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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Chris Burgwald

Or listen to the actual lecture via iTunes U!


Reminds me of the phrase 'the truth is symphonic'.


“The great Catholic tradition knows that when the connection between positive law and natural law is severed, totalitarianism, of either left or right, follows,” he said. “Therefore, this rich American instinct that government should be limited and disciplined both from without and from within is something that the Church can very much assimilate to itself and adapt to its purposes.”

I think that the left/right paradigm that has dominated the past 20-30 years of American politics has effectively obscured how far America has actually moved from limited government, a process that started in earnest long before in the early part of the 20th century with philosophical roots as far back as Lincoln and some would say even Hamilton in the Constitutional Congress.

What held that movement away from limited government in check and slowed its progress was exactly that "discipline from within", ie., the moral sense of the people and specifically that connection to natural law and the underlying assumption of the founders, unique to that point in history and even more so today, that liberty and human rights pre-exist the state and can only be curtailed by the state, not granted. What has accelerated the movement toward the interventionist state and eventually "statism" is corresponding movement away from natural law and morality.

Liberty is hard work and it requires a high level of general morality. You cannot keep the one without the other. It is always possible to gain liberty by force of arms, but without morality it will always careen toward tyranny. And you cannot legislate morality, as many have said, by which we mean you cannot make people moral by force of law. Liberty, then, is only regained peacefully through a change of heart.

It is no accident, then, that the current culture of death is accompanied by an increase in statism from various political perspectives, and the real fight is over who controls the state. More people are able to see it today because the current Congress, Senate and Executive are dominated by statists in a hurry. And what they do will never be rolled back in the future as long as the culture is dominated by immorality and death. But even if the political clock could be rolled back; even if the clock could be re-set back to the government of the founders, it is a great error to believe that morality would follow. That is the folly that Pope Benedict spoke of in his critique of determinism, be it free market determinism or Marxist determinism. Just as the founders believed that human liberty pre-exists the state, faith and morality pre-exist liberty.

Jesus said it, "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36

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