Catholics in colonial America pioneered a vision of liberty of conscience grounded in human dignity that would eventually be affirmed as doctrine by the second Vatican Council. A new book by Michael Breidenbach illustrates how unsettled the issue of papal temporal authority was in the founding era, and how damaging papal insistence on it was to the survival of Catholic minorities in English and colonial life.
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Catholic tradition has never considered the relationship between the principle of universal destination of goods and the right to private property as one between a “primary” and a “secondary” right. The former does not formulate a right at all, but only a fundamental principle from which the right to private property receives its ultimate justification.
Religious freedom is not a get-out-of-jail-free card that lets us evade whatever laws we dislike. Nowhere does the Bible hint that we have the individual authority to examine all laws, determine which are good and which are not, and select, à la carte, which are binding and which are not.
To those who wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence, political liberty and natural law went together: Nature summons man, individually and collectively, to self-government and guides him in the exercise of his power of choice.
Natural law thinking profoundly shaped the way American and British leaders approached issues involving rights, sovereignty, and constitutional government. However, the imperial authorities and their colonial opponents often appealed to different, and even conflicting, strains of the natural law tradition.
Andrew Walker’s new book provides biblical-theological resources for navigating an increasingly anti-Christian culture in the West, especially the United States. Baptists have been here before, prior to the Act of Toleration in England and the First Amendment to the US Constitution. They flourished in the midst of hostility as a countercultural force for the common good. We can too.
Every “no” to the state in the name of religious conscience is predicated on a greater “yes” to a power higher than the state.
Resist the temptation to outsource your thinking to a team or a party. Rooting for a team is appropriate in sports, and partisan politics may be a necessity of a political system like ours, but both are detrimental to the intellectual process. Catholics should not think of discussions about the Church’s relationship to American liberalism as a Battle Royal between competing camps—but as a conversation among friends seeking the truth in community. Adapted from the introductory remarks delivered on April 15, 2021 at the University of Dallas’s conference on America, Liberalism, and Catholicism.
Whatever your raw intelligence, whatever your background, what you have control over, and therefore what you should focus on, is your actions. The cure for impostor syndrome is to do what intellectuals do, and you’ll become an intellectual.
In many ways, Abraham Lincoln has almost loomed entirely too largely in our national consciousness, since it has now become difficult to get around the acknowledgment of his greatness to discover just what it was that made him great. Jon Schaff’s new book is an attempt to do just that.
A new book systematically defends the American Founding against those who believe it was destined to end in nihilism.
In some respects, Alasdair MacIntyre offers strong arguments in favor of political liberalism. At the same time, he offers critiques for both liberalism’s proponents and opponents.
Liberal doctrines necessarily require disenfranchising and punishing those who hold rival beliefs. Liberal ideology is jealous, and will have no other gods before it. American conservatives should reject this revolutionary liberalism and the attempts to make it the central principle of our national heritage. We need not deny that liberal ideas influenced the Founding, but we ought to follow our forefathers in tempering them.
An oddity about our current debates over liberalism and America is that both sides view the American Founding, and thus America, as fundamentally influenced by classical liberal ideology. They only disagree over whether classical liberalism is good or bad. But the historical record shows that liberal ideology was one influence among many, not that it was the definitive one.
While the post-liberal right often asks good questions, many of its answers are flawed, grounded on mistaken premises, and deeply misleading.
Faith and Reason, Saint John Henry Newman argues, are not opposed mental actions, but a similar intellectual act operating on different grounds. Faith reasons not from direct empirical evidence placed before us, nor from principles that the intellect has grasped on its own, but from grounds of trust or probability based on inclinations and dispositions of the heart.
Christians should be wary of the substitution of the nation for the church. Instead, they should seek a vibrant localism allows people to find meaning in their local communities—especially religious communities—and impart that sense of purpose and belonging that nationalists rightly perceive is missing for many citizens.
David French, Sohrab Ahmari, and others who are debating the future of conservatism are right to think that the challenges facing our nation are grave. Still, we need not feel forced into cheering for one side or the other, into viewing this as a matter of “teams.” We conservatives need to keep the main focus on ideas, not personalities, and engage each other both robustly and charitably. We need to think prudently about practical steps we should take—here and now, given all the givens—that will promote the common good.
In response to the temptations of liberalism in religion, Newman articulated a profound vision of conscience as a natural mode of hearing God’s voice. Newman’s insights remain important resources today for resisting the notion of conscience as “the right of self-will.”
In eighteenth-century political reasoning and rhetoric, ministers and statesmen were not obliged to choose between pragmatism or piety, orthodoxy or heterodoxy, reason or revelation. As we grapple with the role of religion in the American Revolution, we should not impose false dichotomies routinely used by modern scholars but were unknown to their subjects.
Helena Rosenblatt’s The Lost History of Liberalism correctly identifies liberalism’s need for moral virtue, but does not draw the further conclusion that her book suggests: liberalism is failing because it has rejected orthodox Christianity.
In the wake of last month’s decision, the only remedy left to the people of Kansas is to pass a constitutional amendment to declare that there is no “fundamental right to abortion” in the state’s constitution and to allow the legislature to make reasonable laws about abortion.
Robert Wilken’s new book convincingly demonstrates that the concept of religious freedom has its origins in Christianity. Unfortunately, in today’s political climate, that may actually be viewed as an argument against religious freedom.
The early Church saw challenges to truths about God, the Reformation-era Church saw challenges to truths about the Church herself, and today’s Church is confronted by challenges to truths about man—the being made in the image and likeness of God whom the Church is tasked with protecting. This essay is based on Ryan T. Anderson’s inaugural lecture as the St. John Paul II Teaching Fellow at The University of Dallas.
St. Thomas Aquinas’s treatment of the question of the just price is often misunderstood by both Catholic integralists and classical liberals. These misunderstandings deprive us of lessons that could otherwise help us combine the goods of freedom and virtue as individuals and in society.