American Catholic argues for the triumph of Americanism as a heresy

While D.G. Hart sometimes shows his confessional cards, his impressive history of the “politics of faith” during the Cold War should be required reading for those wishing to understand how we have arrived at this strange moment of history.

President John F. Kennedy shakes hands with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican July 2, 1963. (CNS file photo)

Looking back at the most recent, and perhaps most eventful, of all presidential election seasons, one of the great non-events has been serious debate over the significance of the election of the second Catholic president of the United States. John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic president only after running a gauntlet of Southern evangelicals who insisted that Kennedy’s Catholicism disqualified him from the office of the presidency; Kennedy famously assured them that his faith would not influence his politics.

Biden also faced the wrath of Southern evangelicals, but the objection lay in his politics, not his faith: he embodied the heresy of liberalism. The people most upset by Biden’s Catholicism were conservative Catholics, political allies of conservative evangelicals, who denounced Biden for supporting abortion—that is, for not sufficiently allowing his faith to influence his politics. D. G. Hart’s American Catholic should be required reading for those wishing to understand how we have arrived at this strange moment of history.

Hart is one of the leading historians of religion in America. A non-Catholic whose writing to date has primarily focused on the history of Protestantism in America, his turn to American Catholic history brings a fresh perspective to a field that has been dominated by Catholics often too close to their subject matter. As we shall see, Hart definitely has a dog in the fight, so to speak, of the political conflicts he examines, but it is not a Catholic dog. Still, more so than most Catholic historians, Hart takes theology seriously: indeed, he takes the heresy of “Americanism” as the framework for examining the political history of American Catholicism. Leo XIII first identified and condemned this heresy in his 1899 apostolic letter, Testem Benevolentiae. Though subtle and nuanced, Leo’s argument boils down to an insistence that the particular national expressions of Catholicism must never take priority over the authority of the Church universal. A leading Catholic historian once dismissed Americanism as a “phantom heresy.” Most subsequent historians have remained content to treat it as a sociological issue of assimilation with no serious theological stakes. Hart, in contrast, argues that American Catholic politics reflects the triumph of Americanism as a heresy.

Hart sees this problem across the Catholic political spectrum. Unlike most of the existing literature on Catholics and American politics, Hart’s book encompasses both Catholic liberalism and Catholic conservatism. He begins his account with an examination of Catholic liberalism in the decades immediately following Testem Benevolentiae—fair enough, since before World War II there was no self-identified “conservative” movement, much less any Catholic conservatism. The Catholic political challenge of the first half of the twentieth century lay in articulating the Church’s relation to the two dominant institutions of modernity: the state and the capitalist free market. The Church’s position on the economy had been clearly put forward in a series of papal documents, most significantly Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (1891) and Pius IX’s Quadragesimo Anno (1931). The Church endorsed an economic vision somewhere between free-market liberalism and state socialism: affirming the right to private property, it nonetheless allowed for state regulation of the economy and promoted the right of workers to form labor unions.

In the American context, Catholic social thinkers such as Fr. John Ryan saw this vision embodied in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. Still, the legitimacy of the modern state itself—that is, the modern secular state that allowed for religious pluralism—remained in question. As late as 1941, Ryan—once dubbed the “Right Reverend New Dealer”—wrote that the duty of the state was “the protection and promotion of the [one true religion] and the legal prohibition of all direct assaults upon it” (5). Most American Catholics felt there was no conflict between Catholicism and religious freedom in practice, but the Church had yet to approve of any theoretical justification for what was in fact a break from fifteen hundred years of Catholic tradition.

Many historians and theologians have told the story of the Church’s coming to terms with religious freedom. Hart provides as good a short account of this story as I can imagine. He is particularly strong in demonstrating the intensity of early opposition to John Courtney Murray, S.J., the American theologian generally credited with Dignitatis Humanae, the Vatican II document proclaiming the Church’s guarded embrace of disestablishment and religious pluralism. Murray’s efforts to link the American Founding and Catholicism through the tradition of natural law initially failed to persuade those guardians of orthodoxy who saw in Murray’s revision of the Church’s traditional teaching a historicism that smacked of the Modernism condemned by Pius X in 1907 (81). Father Joseph Fenton, Catholic University professor and editor of the American Ecclesiastical Review, saw in Murray’s arguments the symptom of a deeper problem: “We should, I believe, face the facts. Since the death of Pius X the Church has been directed by weak and liberal popes, who have flooded the hierarchy with unworthy and stupid men” (79). Conservatives would eventually make peace with Murray by emphasizing the natural law aspect of his argument, but they would find in the rest of Vatican II a target worthy of Fenton’s anti-modern rage.

At the same time, Hart argues that conservatives were as “modern” as the liberals they criticized, nowhere more so than in their understanding of the relation between their Catholic faith and public life. John F. Kennedy’s famous insistence on the wall of separation between his private faith and his public life had ample equivalents, even predecessors, among the Catholic leaders of the emerging conservative movement. Most notable among these was, of course, William F. Buckley. Buckley founded the National Review in 1955 to provide a forum for those seeking to build a conservative intellectual movement in America. The journal’s promotion of libertarian individualism led writers in mainstream Catholic journals such as America to accuse Buckley of betraying his Catholicism; more specifically, they took Buckley to task for his public rejection of the authority of John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris (100).

Replying to his Catholic critics, Buckley insisted that the National Review is not a Catholic publication and he is not a Catholic editor, simply an editor-who-is-Catholic; in this, he invoked the very public/private distinction that liberals had embraced in Kennedy. In Politics and Catholic Freedom (1964), Garry Wills, then a Buckley protégé, made an extended argument delimiting the authority of the Church in politics and allowing for much greater flexibility for individual conscience to discern the reach of papal authority in general (103-107). In this, conservatives contributed to the general Catholic intellectual climate that proved so hospitable to the later widespread rejection of Humanae Vitae.

Hart argues that Catholics were not so much secularizing politics as investing America with a sacredness rooted in something other than Catholicism. Liberal Catholics found their righteous cause in social justice, conservatives in libertarian individualism and its corollary, strident anticommunism. Theoretically rooted in Church teaching, these political positions soon found themselves in no need of Church authority.

Once again, conservatives took the lead. Moving from talk to action, conservative intellectuals raised up Arizona senator Barry Goldwater as their political savior. Fairly indifferent to religion, Goldwater was passionate about individual freedom and anticommunism. America learned of these passions in his 1960 book, The Conscience of a Conservative, a blockbuster that remains the bestselling political book in the history of American publishing. An accurate expression of Goldwater’s views, the book was nonetheless ghost-written by L. Brent Bozell Jr., a Catholic and William F. Buckley’s brother-in-law. Bozell had, in turn, been recruited to write the book by another conservative Catholic activist, Notre Dame law professor Clarence Manion (115). In appealing to no authority beyond “the American founding and the powers enumerated in the U.S. Constitution,” conservative Catholics “were [like Kennedy in his politics] equally untethered to church teaching in their case for Goldwater” (121).

Bozell would come to realize this problem, but his efforts to imagine an authentically Catholic politics found no audience in mainstream conservatism. Despite Goldwater’s landslide loss to Johnson in the 1964 presidential campaign, Conscience of a Conservative remained the manifesto for “true” conservatives, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. When this vision finally won the presidency in 1980, it did so in the person of Ronald Reagan, another man of no particular faith, yet fully committed to the sacred causes of individual freedom and anticommunism.

A brief review cannot do justice to the scope and depth of Hart’s book. Though he makes clear that Americanism had triumphed in Catholic politics by the mid-1960s, he follows the story up to the present day. Aside from increasing success at the ballot box, this later period did see one significant shift in how conservative Catholics understood their Americanism. With the next generation of Catholic intellectuals, such as Michael Novak, George Weigel and Richard John Neuhaus, the strategy of separating faith and politics gave way to one of integrating faith into politics by appropriating the old Protestant notion of America as a redeemer nation. In the redemption of the world, Catholicism would play only a supporting role: “For [this generation of conservative] Roman Catholics . . . the church was not a higher loyalty, above the nation, but the greatest aid to the United States and its political institutions” (9). Hart sometimes overreaches in his rhetoric: the persuasive argument that Novak and Weigel used Catholicism to advance a political agenda at times implies, if only by omission, that these men saw in Catholicism nothing more than a political tool.

More troubling is a recurring “gotcha” snark, in which the corruption of Catholicism by politics appears as the wages of sin, the just desserts of those who dare to bring faith into the public sphere. For Hart, this is more than a failing of individual Catholics, but of Catholicism itself. He concludes that those who sought “to ground the eternal truths of their faith in the concrete realities of U.S. domestic and foreign policy . . . were merely heeding Vatican II’s call for a modern faith” (227).

Here, Hart shows his true confessional cards. An adherent of the very particular strain of Calvinism endorsed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Hart has written extensive historical critiques of the role of evangelicals in American politics; these critiques grow out of his conviction that Christian faith in the modern world is a purely private matter and that Christian political action should be limited to protecting this privacy from intrusions by the state. True, disestablishment requires a very different kind of Christian politics than the historical models of Augustine’s Rome and Calvin’s Geneva. Catholics have clearly yet to discern that politics, but the Second Vatican Council’s charge to speak to the world and bring Christ to every area of life remains.

American Catholic: The Politics of Faith During the Cold War 
By D. G. Hart
Cornell University Press, 2020
Hardcover, 280 pages


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About Dr. Christopher Shannon 10 Articles
Dr. Christopher Shannon is a member of the History Department at Christendom College, where he interprets the narrative of Christian history from its foundations in the Old Testament and its heroic beginnings in the Church of the Martyrs, down through the ages to the challenges of the post-modern world. His books include Conspicuous Criticism: Tradition, the Individual, and Culture in Modern American Social Thought (Johns Hopkins, 1996), Bowery to Broadway: The American Irish in Classic Hollywood Cinema (University of Scranton Press, 2010), and with Christopher O. Blum, The Past as Pilgrimage: Narrative, Tradition and the Renewal of Catholic History (Christendom Press, 2014).

37 Comments

  1. It makes little sense for Catholics in America to try to evangelize through politics. And, besides, most Catholics politicians (need I start listing their names) are politicians first and I’d like to say Catholic second but this is hardly borne out in actual fact.

    I think that Catholics who are sincere about their faith and whose prepotent goal is the mission of the Church ought to stay out of politics completely and use all of their resources to evangelize the culture. Catholics ought to organize their efforts to only support those political candidates whose values reflect the teachings of the Church. (And, no, despite what some apostate bishops might say, Catholics cannot vote for any candidate who supports abortion – no more than they could support a politician who advocates the gassing of Jews, the lynching of Blacks, or genocide of any kind.)

    Lastly, let me state this simple fact: I am a Catholic first and an American second. It is doubtful that I will ever again vote in an election because our political system is thoroughly corrupt, deserves none of my trust and is engaged in the wholesale slaughter of innocent and defenseless human lives. I want no part of it and it’s hard to understand why any faithful Catholic would want to be a part of it. It would be like saying that Catholics should have joined the Nazi Party or the Klan so that it could be reformed from within.

    • Let me say that I believe it is grossly irresponsible to stop voting. Doing so only allows the most radical elements in our society to prevail, a situation we starkly see the results of in California , New York ( elected by a minority of registered voters) and now horrifyingly at the Federal level.This is how the measure for abortion moved from “rare” to “infanticide” in only several years. My identity as an American is VERY important to me.I am reluctant to provide a comparison, but possibly it ranks equal with my religious faith. My family has been here for 400 years. My family fought and died to make this country what it is. Or now, maybe I should say, what it “was”. The idea of religious freedom was the first lure to bring my family out of Europe but then freedom on many levels factored in and they were forced to ( literally in several wars) fight for what they believed. Americans became innovators, inventors, explorers. Our scientists eradicated disease,harnessed electricity, invented the airplane, landed a man on the moon. And always, most important of all,there was freedom. Slowly with the rise of personal and then politically instituted corruption, all of this is now on the brink of being lost forever. Individuals are accused of crime and now there is no presumption of innocence.Unions selfishly sell themselves and their votes to the highest bidder ( I hope the steam fitters union members are happy with the Faustian deal they made with Joe Biden which made them unemployed on his first day in office.)Some folks are “Cancelled” for making a perfectly valid political observation not in lock-step with the left. Businesses and lives are destroyed as a result. People shunt aside their Americanism, the sense we are all together in this journey of life, to vote to politics of division and “me first”, all the while surrendering their freedom and independence inch by inch as payment for winning….what?? . That much of the country is still shuttered, with a frightened population in self isolation,all while our economy implodes, is a measure of how far we have fallen. We are being complicit in our own destruction,hysterical over a disease with a better than 99% recovery rate. I love my church. And have been disappointed in its recent actions, jumping when told to jump by whatever government, the US or the Chinese , tells them to. The fencing and militarization of our Capitol looks ominous to me. The wish by the left to remove members of Congress because they exercised a legitimate protest, previously used by the opposition themselves, seems ominous to me. To be American in our short history has often meant standing up for what you believe when the odds are against you.Being a Catholic used to mean that too. It still means that to me. Yes, always vote, no matter the odds. And to quote a late beloved friend of the United States:” Never, never, never give up.”

        • And keep us informed of how the charade of friendly persuasion works out for you where our culture war has exponentially metastasized, even infesting the Church to where a pro-lifer giving a talk at most any parish in America is as welcome as a leper, even if that pro-lifer is their own Pastor.

      • As long as computers are utilized for vote computation and absentee ballots are allowed as they were in the 2020 Presidential election, then Deacon Ed Peitler’s point is well taken. The US Presidential elections have to get back to a very simple paper ballot marking with valid ID proving that the voter is a US citizen. Then, and only until then, will voting be an exercise in good citizenship.

    • The refusal to vote smacks of virtue-signaling.

      I do agree that the system right now is corrupt and one can not be sure that his or her vote is counted, etc., but NOT to vote means that one less vote be stolen by the left, and that is exactly what they love.

      The last two presidential elections have been what I call “Hold your nose and cast your vote’ elections, but VOTE.

    • Let me file what you write under”Wish I had posted that.” One has to wonder just how much innocent blood must be shed, how many unjust wars prosecuted, how many moral outrages sanctioned by the SCOTUS, and how many elections stolen outright before honest Catholics finally say that enough is quite enough already?

    • Wish I’d posted what you say. One wonders how much innocent blood must be spilled, how many unjust wars prosecuted, how many sickening moral outrages sanctioned by the SCOTUS, and how many elections stolen outright, before Catholics finally say, “Enough is quite enough.” Your analogies are especially spot on. As you suggest, no one joins the Nazi Party with any realistic hope of reforming it from within, at least no one in his right mind. What reasonable person, then, can seriously entertain any longer the mumbo-jumbo spawning the thought that “salvation is just around the corner and will come with the next election, with the right candidate”?

  2. “John F. Kennedy’s famous insistence on the wall of separation between his private faith and his public life …”

    Warum legt man bei Katholiken soviel Wert darauf, sie sollten ‘privaten’ Glauben und öffentliche Amtsausübung voneinander trennen (Feinstein!)? Warum behaupten sie dies selbst öffentlich (Kennedy! Cuomo!)? Niemand käme auf die Idee, von einem Sozialisten oder einem Liberalen zu verlangen, er solle seine ‘privaten’ Überzeugunen von öffentlicher Amtsführung trennen.

    Hypocrisy!

    (My excuses for writing in German.)

  3. Interesting article, but you turn on “warning lights” in my head at the outset with your use of the terms “conservative” and “liberal” . While they may be convenient shorthand descriptions, I think they are potentially misleading when applied to the realm of Catholic theology. Personally, I would never describe myself as a Catholic “conservative” although others may do so. The much preferred term is “orthodox”, as opposed to “heterodox.”

    • This is a crucial point. Take W. F. Buckley for example. Because he was definitely heterodox as a Catholic, it is a mistake to label him a conservative in politics. What was he conserving? He was at best a libertarian, who held the un-Catholic position of complete personal autonomy.

    • I agree that the correct description is “orthodox Catholic”. It’s unfortunate that there even has to be a qualifier in front of “Catholic”. How truly “Catholic” can any liberal be? Should someone who has renounced the teachings of the Catholic Church have the right to call himself “Catholic”? Is baptism in the Church the only hard and fast standard for the right to call oneself Catholic? If so, then that means that 99.99% of the faith is irrelevant for determining who is and who is not a Catholic. This seems like a very low threshold. How accurate is it to call someone a “teacher” after he has the appropriate degrees and certifications but has not yet stepped into a classroom of students and actually taught anything? I’m not sure, but that’s what is done. Technically, the first is Catholic and the second is a teacher, but not in any meaningful way. I feel that the only reason a person who rejects the teachings of the Church, especially the significant moral ones, calls himself “Catholic” is to undermine the Church, remold it in his image, or imply that the teachings are merely suggestions that are not God-given and can, therefore, be accepted or rejected as he sees fit. Because of the wide range of beliefs of those who call themselves Catholic, the Faith becomes undefinable to society.

      As to voting, you are possibly right about the system of voting; however, you make the erroneous assumption that somehow you are participating in corruption if you vote. First, your analogy is incorrect. Voting in an American election is not the same as joining the Nazi Party. If one became a politician then the analogy would maybe fit; but you are implying that you are guilty of something by voting, even if you vote according to the Catholic Faith. Let’s say you are right and that the act of voting is probably meaningless; but, what other chance, however slim, do you have to directly influence the laws and direction of the country, not counting prayer or conversion of neighbor? By opting out, you are essentially “on the fence”. If the election goes poorly then you will suffer along with the rest of us. If it goes well, you will benefit along with the rest of us. But in the first case, you share some responsibility because you did nothing, you didn’t even try, to thwart evil. In the second case, you did not risk anything, yet you get to enjoy the riches gained, however undeserved. I consider such a stance to be similar to the scripture verses about being lukewarm, which Jesus says is putrid to him. It’s also a bit like throwing a tantrum. Because the system isn’t the way it should be (which is likely true), you pick up your marbles and go home, leaving everyone else hanging. I even think that a true Catholic who becomes a politician is not participating in corruption any more than Jesus was a prostitute or thief because he associated with such. To say that participation in a undertaking where many are corrupt somehow makes one a participant in corruption is the same as pronouncing someone “guilty by association”. We are the only hands, feet, voice and ears that Jesus has on this earth. Jesus already anticipated this type of situation when He said that we are to be “in the world but not of the world”. By opting out, you are not even in the game, let alone trying to make a difference, however futile. Consider voting as a statement of your beliefs, not your confidence. Tell me; which one of these paths would you choose? The first one is paved with pictures of the most genocidal and cruel Heads of State that ever existed. The second one is paved with pictures of Jesus and His mother, Mary. The third one is just dirt. You will probably say that of course you are not going to step on Jesus and Mary no matter how beckoning the spectators are who line that path. OK, that’s good, because that path leads to hell. What about the other two? Let’s say that there are people lined up along the path with the pictures of politicians who hate you, and have no problem threatening you or calling you names. It’s also highly slippery, and you know you will fall and be in pain until the end. If you know that this path leads to heaven, would you decline or accept it? What about the dirt path? On it you have a 50/50% chance of going to either heaven or hell. There are no negatives nor positives about taking this path. It is “safe”. Not voting is like taking the third path. One last thing. When you make an effort to positively affect the world you live in, even if it ends up being futile, you still will have, as Paul says, run the good race and stayed faithful until the end, and because of this, you will receive the crown of life. Jesus doesn’t demand that we be successful in making the world reflect Him, only that we do our best in every situation that comes our way. If God’s faithful do not take advantage of the remote chances of effecting change of the system along with the likely, then we are choosing, by default, to be ruled by our inferiors who are, specifically, Satan’s human slaves. Please, vote. Blessings to you and yours.

  4. Thank you for this review. Since most of the books I have read about American Catholicism have been written by Catholics, it is good to hear about a dispassionate review of American Catholic politics from a Protestant.
    Nevertheless, I am confused.
    Is Hart saying that “Americanism” is the new religion, replacing Catholicism?
    Since I am finding much confusion in the Catholic press about keeping the faith and/or letting the faith dictate our political views. The USCCB seems divided on whether they are Catholic or Democrats. I am still not clear, despite this review. on why we have a Catholic Church in the US that is so politically divided and so unclear on what our Catholicism teaches us about our politics.

  5. Christianity was never intended to be a private matter, although it begins in the privacy of a heart surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But then, the baptized Christian anointed with the Holy Spirit is to follow Christ by taking that private – personal – experience, and the message (Gospel) that was its seed, to the nations, making disciples of Jesus Christ by teaching them to observe all that He has commanded. And now it gets kind of, well, political.

    Christianity was never intended to be political, in the purest sense of the term. The term “political” means “of, relating to, or dealing with the structure or affairs of government, politics, or the state; relating to, involving, or characteristic of political parties or politicians.” Christianity – also known as The Way, Jesus Christ and His teachings being The Way – is not about the structure of government and political, or even a political party or politician; Christianity is about the structure and government of the kingdom of God, and its Supreme Ruler and Head, Jesus Christ. And yet this Christianity, the Christianity of The Way that serves Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords, does come into conflict with other systems, some religious, as in the Pharisees and Sadducees, and some political, as in Herod and Rome. Beginning with John the Baptist, we see the message of “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” to create conflict with religious and government institutions. It was John the Baptist calling out the sin of Herod that ultimately cost him his life. And then we have Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God come to save and not destroy, Whose message of “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” created conflict with religious and government institutions, ultimately leading to both institutions working together to silence Him by torturing and crucifying Him. It was even Jesus’ Kingship that made Him a threat to Rome – “Are you the King of the Jews?” He was asked during His trial. Of course, the crucifixion of Christ was merely the planting of the Seed in the Earth that would spring forth (resurrect) into a new creation. Of course even the resurrection of Christ was political, for the religious and government institutions sought to discredit the resurrection as a hoax.

    Unfortunately for the religious and government institutions that killed the Author of Life, there were many witnesses of the resurrected Tree of Life, Jesus, including the Apostles and close followers of Jesus, as well as 500 more. This Jesus ascended to heaven after commanding His disciples to take the message of “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” to the nations. Forty days later, God poured out the Holy Spirit upon these Christians, these disciples of Jesus, these followers of Christ who left everything to follow and learn from Him, to serve Him as The Prophet, Priest and King – the Messiah. And on the Day of Pentecost, this motley group of “uneducated and common” followers of Christ were filled with boldness and began proclaiming the kingdom of God and its King, Jesus Christ, to the Jews first, then to the uttermost parts of the Earth. And they did so at risk of their own lives, for this spiritual kingdom and King they proclaimed put them at odds with religious and political institutions. Why? Because they were ideologically “conservatives”? Because they were politically “Republicans”? No! It was because of the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which begins with His life, death, burial and resurrection and ends with “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” They were a threat to these institutions, not because of some earthly ideology or some earthly government structure or some earthly political party; they were a threat because their message was about a change that begins as a private matter of the heart turned to worship the King and serve in the Kingdom, a change that is so dramatic and powerful that it bursts forth from the heart and spills out like living waters to the nations, bearing seed after its own kind.

    So, while Christianity is not political, per se, when it is truly present, truly represented as Christ intended, even commanded, it will clash with those systems that are political, whether religious or government. Light will always expose the darkness in this world, exposing evil deeds. And the response, whether by religious or government institutions, or any other institution of man, including man himself, will always be to flee, fight….or better yet…surrender. Christianity is not about “conservative” or “Republican” or “progressive” or “Democrat”; Christianity is about Christ, His teachings, and a life so surrendered to Him and His teachings while living in this world but not of it, that it demands a response from those institutions of the world: “Choose you this day whom you will serve.”

  6. Sad to say, my opinion is that JFK is the epitome of the Catholic In Name Only (CINO) politician we have in abundance today. In my opinion he just used his Catholic faith as a marketing tool as part of the whole camelot Catholic PR program that was used to butress his image. His real legacy is that he was an ultra womenizing person, who in todays world could easily be called a rapist. The Soviet Union saw through this, nearly resulting in WW3 except by the grace of God, not him as the Camelot PR press would want the world to believe. Additionally by his stumbling leadership he allowed the CIA to work with the South Vietnamese generals to overthrow and then murder the Catholic president of Vietnam and his brother. This was the beginning of the Vietnam guagmire that killed 50,000 plus men of my generation and destroyed the lives of many more.

    His skill was the par excellance in making speeches and drawing adoring media and women into his make believe world.

    As Catholics we are supposed to recognize him as one of us. It is completes nonsense. As a result of him we now have a dems. Catholic or more accurately CINO politician who openly defy Catholoc teaching on abortion, with the look the other way blessing of way too many bishops.

  7. The objection to Biden is NOT “for not sufficiently allowing his faith to influence his politics.” Neither Biden nor anyone else should abjure abortion because it is a rule printed on a card printed up in the Vatican, but because it is morally depraved. I object to Biden because he is morally depraved. It is a separate issue that I am offended by him because he flaunts a mantle of “Catholicism” both for self-aggrandizement and for the marketing cachet he elicits from it.

    • Given that the phrase “the natural law” would cause an internal sneer or a private affirmation that this person is obviously not sophisticated (or worse) for most lawyers (And many politicians are lawyers.), it is not surprising that anyone would strongly associate moral reasoning using an understanding of the natural law which indicates that murder is always wrong no matter how it is committed with someone who identifies as Catholic.

      For those not lawyers, a probable willful ignorance concerning morality, and an exclusive reliance on what it considered culturally (e.g. by the media) to be wrong is what is to blame. I haven’t had any experience as this kind of person, and it would be difficult to “isolate” him (It would take researchers.), but probably the vast majority of the population (75%?) is culpably ignorant.

  8. Americanism, the premise of an American ideology of pluralism in which all beliefs have equanimity is for Catholicism the legacy of Dignitatis Humanae. “John Courtney Murray SJ believed that the Declaration of Independence had recognized the sovereignty of God and the dignity of man and that it and the Constitution and Bill of Rights, which followed, were based on natural law principles. Murray argued that the First Amendment recognized that freedom of religion could secure peace in a religiously pluralistic society and that the state was distinct from society. Accordingly, the first two articles of the First Amendment are articles of peace, not articles of faith as he argued in We Hold These Truths. He observed that the ‘most striking aspect of the American experience consists in the fact that religion itself, and not least the Catholic Church, has benefited by our free institutions, by the maintenance of the distinction between church and state’” (John Vile editor in Encyclopedia of the First Amendment). Fr Murray by arguing this premise presumes Natural Law is a hierarchy of goods which places the societal peace of a legally protected plurality as superseding particular religious issues. That premise would encompass religious particularity such as moral doctrine on abortion, contraception, same sex behavior. That however is wrong, and simply Murray’s personal interpretation of Natural Law. Natural law is first of all determined by observation of social mores that are universal in practice, because knowledge of Natural Law belongs to that inherent knowledge common to all men called the Natural Law Within, which is why Cicero says in De Re Publica 3.32 law in the proper sense is right reason in harmony with nature. That Natural Law is the same in Rome as it is in Athens, as it is today as it is tomorrow. The first principle of the Natural Law is universally acknowledged as do good and avoid evil. That capacity to distinguish between good and evil distinguishes Man from all animal life and is the entree to realized humanness. A contemporary description is given by E Martin Brugger, “The ends or goods with which it is first concerned signify desirable possibilities, which are grasped perceptively as goods to be done and pursued—such as life, truth, friendship, procreation and education of children, religion, and practical reasonableness. Their contraries are grasped as evils to be avoided” (First Principles of Natural Law and Bioethics Oxford U Press). Accommodation of abortion, irregular sexual behavior, transgender delusion by Catholic politicians, a large swath of the Catholic public is the invention of modernist ideologues, diminished in faith holding that getting along together was more benevolent than idiosyncratic religious rules. Whereas rigorous adherence to moral rules protect and enhance the traditional man woman family the core of societal cohesion, and exponentially the rights and dignity of human life.

  9. Biden is Catholic in name only to the disgust and humiliation of those Catholics trying to live their faith in accord to the teachings of the magisterium. The only thing worse then this are the Bishops and Priests that continue to allow Biden to receive communion to his spiritual detriment and that of the Church.

    • I SO agree! This is the truth! My original comment wasn’t use, but I’ll see if this one also gets deleted. (Cancel culture here as well)? Biden and Pelosi are fake Catholics and are leading liberal or uninformed Catholics away from Jesus’ One True Church….the Catholic Church.

  10. Dr Shannon is far more learned than I am, but is it really true the Church’s “vision” on economics falls somewhere between free-market liberalism and socialism? Does that mean the Church teaches that fifty percent of the means of production ought to be owned by the state? Is this perhaps a bit of verbal shorthand that oversimplifies a rather complicated subject? Does socialism really support the right of workers to unionize? It would seem the events in Poland in the early 1980s, for example, might cast some doubt on that proposition. Maybe I missed the latest utterance of Francis, but I don’t think that the Church has issued a clear condemnation of capitalism, as it has of socialism. Finally, one does not have to be an advocate of laissez-faire economics to recognize that the American economic order over at least the last ninety years can hardly be characterized as such.

    • Socialists support the right to “unionize” so long as those unions support, and are willing to work under, the auspices of the Party. Hence why the Polish Communists moved so swiftly to crush the Solidarity union in the 80s.

  11. Biden and Pelosi are fake Catholics! They should both be excommunicated for leading the faithful to believe the evil things they do and promote are perfectly OK!

  12. Others have made some of the same comments that I have, but all of mine have been deleted. Never thought this would happen when an orthodox Catholic woman expresses her feelings. Cancel culture is alive and well even here. Very sad!

  13. The great failure of American Catholics to realize that America as conceived by the Founders is incompatible with the Catholic faith is the reason we have so many lukewarm “Catholics” wedded to their politics over their faith.

  14. The author’s statement “denounced Biden for supporting abortion—that is, for not sufficiently allowing his faith to influence his politics.” is not necessarily why. Dissatisfaction with Biden’s politics is not necessarily because of one’s faith, directly, but because of the knowledge of an intrinsic evil that cannot be tolerated whether the person in question is Christian or not. There are many people of different faiths (or no faith at all) who commit, without hesitation, serious sins. They are choosing to act against their faith for whatever reason in those matters; but, when it comes to the act of aborting a living human being, they find it abhorrent. Atheists can be anti-abortion, something I know because of my neighbors. In this case, faith has nothing to do with how they vote. They vote according to the platform that most reflects their vision of the country, and will provide them and their children the best life possible. Anyways, anyone with a brain and a little knowledge of the Catholic Faith would know that Biden is not a Christian, let alone a Catholic. To expect his politics to reflect Catholicism is nonsensical. He does reflect his faith, but that faith is not Catholic because Biden is not Catholic in any meaningful, definable way. He is, according to Church teaching, a heretic, a follower of Satan, and his soul is in grave danger of being damned. As hard as it may be, say a prayer for him. Just one. If we all said just one prayer for him, think about how they would add up!

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