For the considerable body of people in the western world who still believe in self-government, and in the preservation of their nations’ traditional moral identities, the overreaching of the contemporary human rights project will perhaps lead them to reconsider natural law, presented in a prudently modest formulation. This is a crucial undertaking to which Pierre Manent’s new book is a worthy contribution.
Pillar: The Human Person
The first pillar of a decent society is respect for the human person, which recognizes that all individual human beings have dignity simply because of the kind of being they are: animals whose rational faculties allow them to know, love, reason, and communicate. It also recognizes that human beings are persons, members of the human family who flourish in a community that respects their fundamental rights and who long to discover transcendent truths about the nature of reality.
It is a cliché to say that religious faith helps people to cope with stress. As with many clichés, this one is both true and false. How one uses religion to cope with stress is key.
Justice, in the Bible and in the Christian tradition, demands that we protect and remember every vulnerable and isolated person, made in the image of God. As reopening moves ahead, a surge of mercy to protect the elderly and others who are confined might prove a healing tonic for a bitterly riven society—and for the Christian church.
What happens if a possible future vaccine for COVID-19 is developed unethically, by using contemporary tissue from aborted children? Could pro-life citizens morally use such a vaccine?
If a COVID-19 vaccine is developed with the use of cell lines derived from an aborted fetus, should a citizen of conscience who is opposed to abortion avail herself of it to protect herself and her loved ones during this time of pandemic? Using such a medical therapy would be morally justifiable only if its use did not contribute to future evil acts and if its use was occasioned by a grave proportionate reason.
Through being a Public Discourse reader, I’ve made friendships I would not otherwise have made. The joy of any movement is the relationships it fosters, and my life would be less fulfilled were it not for the intellectual camaraderie that is enjoyed by many within the Public Discourse readership.
Social conservatives are not just moralizing when they reject so much of what passes for liberation in our time. It’s not that we’re against self-determination, but rather that we are for the flourishing and well-being of persons, and thus we insist on fostering the institutions that are essential to this task.
In responding to the current crisis, the great pandemic, we can follow the example of Aeneas: we can reject despair in the face of horrible suffering and find strength in "the roots of our traditions."
Social capital mediates the severity and spread of COVID-19. In order to be effective, public-health interventions in response need to be connected to the social forces that are already at play in communities.
The common good is the final cause of political association, not least because practical decisions are always decisions about achieving what is good and avoiding what is bad. But invoking the common good under the influence of De Koninck, Maritain, or even Aquinas doesn’t on its own advance the political conversation that characterizes a healthy polity.
Integralism delivers a more realistic view of how states actually function—including states that are secular—than do models currently dominant in political and legal philosophy.
To be Catholic is to be completely comfortable in neither party. I know. I live this every day. If you really want to change the world, you must choose to be Catholic, and carry Jesus into the public square. Adapted from a May 2019 commencement address Representative Lipinski delivered at Ave Maria University.
The Chinese Communist Party suppressed the truth about this virus and allowed it to spread around the world, creating a catastrophe. When the pandemic is finally under control, the rest of the world must come together to confront the CCP. In a globalized world, when dictators are in power, it’s not only the people they directly rule who are in harm’s way. It’s all of humanity. If free nations do not eradicate communist authoritarianism, they will become its victims.
As we accept the new normal—for however long this might last—maybe we can look to our past and reclaim our first communities, our neighborhoods, by reaching out to those nearest our quarantine bases. Hopefully we will find that, when we can finally resume life as we knew it, we will have more community, not less, richer connection, not poorer.
The use of fetal tissue from aborted human beings in medical research predicates the health of some on the deliberate destruction of the lives and health of others. That predication is incompatible with the fundamental commitments of medicine. In the face of this global crisis, we must hold to our ethical principles more firmly than ever.
The question is not whether the analysis of the experts, the prudence of the politicians, or the commonsense wisdom of the public should have the most sway. In a free society, each of us must discharge the functions of our orders and offices well.
We signed up to be doctors, but now we are sent into the battlefield. This means that young doctors like me need to grow in the virtues essential to all physicians, especially fortitude and prudence.
The Passover Haggadah reminds Jews and Christians that G-d’s promise of redemption was perennial, with elements of painful oppression and beatific salvation. Egypt is not a relic of ancient history, but a transhistorical reality that we are encountering again in COVID-19.
I am astonished by how many people think a deadly pandemic is the right time to foment the spirit of rebellion and pick a fight with the government over what many will inevitably see as our right to infect others. That’s what it looks like to our neighbors. They do not see this as a testimony of our unshakable faith, but as evidence of callous unconcern for their lives and the lives of the police, grocery workers, mailmen, health workers, and garbage men with whom we all interact.
My prayer for all of you—for all of us—is that God would not only intervene dramatically to kill this virus, but also that, in the course of doing so, God might strengthen us in our faith and trust, and in our understanding of our ultimate dependence on Him for all of life.
We Christians must suffer through our Lents, however short or long they are. Sometimes they can be stormy seasons, or ages spent in empty wastes. But we are Easter people, with our faces turned toward the springtime sun that we love, and toward the Son who taught us how to love.
Easter is the victory of life over death, our deliverance and liberation in the resurrection of God’s Son. But if our Easter joy this year is mixed with a taste of Good Friday’s myrrh and loss, and a hunger for the Eucharist we can’t satisfy, we should accept it as a gift. It’s a reminder of the precious things we too easily take for granted.
We must indeed make policies and trade-offs in peace or war, sickness or health. But whatever goes into our policymaking, and however many comfortable years we hope to eke out by human interventions, we must remain focused on the true hope of everlasting life.
This is a fundamental human experience that we're having. Plagues have been described for a very long time. It's just that we ourselves are not used to having it. I would happily stay at home for three months if it meant that my neighbors are not going to die.
This interview is adapted from the Webinar conversation “Pandemic! What Do and Don’t We Know? Robert P. George in Conversation with Nicholas A. Christakis.”
As we prepare for the worst and hope for the best, we have daily opportunities to make meaningful impacts on each other and on our communities. We have come together in a new way, and I suspect this will ultimately reshape the future landscapes of our medical practice and our health-care system.