“The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable” (CCC 2221).
Most parents know that it’s their job to oversee the education of their children, but some mistakenly think it’s the responsibility of the government. That’s understandable, given the availability and easy access of public schools. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us, “As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them that corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise” (CCC 2229). (more…)
Marriage and Family
“A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated” (CCC 2202).
The Catholic Church teaches that the institution of marriage comes prior to the State and, therefore, must be accepted as normative. Indeed, all the nations in the world over the past 20 centuries have never questioned this standard, until recently. (more…)
Judiciary (Chapter XI)
“Some there must be who devote themselves to the work of the commonwealth, who make the laws or administer justice, or whose advice and authority govern the nation in times of peace, and defend it in war. Such men clearly occupy the foremost place in the State, and should be held in highest estimation, for their work concerns most nearly and effectively the general interests of the community” (Rerum Novarum, 34).
In recent years, prolonged political battles have been waged over presidential nominations to federal courts of appeals. When President Bush nominated Samuel Alito and John Roberts to the Supreme Court, there was an aggressive effort against these nominations from pro-abortion lobbies on the grounds they appeared to be pro-life. On the other hand, pro-life leaders opposed the nomination of Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor by President Obama because of their pro-abortion views.
The kind of nominees the President will likely make to both the Supreme and Federal Courts is an important factor in how Catholics should decide to cast their vote. Because of debates over abortion and same-sex marriage, presidential nominees will be closely questioned during the campaign on their judicial philosophy.
Since these are the current flashpoints in the battle over judicial nominations, it’s not surprising that the religious commitments of court nominees have been so closely scrutinized in recent years. Given that Evangelicals and faithful Catholics are united in defending unborn life and marriage between a man and woman, the judges from those faith traditions have been attacked on the grounds that their faith commitments disqualify them as arbiters over constitutional matters.
Role of Judges
The U.S. Constitution is the cornerstone of our law and jurisprudence. The role of a judge is to interpret, not create. The separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution gives the Congress the power to make laws and courts only the limited power to interpret them. Judges are expected to put their personal beliefs aside and base their decisions on the law and the Constitution alone.
Everyone has personal beliefs, matters about which they have deep convictions, and there is no reason that a Catholic or an Evangelical should be considered less able to interpret legal matters less objectively than anyone else.
It’s especially unfortunate when it is Catholic politicians themselves who lead the fight against those justices who have demonstrated strong commitments to Catholic teaching. Public officials who treat a judicial nominee’s Catholic faith as an obstacle to serving as a judge not only demonstrate a bias against religious beliefs but also reveal a misunderstanding about Catholic teaching on judicial responsibility itself.
In fact, faithful Catholics, who are grounded in the concepts of following rules and exhibiting humility, should be especially well-suited for judicial service because they would naturally reject the qualities that lead a judge to being an activist judge, a creator of law rather than an interpreter.
The most serious problem in the judiciary is the presence of activist judges who use every opportunity to misconstrue, contort, and stretch the law to create the maximum amount of legal justification for abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage. Those who nominate and confirm judicial activists try to shape the courts because they cannot get what they want in the political process. Activist judges can disenfranchise voters of faith.
Catholics both within government and without must be on guard against an attitude that holds law to be whatever the legislator says it is. This reduction of law can endanger democracy and morality by removing the objective foundation of morals and law as given by nature and recognized by reason.
Eternal laws are the government of all things by God and form the basis of the social moral order. Their assimilation to human society through reason gives the immediate basis of political morality; natural law is the foundation of a sound political vision. Human laws that contradict the natural law—for example, American laws legalizing abortion—have no authority for Catholics. Martin Luther King quoted St. Thomas Aquinas on this point in his influential “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
What does this mean in our system of democratic government? First, our elected officials must make laws that respect natural law. Second, individuals who use the judiciary to create rights or obligations that have no basis in our Constitution are acting improperly.
Our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, was clear on this point:
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
Some would have us believe that reference to natural law is a veiled attempt simply to establish a new “conservative” brand of judicial activism. These pundits, though, disregard the Founders’ view of natural law as seen in the Declaration as well as the natural law’s emphasis on the necessity for officials (including judges) to act only within the bounds of their legitimate authority.
1. Judges should be evaluated according to their judicial records and commitment to the limited judicial role, not attacked for their privately held religious views.
2. Those who would nominate and confirm judicial activists disenfranchise the faithful Catholic voter.
3. Catholic leaders have a duty to respect their constituents and their Church’s traditional commitment to natural law tradition when considering judicial appointees.
By Deal Hudson, President of Catholic Advocate
Defense and Terrorism (Chapter X)
“Finally, the common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members. It is the basis of the right to legitimate personal and collective defense” (CCC 1909).
Since the tragedy of September 11, 2001 both terrorism and national defense have become leading issues before the American public. In response to that pre-meditated terrorist attack, our nation’s leadership reaffirmed its fundamental duty of defending the lives of all citizens. A nation’s self-defense is at the heart of seeking the common good. To achieve this goal, the military capacity of a nation should be at least equal to that of its enemy. (more…)
War (Chapter IX)
“All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. However, as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed” (CCC 2308). (more…)
The Death Penalty (Chapter VIII)
“Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor” (CCC 2267).
Capital punishment is probably the most misunderstood moral issue in the Catholic Church. This confusion stems from the change made in the Catechism in 1997 to bring the teaching into conformity with the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (1995). (more…)
Bioethics (Chapter VI)
“[M]ethodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God” (CCC 159).
Bioethics has moved onto center stage in the arena of public policy and morality. The past few years have witnessed highly visible debates on human embryonic stem cell research and cloning. Since the future of such research has a direct impact on the life and death of human persons, it’s a life issue for all Catholics. (more…)