There has been a strong undercurrent of thought over the past several years that the animating principles guiding American conservatism are primarily Catholic, specifically from Catholic social teaching.
This was commented on in our first blog, and an article from Catholic World Report deepens the discussion.
“This year will mark a great opportunity for conservatives,” said the voice over the radio, by which he meant that one style of politician wholly committed to the cramped secular vision of man would triumph over another style of politician committed to the same thing. Which caused me to consider that any new conservatism in America will be Catholic, or Christian at least, in both its looking forward to the kingdom of God and its gratitude for the gifts of the past, or it will not be at all.
“What would such a conservatism look like? I suggest the following, at the least.
“It must be rooted in natural piety. Our schoolchildren these days know next to nothing about the heroes of their native land, flawed though these heroes certainly were. They know little enough about the place where they live, as their days are devoured by the institutional school and the place-denying un-world of the television and the Internet. They are taught to dissociate themselves, in pride, from the narrow prejudices of their parents, thus enabling them all the more easily to absorb the narrow prejudices of their keepers in the schools and in the media.
“The result of all this dissociation is that we hardly have citizens at all, who take pride in their localities and exert themselves to preserve them and pass their beauty along to the next generation. We have instead a mass of rootless people, isolated in time—since they come from nowhere in particular, and are going nowhere but to the place where their untrained wills must lead them—and alienated from one another. We must remember that piety is a natural virtue before it has been baptized; it is a deeply human thing to love one’s place merely because it is one’s own, and to cherish memories of those who dwelt in it before and helped to make it what it is.
“It must recognize zones of authority. Libertarianism is, I am afraid, a false friend. It assumes that my freedom is defined by what others cannot legitimately prevent me from doing: from learning how to play the violin, if I so choose (to use Isaiah Berlin’s example), or, far more sinister, from destroying the offspring in the womb. But that is a cramped view of freedom, and assumes that the relationship between freedom and authority is adversarial.
“For authority is not opposed to freedom; it is rather its precondition. We can divine this from the suggestive Latin etymology: the “auctor” is one who gives increase. When, for example, the child cheerfully obeys his father, he liberates himself from both the unruliness of his youthful appetites and from the distractions with which the world besets him. He becomes a responsible young man capable of shingling a roof, or changing the oil in the car, or kneeling before the Lord in humble and exalting prayer.
“The family, for instance, ought to be an area of freedom from state intrusion not, principally, because the individuals in it should be allowed to do as they please within the bounds of the civil law, nor even because the family can accomplish what the state cannot, but because it is in itself an area of law-giving and law-abiding. It has its own authority, which demands respect. The school, the parish, the neighborhood, the city, the workplace, the football team, indeed all free associations of human beings—both those that arise by nature and those that men create and choose—should be afforded freedom, not as part of a Madisonian compromise among competing factions, but as an acknowledgment by the state of what is after all human reality.
“Such a vision would, paradoxically, help deliver the freedom which libertarians long for while grounding it in the virtue of obedience and breaking the terrible reduction of human life to the conflict between individual will and state control.”