Catholic citizens can hope for a society where the faith is more broadly shared, but we cannot escape the responsibility of political deliberation about our society as it is—riddled with its pluralism and confusion—not as we would have it be. A healthily secular society can acknowledge the freedom of the Church and a positive role for the Church in society, understanding that the state is rightly focused on natural norms and goods, not supernatural ones.
Pillar: Politics & Law
The third pillar of a decent society is a just system of politics and law. Such a government does not bind all persons, families, institutions of civil society, and actors in the marketplace to itself as subservient features of an all-pervading authority. Instead, it honors and protects the inherent equal dignity of all persons, safeguards the family as the primary school of virtue, and seeks justice through the rule of law.
Why must a “serious Catholic politics” tolerate a regime that worships the profit motive and carnal pleasure but recoil from one that worships the Blessed Trinity? Why is it sophisticated to ask the state to recognize truth of supply and demand but simplistic to ask that the state recognize the truth of the sacraments?
In their new book, Scott Hahn and Brandon McGinley provide a rousing exhortation for Catholics to unapologetically live out their faith. Unfortunately, the book contains too many generalizations, overstatements, and imprecisions to be a thoughtful guide to Catholic politics. Any serious Catholic politics must recognize that the problem of pluralism cannot be solved by dominating non-Catholics and imposing our view of the good on them.
After decades of struggle, the conservative judicial project has finally produced a possible working majority of five originalists on the Supreme Court. There are plenty of reasons to wonder how consistently they will coalesce in practice and how willing they will be to revisit wrong precedent. But trashing Antonin Scalia’s originalism and replacing it with Josh Hammer’s idiosyncratic, results-oriented version isn’t likely to help matters.
One feature of Mitt Romney’s Child Allowance proposal has been critically under-billed: the extremely high likelihood that it would reduce the abortion rate. Conservatives arguing that a rise in single parenthood is an unacceptable cost of a child allowance are necessarily arguing, as a corollary, that some of those children instead being aborted is an acceptable cost of the current policy regime. But if abortion is murder, then keeping single parenthood down by murdering the infants is surely not an optimal anti-poverty policy.
Conservatives are generally good at conserving, and we are particularly aware of the continuities across the human condition. But given today’s conditions, when so much has changed so recently and so many social problems bedevil us, we need to get great at creating new institutions.
Common good originalism is the best constitutional complement to a politics of a conservative restoration. It is ordered toward a profoundly and distinctly conservative politics that elevates the concerns of nation, community, and family over the one-way push toward ever-greater economic, sexual, and cultural liberationism.
Many have argued that without God there can be no fixed moral principles. George Orwell’s 1984 goes further, raising the possibility that without God there cannot even be “facts” in any meaningful, reliable sense.
Justice John Marshall Harlan the First courageously stood against his learned opponents on the Supreme Court. By his example, we too might muster the courage to be “Great Dissenters” against the intellectual and cultural classes that progressives have come to dominate.
Eric Voegelin’s warnings about the dangers of gnostic politics apply to the right as well as the left. Christians must make a clear and unequivocal distinction between the historic Christian faith and the misleading political religion that is more pervasive on the right than anyone seemed to realize.
As a post-Trump conservative coalition struggles to define itself, social and religious conservatives should seize the opportunity to step up and play a leading role, making support for families a central tenet of the American right.
The editors of Public Discourse invite conservatives of various schools to participate in the debates that will best advance our common cause. We believe that disagreement is not something to avoid. In fact, a real and productive disagreement is an accomplishment. Civilization, in the end, is formed by men and women “locked together in argument.”
If Christians truly believe that we are charged with protecting a moral vision in our country, then we must recognize that this vision cannot be imposed by force. If we want to remain more than an interest group, we must stop treating our first amendment rights as freedoms from interference and start treating them as freedoms for witness, laden with obligations of love.
Partisanship is strong drink, and moderate consumption of the intoxicant has always been difficult. Herewith some recommendations for reading on partisan moments in American history.
A moral theologian urges Pope Francis to bring his forceful defense of prenatal children into a more central place of his pontificate. It is time to stand up firmly and forcefully for their dignity in a culture which increasingly sees them as disposable things that can be violently discarded.
It is hypocritical for secular critics to accept only those religious claims that conform to liberal sentiment and to label any disfavored religious claim as Christian Nationalism. Christianity cannot be permissible to polite society only when it meets with the approval of its cultured despisers.
To understand the connection of freedom, law, and arbitrariness, we must return to our eighteenth-century roots in Montesquieu.
I have awakened on too many days with gratitude on my lips for the blessing of living in a peaceful, orderly, democratic, and free society to see such hard-won advances thrown away for political ambition. Those who realized our inheritance was at risk saw more clearly than I did.
How to achieve a lasting peace in our cultural conflicts is the great difficulty remaining for us. We should not paper over important differences. But, as Andrew Koppelman and Adam MacLeod demonstrate, we can discuss them in a conciliatory spirit of friendship.
Nicholas Mathieu’s novel And Their Children After Them shows the effects of globalization and progressive idealism on a de-industrialized French town. Comparisons between Mathieu’s story and JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy offer insight into rural poverty and populism in France and America.
The American public deserves the truth, even if it is not as favorable or definitive as we would hope. If our policy leaders and scientists cannot put their faith in us with all our faults and shortcomings, why ought we put our faith in them with all their faults and shortcomings?
The dominant discourse on the left around race, around faith, and around what the working classes believe and want is fundamentally flawed. The GOP has an opportunity to build on these shifting trends to create a culturally dominant, multi-ethnic, working-class party. Can they pull it off?
Do we really want a tax system that encourages very wealthy individuals to give money to the arts but does not encourage middle-class taxpayers to give money to local, religiously affiliated soup kitchens? That is the system we will have if the CARES Act’s above-the-line charitable tax deduction is not renewed.
A culture of repression and fear obstructs the socially transformative goals of the antiracism movement. The tactics of wokeness hinder the pursuit of its professed aims.
It is not possible to properly love a person and act so as to unnecessarily jeopardize their health. If by the minimal burden of wearing a mask, we can potentially protect others from grave illness, then it seems we have a moral obligation to wear a mask. The same can be said for COVID-19 vaccinations. If by being vaccinated we can protect others from illness, then we have a corresponding obligation, given our Lord’s command to love neighbors, to be vaccinated. Vaccinations not only protect me, but also protect other vulnerable members of society.