Senator Santorum on Being Catholic and a PoliticianZENIT
Some politicians say their function is to represent the views of their electors, and therefore, that they are not able to obey the Vatican or Catholic doctrine. Is this just an excuse, or is there a real conflict here?
Many people say that President John Kennedy set the pattern for Catholic politicians.
And that pattern was: state comes before creed. Is that an accurate assessment
of the U.S. situation? Is it justifiable?
In order to approach this question, it is necessary to go back to
the Bible. We must render to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar and to God that
which belongs to him.
I believe most politicians should heed this command
from Christ. However, most politicians look at this issue in varying degrees.
Some politicians believe their faith plays no role in their decision-making in
state affairs, while others believe it plays an essential role in making the best
decisions for the state.
I affirm that your creed and values shape what
is best for the state. In fact, I believe politicians have an obligation to the
state and its constituents, to do what is in their best interest. In reality,
there should never be a conflict between your creed and your legislation because
both should be oriented toward the good and what is best for society.
Some politicians say their function is to represent the views of their
electors, and therefore, that they are not able to obey the Vatican or Catholic
doctrine. Is this just an excuse, or is there a real conflict here?
I believe that as a politician I have a responsibility toward my electors;
however, I do not believe that one should be swayed by public opinion in making
important legislative decisions.
Edmund Burke was right when he said
that what you owe first and foremost to your electors is your best judgment. To
ignore your best judgment and defer to public opinion is to do a disservice to
society. This is the reason we have elections. During elections, the constituents
decide if your judgment is correct.
Unfortunately, there are some politicians
who are completely dictated by opinion polls. The populous ends up defining their
legislative agenda. A politician has a duty to be guided by the best information
available to him, not by the desires of the public. Ultimately, a solid value
structure will result in the best policies for the public.
How can the Church and lay Catholic leaders help Catholic politicians
in their task of being faithful to moral principles?
Primarily, Catholic politicians will be faithful to moral principles
if the Church, and in particular, the clergy, are truly faithful to the teachings
of the magisterium of the Catholic Church.
Unfortunately, the greatest
problem we have today is the lack of orthodox clergy who hold to the true teachings
of the Church. Many within the Church are espousing "Catholic lite," as George
Weigel calls it. This is a watered-down version of the Church's teachings.
A vicious cycle results since many unorthodox clergy are soft-pedaling the
faith and passing this erroneous brand of Catholicism to younger generations.
The result is an uneducated laity with soft values.
Also, in order for
Catholic politicians to be faithful to moral teachings, they must be held accountable.
Their elite status in society should not let others be dissuaded from criticizing
them if they behave in an unprincipled way. The only way that immoral politicians
will change is if the public has the courage to confront them. Only then, will
these politicians be forced to act morally.
The Vatican document criticizes moral relativism, but American society
places a high value on tolerance and respect for a diversity of opinions. How
can Catholic politicians tread the line between being faithful to moral principles
and not being seen as intolerant?
The cultural elite, that is, our universities, the media and our arts,
place a high value on tolerance and moral relativism. We are currently engaged
in a culture war, wherein many Americans do not believe in absolute truth and
are dictated by moral relativism.
I cannot accept the fact that many
hail tolerance as the greatest virtue. They worship tolerance to the point of
not being able to make judgments at all. This is wrong. As G.K. Chesterton said,
"Be careful not to be so open-minded that your brains fall out."
greatest virtue is truth. Tolerance, in the true sense of the word, is a great
good. If one is truly tolerant, one is respectful of other people's opinions.
This does not mean agreeing with them, but giving them the right to profess their
opinions. But, when tolerance is understood in a libertarian, modern way, we falsify
the meaning of reality. I don't think we should accept tolerance as believing
every point of view is equal and good. To do this is to blur the lines between
good and evil.
It is also to renounce the God-given gift of judgment.
As Christ commanded us, we should not be afraid to call black, black or white,
white. It is our duty to do so. If we do not do this, we are doing an injustice
to the true meaning of tolerance. If we understand tolerance in this way, there
is never a fine line between being faithful to moral principles and being tolerant.
In addition to being leaders in society, politicians are a reflection
of society. Politicians have a duty to hold fast to moral principles in order
to govern effectively. As one of our Founding Fathers, John Adams, wisely proclaimed:
"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions
unbridled by morality and religion. ... Our Constitution was made only for a moral
and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Q: The Vatican document calls to
mind the example of St. Thomas More and praises how he followed his conscience,
even at the cost of losing his positions and ultimately his life. What lessons
do you think More can teach Catholic leaders and politicians today?
The great Thomas More teaches politicians and all people that the key
to life is keeping your eye on the eternal, yet at the same time, to serve God,
here on earth.
As Christ commanded us, we have to live in the world,
but not be of it. Man is called to strike a proper balance in loving God and doing
his will, yet be firmly grounded in his earthly duties.
the perfect balance of someone who strives to serve the Lord and his king consistently.
However, there are times when you try to serve both and you run into conflict.
More demonstrates through his martyrdom that one must always be willing to stand
up for what one believes and for the teachings of the faith. In sum, as More eloquently
puts it, we must be "the king's good servant, but God's first."
Recently the U.S. Senate passed a bill to ban partial-birth abortion.
If it passes Congress and gets President Bush's signature, will the courts allow
Santorum: The threat of a U.S.
Supreme Court challenge to the constitutionality of the Partial-Birth Abortion
Ban is not persuasive.
My legislation was specifically authored to mitigate
the concerns that the court had with a Nebraska law prohibiting the partial-birth
procedure. In that case, known as Stenberg v. Carhart, the Supreme Court's ruling
cited two points of contention, both of which have been addressed in my bill.
The language in S.3 applies the law specifically to one rogue form of
abortion and it includes documentation to show that the partial-birth procedure
is never medically necessary to protect the health of the mother. The margin by
which the ban passed the Senate illustrates the strength of our argument against
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