For too long we’ve imagined the rights of parents, rights of conscience, and religious freedom in overly-individualistic ways, which has encouraged a privatization of these rights. But the rights of the natural family and the rights of the Church are among the most important rights. Therefore, the rights of the natural family quite easily trump the claims made by the pornographers and drag queens to access the public library.
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We must resist the sense that gratitude has no place in this era of frequently justified outrage. In fact, gratitude may be exactly what can help us distinguish justified from unjustified outrage. And, in any case, gratitude is the proper disposition toward all the good we have been given that we have done so little to earn.
We should celebrate Dobbs—but cautiously, for it is only the beginning of the project of constitutional restoration that needs to be done. If Dobbs is to stand, American society must move away from the stifling, tyrannical concentration of national power that we are experiencing now and begin a return to the balanced government of the Founders’ Constitution.
While the minority stress theory has been effective in helping advance an “ideological agenda” for “social change,” it has been much less effective in explaining the negative health disparities found among sexual minorities, disparities which remain despite ever-broadening social acceptance. Invoking minority stress theory is not about protecting LGBT-identified people from harm. It’s about stamping out dissent and vilifying those who disagree.
It is precisely to express Christ’s love that the Catholic Church has so many caring ministries: for the sick, for women in crisis pregnancies, for migrants, for the poor, and for others on the margins—including transgender-identifying people. Amid the debates over how to best care for those struggling with gender identity, the Department of Health and Human Services proposes so-called “nondiscrimination” rules that would prevent our ministries from helping people.
As the American story enters its fifth century, the list of those who have earned the right to be called fathers and mothers of our country grows ever longer. As we retell our national story to each generation, we will of course continue to argue about whether some of the characters were really heroes or villains—a debate that is part of every nation’s storytelling. But unless we can recover a certain generosity towards those who came before us, we will find ourselves with nothing to pass on to those who come after.
Conservatives must be patriots—it is not possible to be a conservative and say that there is nothing valuable or worth preserving from your own nation’s cultural tradition. The desire to fight for the integrity of your own country has got to come from a visceral love for your country or else it will not seem worth any struggle against its corruption.
Families, religious communities, community organizations, and public policymakers must work together toward a great goal: strengthening marriage so that each year more children are raised by their own mother and father in loving, lasting marital unions.
Liberalism cannot survive as a political philosophy capable of fostering human flourishing if it abandons its supposed virtues of protecting freedoms of religion, speech, and commerce. Yet, as we observe the march of the left on human sexuality, we see an incredible Javert-like intensity in hounding those who offend its sensibilities. We’ve forgotten that liberalism means winning incomplete victories and living with disagreement.
Philip Muñoz’s new book helps illuminate the “social contract–natural rights” style of reasoning that was undoubtedly influential at the Founding. But I find it hard to follow—or, for that matter, to fathom—when this sort of reasoning from fictions is deployed normatively to justify contemporary prescriptions that would otherwise seem unjust or undesirable.
In Religious Liberty and the American Founding, Phillip Muñoz believes that there is a kind of natural rights logic that leads to his minimalist version of religious freedom. His central premise is that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the “natural rights” logic that was prevalent in the Founding period; and he tries to follow this logic to its conclusions, come hell or high water.
Although social contract theory is a prominent feature of the American founding, it is both unsound and harmful to a proper understanding of politics. This fact presents a challenge to any form of conservatism that is based on protecting and promoting the principles of the American founding.
William McCormick, SJ, has written a new and welcome interpretation of Thomas Aquinas as a political thinker. His reading of Aquinas suggests that the political common good, as an intermediary between human and divine things, is a subject for ongoing inquiry, sensitive to the exigencies of a fallen world. McCormick holds that the “pedagogy of politics” unfolds teleologically as a community—in and through common deliberation and action—comes to greater knowledge of itself and its own ends.
Reason cannot become right reason unless the will is in love with the Truth; intellectual formation requires moral formation. And yet, as my previous essay argued, the university—the teacher of the intellect—cannot impart moral principle of itself. Moral communities, therefore, naturally complement the university’s work. But still more beneficial to the university is the moral witness of each person.
National Review midwifed and nurtured the modern conservative movement into being. Conservatism today is in a very different situation from the one that Bill Buckley confronted in 1955. There is this vast conservative enterprise now; it’s kind of hydra-headed. But the basic need is, first, to think about the circumstances in which we find ourselves and how to apply conservative principles to them—or a conservative disposition, if one prefers—and second, how to build a coalition that is large enough to take these ideas off of the shelf.
French philosopher Gabriel Marcel’s writings on “intersubjectivity” help us see why the metaverse impedes our ability to grasp reality’s most important truths. When every aspect of how I present myself to others is a choice, all my relations become objects of manipulation. Without the authentic connections of involved, concrete, and personal relationships, I become irretrievably disconnected from reality.
A temptation today is that we will “silo” ourselves, choosing to listen only to voices congenial to our own views, and walling off our access to other points of view. This temptation to live in a cozy silo can afflict our book reading habits as well, which is too bad. You won’t know how to shore up the weaknesses in your own arguments unless you encounter critics of them, and you won’t know even what is mistaken in others’ perspectives until you grant their strongest form a patient hearing.
In the last decade or so, various strands of the “new right” have fallen prey to the lures of governmental consolidation. But despite these conservatives’ attempts to justify bold state action in the name of the common good, subsidiarity remains an indispensable guide. Subsidiarity is perhaps the greatest expression of a polycentric approach to the common good.
John Witte, Jr.’s The Blessings of Liberty offers a wonderful overview of the development of human rights in the West. He contends that natural rights are found in the Bible, were developed by Christian thinkers, and played an important role in the West long before Enlightenment thinkers wrote about them. Witte also focuses on religious freedom more narrowly as the preeminent right.
Moral differences over abortion need to be understood as differences of vision. While pro-life advocates rightly appeal to fundamental human equality, they also must respond to those who have difficulty seeing early human life as fully amongst us. Overcoming this difficulty requires developing a sense of awe and reverence before the sheer fact of human existence, as well as addressing common ways of looking away from the full moral reality of abortion.
Just as justice requires us to protect all unborn children, so too does it require us to protect access to life-affirming medical treatment for pregnant women facing grave medical complications. This is part of the pro-life ideal, not an exception to it. While children at all stages of development ought to enjoy the law’s protections, political realities may make it impossible to achieve this fully and immediately in many jurisdictions. When that is so, enacting the most pro-life law realistically possible is justified.
If Governor Newsom signs California’s transgender youth “refuge” bill into law, it will be one of the most explicit and radical assaults on parental rights that our nation has ever seen. While debates about how best to care for children with gender dysphoria are ongoing, one thing is clear: encouraging troubled children to run away from home and dividing them from their parents is certain to inflict great harm.
Being perplexed means allowing other people and ideas to change or move you at times. Perplexity doesn’t seek cheap or easy answers to serious questions. And it isn’t satisfied with momentary highs from oversimplified and triumphant assertions, but prefers the rewards of prolonged contemplation. Perplexity also turns its sights from the grotesque, and doesn’t abuse its objects for the sake of stimulation or entertainment.
Yoram Hazony’s Conservatism: A Rediscovery offers a valuable new take on non-Lockean political theory, grounded in the Biblical tradition and relevant to our current affairs. Part one of a two-part review.
Traditional conservatives and others committed to the principles of limited government have nothing to fear from natural law-based accounts of the political common good. In fact, natural law accounts offer the strongest principled basis for defending liberty and limited government by showing how such values are themselves core aspects of the common good.