were handed down. Such repression of religion is not precisely what George Mason and James Madison intended by the provision, in the Virginia Declaration of Rights (Article 16), which runs thus:
That religion, or duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and, therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity, towards each other.
This article, meant to restrain the Anglican Church, by law then established in Virginia, from jailing Baptist preachers, now has evolved into an authorization for federal marshals, upon the direction of a federal circuit court, to jail such school-board members, administrators, or teachers as might imprudently allow a moment of silence before the beginning of class sessions. A mad world, my masters! How glorious, this enforced freedom from religion!
One reason why extravagant claims of civil rights are made, and even sustained by courts of law, is that few people today enunciate the ancient doctrine that every right is wedded to some duty. If one claims a right to a vacation with pay, then some employer or public agency has the duty of sustaining the cost of that vacation; and the claimant has the duty of performing the work for which the vacation is a reward; and, ordinarily, the right and the obligation have been previously expressed in a contract. If one claims the right to address a public meeting, one has the duty of refraining from inciting to riot; and the organizers of the public meeting have the duty of endeavoring to avert the stoning of the speaker if he grows boring. If one claims the right to bear arms, expressed in the Virginia Declaration of Rights and in amendment II of the federal Constitution, he must be prepared to serve in the well-regulated militia, as both Declaration and Constitution specify. In short, the exercise of rights is justified only if the claimant of rights stands ready to fulfill the corresponding duties.
Once upon a time I published in the weekly magazine Commonweal an essay on this theme of marriage of rights and duties, in morals and in civic concerns. The editors of Commonweal printed my article, but in the same number published an editorial declaring that although I was right in theory, my doctrine ought to be ignored in practice. Such a course, indeed, is precisely what too many folk follow with respect to their professed religion, but it cannot be sustained in logic. In the long run, the gods of the copybook headings punish any people severely who assert a right to everything and refuse to fulfill any duty.
The rising generation in these United States have heard a great deal about rights; not much about duties. In many schools, classes are offered in “Your Rights” and how to obtain them to the full – rights to payments from public funds, often. On television, public-service announcements forcefully remind viewers that very possibly they have claims upon the public purse. Employers are required to post notices in conspicuous places, instructing their staffs about every right and prerogative, and the means of complaint should they feel deprived. But why prolong this litany? As for duties – why, who would be so impolite as to mention oppression of that sort?
Now George Mason, who asserted the rights of Americans against the ministry at Westminster, was a man of many duties. He did not desire to become a public man; he would have preferred to reside always at Gunston Hall, managing his own plantation, a very substantial paterfamilias with a wife, nine children, many grandchildren, and three hundred slaves. One can well understand his desire to dwell always at lovely Gunston Hall: his creation, with his fine gardens and prospects. How Epicurean an existence! Besides, he suffered badly from the gout, “the affliction of genius,” which made travel difficult; until he went to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia, he never had left his native Chesapeake region.
And yet, against his inclination, reluctantly he took upon himself large duties. For many years he was a gentleman justice of the Fairfax county Court – then a post of much influence; also a vestryman of Truro Parish, an office with large responsibilities; an overseer of the poor, too. He became Treasurer of the Ohio Company, which had vast interests in what was to become the Northwest Territory. Briefly, and only at George Washington’s request, he served in the House of Burgesses; but, disgusted with the “babblers” on the committees, he resigned. In 1773, he wrote the first of his important state papers. In 1775, he wrote the Fairfax Resolves, a constitutional protest against British policy in North America, which was adopted by the Virginia Convention and by the Continental Congress. When Washington was appointed commander in chief, Mason took his place in the Virginia Convention that had become the provisional government of the province. He became a member of the Virginia Committee of Safety, planned the organization of troops, and formed a company of Fairfax volunteers. In 1776, he drew up the famous Virginia Declaration of Rights, and wrote most of the new constitution of Virginia.
During the Revolution, Mason was busy with revisions of the laws and implementing the Declaration of Rights and the Virginia Constitution. He collaborated with George Rogers Clark in gaining possession of the Northwest Territory, and had much to do with carrying the boundary to the Great Lakes. Disgusted with the management of public affairs, during the early 1780s he retired to Gunston Hall. But he returned to the Virginia Assembly in 1786, intending to check inflation of the state’s currency and to help develop a form of union better than the Articles of Confederation.
In 1787, he became a Virginian delegate to the Convention at Philadelphia, where he spoke frequently and always to the point; he did much to improve the document being drawn up there. Yet displeased with the degree of centralization settled upon near the Convention’s end, he refused to sign the new constitution, and opposed ratification by Virginia. Also he objected to the compromise in the Constitution regarding slavery. He had sought prompt abolition of the importing of slaves. “Every master of slaves is a petty tyrant,” he had said. Until a Bill of Rights should be included, he continued to insist, the Constitution would be unsatisfactory. The first ten amendments, ratified two hundred years ago, resulted from Mason’s arguments and influence. Mason, not Madison, brought about our Bill of Rights.
Such were the many works of a gentleman unambitious and desirous of rustic life, performed painfully out of a strong and nagging sense of duty. Mason is our ghostly host this happy night. Would that we might see him, gouty foot and all, descending that handsome staircase built by young William Buckland!
The gentleman who wrote most convincingly about Americans’ rights was among the most zealous Americans in the performance of high duties. Let us endeavor to emulate him, as best you and I may. There lies before us all a vast endeavor to set this country aright, in morals, in politics, in economic policy, in foreign policy, in education at every level. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has led the way in renewal of mind and conscience among the rising generation. Mr. Henry Salvatori, one of those unusual men of large means who have taken a very serious interest in those works of the intellect that are meant to redeem the time, as well as a courageous part in the practical politics of the nation and of California, has done a good work – indeed, a pious work, in the old Roman sense of that abused word – in establishing and endowing the Salvatori Prize for writings on the founding of this Republic. I do warmly thank him, and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and the scholarly committee of selection, for their kindness in conferring upon me this honor.
To those promising members of the rising generation of Americans among us this evening, and in a sense to all my kindly friends present, I repeat the exhortation that Orestes Brownson, that very American writer of genius, delivered at Dartmouth College in 1843:
Ask not what your age wants, but what it needs, not what it will reward, but what without which, it cannot be saved; and that go and do; and find your reward in the consciousness of having done your duty, and above all in the reflection, that you have been accounted to suffer somewhat for mankind.
Over the entrance to my Italianate house in Michigan is a heavy block of red sandstone, carved long ago. I set it there after discovering it in a junkyard. Upon the stone are deeply incised the words ADJUVANTE DEO – the beginning of Vergil’s line adjuvante Deo labor proficit, which may be rendered, “God helping, work prospers.” George Mason knew that, and so did nearly all the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Adjuvante Deo, friends, let us do our duty toward this nation.
This essay originally appeared in the Spring 1992 issue of The Intercollegiate Review and appears here by permission.

Catholic Social Doctrine: The Dignity of the Human Person and the Right to Life by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

Catholic Social Doctrine:  The Dignity of the Human Person and the Right to Life
By Deacon Mike Bickerstaff  August 12, 2012
In the battle to win hearts and minds to the cause of life, it is sometimes necessary to speak in non-religious terms.  This is certainly possible and effective.

For example, medical science and biology can help us defend the lives of unborn children and argue persuasively for an end to abortion.

An unborn child is

  • alive,
  • demonstrably human and
  • a unique human life with DNA that is distinct from each parent.

These are scientific facts.

Even if an opponent argues that this life in the womb is not yet a person, one need not resort to religion to oppose this claim. After all, a lack of certainty about personhood should not lead to a callous sentence of death, but rather to the urgent preservation of the life. We have too sordid a history of the powerful declaring the innocent weak as something less than human.

At other times, what is needed is precisely the proclamation of the Gospel and trust in the Holy Spirit to convert heart and minds.

I recently read a passage from Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World:

“The root reason for human dignity lies in man’s call to communion with God. From the very circumstance of his origin man is already invited to converse with God. For man would not exist were he not created by God’s love and constantly preserved by it; and he cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and devotes himself to His Creator” (GS 19.1 ).

The simple truth spoken of here is that our dignity as human persons derives not from the color of our skin, the nation of our origin, the level of education we have attained, the amount of wealth we have accumulated, the degree of our independence from reliance on others, the economic job we perform, our friends, our family, or any of our talents. Our dignity does not depend upon our health nor our age. Our dignity from the moment of conception comes from the God who created us and NO ONE can take this away from us.

This call places an obligation on us.  We must respond to this call.  We can either accept the loving call of God to communion, or we can reject it. We can either respect the call of God to others, or we can ignore it.  The first choice in each of these leads to life, the second to our destruction and spiritual death. The first leads to joy and fulfillment, the second leads to misery and despair.

At the heart of the Church’s insistence on respect for human life and the right to life of the human person is the dignity of the human person.  Abortion, euthanasia and other direct attacks on the right to life ignore this simple truth.

“The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, fínds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights – for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination” (Blessed John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, no. 38).

We must not be afraid to speak of this relationship between God and Man. We must not hesitate to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. And oftentimes, it is this proclamation of the Gospel that must precede our efforts to explain why we Catholics are prolife.

Have you had the opportunity to share the Gospel with someone who does not respect the right to life of all innocent humans from natural conception to natural death? What were the circumstances? Were you successful… did you make any headway?


Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™. A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Mike is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center’s Business Conference; and Chaplains to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association and co-founder of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

The Political and Economic Moral Challenge – Part I

The Political and Economic Moral Challenge – Part I

Some years ago, 1948 I believe it was, there was written a book titled “COMMUNISM and the CONSCIENCE of the WEST”, to which I now take advances from. But not before mentioning the author, well I’ll do that in the end, so as not to leave any verbal alienation for, or from the readers.

“There remains the one standard that has not yet been universally used, namely, the choosing of candidates on moral grounds. A nation always gets the kind of politicians it deserves. When our moral standards are different, our legislation will be different. As long as the decent people refuse to believe that morality must manifest itself in every sphere of human activity, including the political, they will not meet the challenge of Marxism (communism). Contemporary history proves that modern political leaders, devoid of a moral inspiration and relying solely on a mass basis (might makes right), proves ineffectual in time of crisis as did the Kerensky regime and the Weimar politicians. Being the creation of a confused mass group and not primarily defenders of the right, they prove in the end to be only transitional phases in a movement toward a revolutionary regime. The apathy of an electorate to moral leadership is always reflected in the apathy of their politicians. ‘What men do not see is that the fracturing of the spiritual community means the loss of inclusive and unifying moral sanctions over the whole of man’s activities.

The modern world has no cement to bind together personal morals and the morals of political and economic life.’ If a time ever comes when the religious Jews, Protestants and Catholics have to suffer under a totalitarian state denying them the right to worship God according to the light of their conscience, it will be because for years they thought it made no difference what kind of people represented them in Congress, and because they never opposed the spiritual truth to the materialist lie.”

Although, I would take a personal exception and insert the “Obama regime” and/or the “Bush regime”, the big ‘R’ and big big “D” parties, as current proofs and for violations of moral conscience, particularly as they had to do with the creation of stimulus and TARP programs. And I may even mention that in this time we have few defenders of right, present company excluded, of course. And to the question of electorate apathy, I would say more of a mass conversion and duplicity than apathy in, again a causality from our not-so-free and immoral press. I don’t know how one creates a moral press perhaps affiliate with America’s Partynews, is a good start.

Fulton Sheen goes on; Awh! I just gave it away.

“Woe is me,..” (1Corinthians 9:16) and woe unto us, if the believing element in our country does not allow its belief in God and morality to seep deep down into the action in the polling booths. The first effective campaign against full blown communism is to wage war against our temptation to abandon the spiritual in the realm of the political. Nothing can do men of good will more harm than apparent compromises with parties that subscribe to anti-moral and anti-democratic and anti-God forces. We must have the courage to detach our support from men (and women) who are doing evil. We must bear them no hatred, but we must break with them.”

So I put it to you, as has the founders of this party and specifically Alan Keyes; The Political and Economic Challenges facing us today and into the tomorrows “God willing” is nothing if we don’t address the moral problems first. First things first, are our moral obligations. To God,.. To Family,.. and To Country.

Posted by G.C. Stevenson

Subsidiarity, solidarity, and the lay mission by Bishop Robert C. Morlino


Subsidiarity, Solidarity, and the Lay Mission

by Bishop Robert C. Morlino

Dear friends,

It was no shock at all for me to learn that our diocesan native son, Paul Ryan, had been chosen to be a candidate for the Vice Presidency of the United States. I am proud of his accomplishments as a native son, and a brother in the faith, and my prayers go with him and especially with his family as they endure the unbelievable demands of a presidential campaign here in the United States. It is not for the bishop or priests to endorse particular candidates or political parties. Any efforts on the part of any bishop or priest to do so should be set aside. And you can be assured that no priest who promotes a partisan agenda is acting in union with me or with the Universal Church.

It is the role of bishops and priests to teach principles of our faith, such that those who seek elected offices, if they are Catholics, are to form their consciences according to these principles about particular policy issues.

However, the formation of conscience regarding particular policy issues is different depending on how fundamental to the ecology of human nature or the Catholic faith a particular issue is. Some of the most fundamental issues for the formation of a Catholic conscience are as follows: sacredness of human life from conception to natural death, marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience, and a right to private property.

Violations of the above involve intrinsic evil — that is, an evil which cannot be justified by any circumstances whatsoever. These evils are examples of direct pollution of the ecology of human nature and can be discerned as such by human reason alone. Thus, all people of good will who wish to follow human reason should deplore any and all violations in the above areas, without exception. The violations would be: abortion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, same-sex marriage, government-coerced secularism, and socialism.

Where intrinsic evil is not involved

In these most fundamental matters, a well-formed Catholic conscience, or the well-formed conscience of a person of good will, simply follows the conclusions demanded by the ecology of human nature and the reasoning process. A Catholic conscience can never take exception to the prohibition of actions which are intrinsically evil. Nor may a conscience well-formed by reason or the Catholic faith ever choose to vote for someone who clearly, consistently, persistently promotes that which is intrinsically evil.

However, a conscience well-formed according to reason or the Catholic faith, must also make choices where intrinsic evil is not involved. How best to care for the poor is probably the finest current example of this, though another would be how best to create jobs at a time when so many are suffering from the ravages of unemployment. In matters such as these, where intrinsic evil is not involved, the rational principles of solidarity and subsidiarity come into play. The principle of solidarity, simply stated, means that every human being on the face of the earth is my brother and my sister, my “neighbor” in the biblical sense. At the same time, the time-tested best way for assisting our neighbors throughout the world should follow the principle of subsidiarity. That means the problem at hand should be addressed at the lowest level possible — that is, the level closest to the people in need. That again, is simply the law of human reason.

We can disagree on application

As one looks at issues such as the two mentioned above and seeks to apply the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, Catholics and others of good will can arrive at different conclusions. These are conclusions about the best means to promote the preferential option for the poor, or the best means to reach a lower percentage of unemployment throughout our country. No one is contesting here anyone’s right to the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, etc. Nor is anyone contesting someone’s right to work and so provide for self and family. However there can be difference according to how best to follow the principles which the Church offers.

Making decisions as to the best political strategies, the best policy means, to achieve a goal, is the mission of lay people, not bishops or priests. As Pope Benedict himself has said, a just society and a just state is the achievement of politics, not the Church. And therefore Catholic laymen and women who are familiar with the principles dictated by human reason and the ecology of human nature, or non-Catholics who are also bound by these same principles, are in a position to arrive at differing conclusions as to what the best means are for the implementation of these principles — that is, “lay mission” for Catholics.

Thus, it is not up to me or any bishop or priest to approve of Congressman Ryan’s specific budget prescription to address the best means we spoke of. Where intrinsic evils are not involved, specific policy choices and political strategies are the province of Catholic lay mission. But, as I’ve said, Vice Presidential Candidate Ryan is aware of Catholic Social Teaching and is very careful to fashion and form his conclusions in accord with the principles mentioned above. Of that I have no doubt. (I mention this matter in obedience to Church Law regarding one’s right to a good reputation.)

Peace and reconciliation in coming months

I obviously didn’t choose the date for the announcement of Paul Ryan’s Vice Presidential Candidacy and as I express my pride in him and in what he has accomplished, I thought it best to move to discussion of the above matters sooner rather than later. No doubt it will be necessary to comment again on these principles in the days ahead for the sake of further clarification, and be assured that I will be eager to do so.

Above all, let us beg the Lord that divisions in our electorate will not be deepened so as to have a negative impact on pre-existing divisions within the Church during this electoral season. Let there be the peace and reconciliation that flow from charity on the part of all. Thank you for reading this. God Bless each one of you! Praised be Jesus Christ!

Compare Catholicism’s Stance on Current Political Issues with Your Own by Peter L. Hodges Sr.

Where do you stand on the following issues that make up the eight points in this article? Where do you think the Church stands on these issues?
  1. Violations of Conscience and Religious Freedom (Ex: Forcing us to pay for contraceptives, abortion, etc.)
  2. Centralized Planning and Socialism
  3. Manipulation of the Economy and the Poor (Ex: Excessive government welfare programs keep the poor dependent on government, out of work and separated from the opportunity for redemption.)
  4. Abortion
  5. Euthanasia
  6. Embryonic Stem Cell Research
  7. Human Cloning
  8. Same-Sex Marriage

Catholicism rejects all of these. The Catholic Church’s opposition to each of these issues is summarized below for absolute clarity. These eight are not listed in order of importance.

Excerpts of all issues are taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC and section number):

  1. Violations of Conscience and Religious Freedom
    CCC 1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.”
    CCC 1907 First, the common good presupposes respect for the person
    as such. In the name of the common good, public authorities are bound
    to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person.
    Society should permit each of its members to fulfill his vocation. In
    particular, the common good resides in the conditions for the exercise of the natural freedoms indispensable for the development of the human vocation, such as “the right to act according to a sound norm of conscience and to safeguard . . . privacy, and rightful freedom also in matters of religion.”
    CCC 2107 “If because of the circumstances
    of a particular people special civil recognition is given to one
    religious community in the constitutional organization of a state, the
    right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom
    must be recognized and respected as well.”
    CCC 2108 The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error,
    but rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it constitutes a civil right.”
    CCC 2211 The political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure especially:- the freedom to establish a family, have children, and bring them up in keeping with the family’s own moral and religious convictions;- the protection of the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family;- the freedom to profess one’s faith, to hand it on, and raise one’s children in it, with the necessary means and institutions;- the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate…
  2. Centralized Planning and Socialism
    CCC 1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”
    CCC 1885 The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism…
    CCC 2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with “communism” or “socialism.” …Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds…
    CCC 2499 Moral judgment must condemn the plague of totalitarian states which systematically falsify the truth, exercise political control of opinion through the media, manipulate defendants and witnesses at public trials, and imagine that they secure their tyranny by strangling and repressing everything they consider “thought crimes.”
  3. Manipulation of the Economy and the Poor CCC 2427 Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another. Hence work is a duty: “If any one will not work, let him not eat.” Work honors the Creator’s gifts and the talents received from him. It can also be redemptive. By enduring the hardship of work in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain fashion with the Son of God in his redemptive work. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish. Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ. CCC 2444 “The Church’s love for the poor . . . is a part of
    her constant tradition.” This love is inspired by the Gospel of the
    Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor. Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to “be able to give to those in need.” It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.
  4. Abortion
    CCC 2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception…
    CCC 2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable…
  5. Euthanasia
    CCC 2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable. Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.
  6. Embryonic Stem Cell Research
    CCC 2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation…
    CCC 2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.
    CCC 2275 …”It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.”
    “Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity” which are unique and unrepeatable.
  7. Human Cloning
    CCC 2273
    CCC 2274
    CCC 2275
  8. Same-Sex Marriage
    CCC 2357 …Under no circumstances can they (homosexual acts) be approved.
    CCC 2358 They (homosexual persons) must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity…
    CCC 2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity… they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
    CCC 2360 Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion…

O Holy Spirit, strengthen us to defend all that is holy.

Peter L. Hodges Sr.

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