Senator Rick Santorum's speech in Houston and recent interview with Terry Jeffrey are a breath of fresh air in an age of political sound bites. He is a man with a chest who defends the Right to Life and the Primacy of the Natural Law. He is man of courage in an age of cowardice
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Throughout the day on Thursday I read the reactions from a wide ranging interview which former Senator Rick Santorum gave to Terry Jeffrey of CNSNEWS.com entitled "Santorum Says He Agrees With MLK on Moral Basis for Human Rights; Can't Understand Why Obama Would Deny Them to an Unborn Child." I highly recommend both the written article containing portions of the interview and the outstanding video of the full interview embedded within that article. In this interview the former Senator and potential candidate for President reiterates what he has been saying in many of his speeches concerning the existence and importance of the Natural Law as the moral basis of a truly free society.
The full exposition of his insights can be found in the address he gave on September 12, 2010, the anniversary of one of the defining political speeches of the last 100 years, concerning Senator John F. Kennedy's speech to the Houston Ministerial alliance. On January 20, 2011 we all remembered the inspiring inaugural address President Kennedy gave to the Nation. However, in his speech in Houston he made a serious mistake. Senator Rick Santorum properly exposed the Kennedy mistake and offered another model of Catholic political participation.
President Kennedy failed to acknowledge the existence of a Natural Law which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason and which is meant to govern our life together in Society. In so doing he laid the predicate for errant Catholic politicians like former Governor Mario Cuomo and others. The teaching of the Catholic Church is that there is such a Natural Law and that all just positive laws must comport with this Natural Law. In fact, this is the very foundation of Western civilization. In the wake of Kennedy's catastrophic mistake many Catholics in public life, like Esau of the Old Testament, sold their birthrights for a bowl of porridge and helped to construct the current culture of death.
The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a clear directive instruction in 2002 entitled a "Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life". It called upon Catholics to be "morally coherent" in the exercise of their citizenship. Many Catholics who hold public office in the United States have hidden moral INcoherence behind this "Kennedy Mistake". Former Senator Rick Santorum is different. The speech he gave in Houston on Thursday, September 9, 2010 was entitled "Charge to Revive the Role of Faith in the Public Square". He exposed the Kennedy Mistake and offered another model for Catholic political participation. We received permission to reprint it in full.(Go Here)
We are living under what Pope Benedict XVI called a "Dictatorship of Relativism" in the West. The culture stumbles, drunken on the false notion of freedom as giving some people a "right" to kill the innocent, divorced from norms to guide the exercise of human choice and govern our behavior. When there is a wholesale effort to deny the existence of anything objectively true which can be known by all and form the basis of our common life, then there is no real freedom. Instead, we teeter on the brink of anarchy.
Senator Santorum's speech in Houston and his interview with Terry Jeffrey are a breath of fresh air in an age of political sound bites and jingoism. The Senator offers substance and sanity. In Senator Santorum's words, "Fifty years ago ... JFK delivered a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to dispel suspicions about the role the papacy might play in the government of this country under his administration. Let's make no mistake about it -- Kennedy was addressing a real issue at the time. Prejudice against Catholics threatened to cost him the election. But on that day, Kennedy chose not just to dispel fear, he chose to expel faith."
Senator Rick Santorum's offered a corrective which was long overdue. He also showed tremendous courage today when he refused to back down in the face of blistering attacks. The perpetrators of these attacks tried to take his absolutely accurate exposition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s references to the Natural Law in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and use them against Santorum. In short, they tried to paint him as a racist. For that, they should be ashamed and exposed.
In that profound letter, Dr. King cited the Catholic Natural Law tradition to bolster his defense of the Natural Law as the basis of fundamental human rights. I believe that Dr. King would not only agree with Senator Santorum's explanation of his position but would defend the Senator against this scurrilous effort to impugn him. Furthermore, Senator Santorum reveals a grasp of authentic Catholic social doctrine which is very rare these days.
The effort to twist the Senators words and infer what the popular Washington insider site the Politico called the use of the "Race Card", is offensive. This is irresponsible journalism as was evident in the title of Kendra Marr's article, "Rick Santorum won't fold on race card." I encourage our readers to read the actual words of the Senator and the actual words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King, Jr. in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail". Santorum did not "play a race card", he spoke the truth and accurately reflected the prevailing philosophy and motivation of the great human and civil rights hero, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As the day progressed, Senator Santorum responded to these efforts to smear him with these words, "For decades certain human beings were wrongly treated as property and denied liberty in America because they were not considered persons under the Constitution.Today other human beings, the unborn of all races, are also wrongly treated as property and denied the right to life for the same reason; because they are not considered persons under the constitution. I am disappointed that President Obama, who rightfully fights for civil rights, refuses to recognize the civil rights of the unborn in this country."
Rick Santorum is a man of courage in an age of cowardice. In 1947, C.S. Lewis addressed the decline of his beloved Britain in an insightful book entitled "The Abolition of man: How Education Develops Man's Sense of Morality". He warned of the subjective and relativist trends in the British educational system and reasserted the timeless moral truths of Christianity. Lewis called for a return to the classical Christian vision of the human person and the cultivation of virtues as the path to true human flourishing and freedom. He defined what he called "the chest" in this work as the "higher emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments or character." He wrote that without this "chest", men and women devolve into self idolatry losing their human dignity and true freedom. They become slaves to disordered appetites.
The West is a mess, just as Lewis warned. With its decline we face the eclipse of true freedom. Lewis' words in this book are timely: "And all the time - such is the tragicomedy of our situation - we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive,' or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity.' In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful."
In an age of political lightweights Rick Santorum offers intelligent and impassioned reflection. He is a statesman in an age of salesmen - and women. He is a "man with a chest". I strongly identified with these introductory remarks in his Houston speech, "Three pictures hung in the home of my devoutly Catholic immigrant grandparents when I was a boy and I remember them well - Jesus, Pope Paul VI and John F. Kennedy. The president was a source of great pride and a symbol to Catholics that all barriers had finally been broken."
I grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts and we had the same three pictures in our home. I vividly remember the fateful day when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was traumatized. I kept a scrapbook in which I collected newspaper articles, and photos concerning it. My mother kept it for me. She also gave me a card made up marking the day of his funeral with a prayer for the repose of his soul. When I was young I read a book attributed to President Kennedy entitled "Profiles in Courage". It was about elected officials who stood for what was right and what was true in spite of tremendous public attack.
Rick Santorum is an example of a contemporary Profile in Courage. He is a man with a chest who defends the Right to Life and the Primacy of the Natural Law. For that he is to be commended. Like millions of Americans, I will be watching his movements over the next few months as one of the most important Presidential elections in American history begins to take shape.
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