Remembering the Role of Religion in the Public Square

(Originally posted here)

Today (Editor: July 20, 2016) we mark two anniversaries. Though divided by an ocean and more than a century, these two events remind us of the importance of religion in public life.

On 20 July 1775, the Continental Congress called upon our young nation to undertake a day of prayer and fasting, seeking the mercy and aid of the Almighty God. To further make the point, Congress attended Anglican services that morning and Presbyterian services in the afternoon. These men understood the danger of losing the rightful autonomy of religion and politics; they had studied history and knew of the horrors caused by the wars of religion in Europe. And thus they promoted religious pluralism, refusing to endorse one denomination or another. But they also knew that religion is not only permissible, but necessary in our public life. They understood that, most especially in moments of great need, mankind must submit itself to the wisdom and mercy of God.

On 20 July 1944, members of the German Army attempted to kill Adolf Hitler, evict the Nazis from power, and enter into a negotiated peace with the Western Allies. It was a close run thing, but the attempt failed and everyone connected with the plot was arrested. Among them was a Catholic priest, Alfred Delp (pictured left). He had not been involved with the plot itself, but had spoken with some members of the Kreisau Circle, a loose organization whose primary crime was to imagine what a post-Nazi Germany might look like. Delp had provided some perspectives based on the social teaching of the Catholic Church. Because some members of the Kreisau Circle were involved in the plot, virtually all were arrested and most executed. While in jail awaiting his fate, Delp wrote:

Spiritually we seem to be in an enormous vacuum. Humanly speaking there is the same burning question – what is the point of it all?… Scarcely anyone can see, or even guess at, the connection between the corpse-strewn battlefields, the heaps of rubble we live in and the collapse of the spiritual cosmos of our views and principles, the tattered residue of our moral and religious convictions as revealed by our behavior…. The social problem has been overlooked… and also the problem of youth and the problem… of spiritual questions which can all too easily masquerade as cultural or political questions.

Without the insight that religion brings, we lose sight of the deeper issues with which our nation struggles. Do we have a problem with violence? Yes. With racism? Yes. With poverty? Yes. But at the root of all of these is a problem with sin, with pride, with a rejection of God and the dignity He has given to all men.

At its recent national convention, the American Solidarity Party approved an amendment to the platform, stating, “We advocate for laws that allow people of all faiths to practice their religion without intimidation and deplore aggressive secularism that seeks to remove religion from the public sphere.” The platform goes on to state, “We deplore the reduction of the ‘free exercise of religion’ guaranteed by the First Amendment to ‘freedom of worship’ that merely exists in private and within a house of worship. The right to follow what the Declaration of Independence called ‘the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God’ must be respected.”

Religion is about far more than what you do at a mosque on Friday, in a synagogue on Saturday, or in a church on Sunday. Religion is a way of life, one that America has long valued, and one that we continue to need in our public discussions as much as we ever have.

Today’s image comes from the website of author Mary Frances Coady.


Does Christian Democracy Violate the Separation of Church and State?

(Originally posted here)

A friend recently expressed to me concern that the American Solidarity Party (ASP), a party in the tradition of Christian Democracy, might violate the separation of church and state. It would be easy to dismiss this question out of hand. After all, the Constitution does not contain the phrase “separation of church and state”. It simply requires that (a) Congress does not establish an official religion and (b) Congress does not interfere with the free exercise of religion.

One might point out that that ASP, as a tiny party, is far from the halls of power. Even if ASP took major offices, I am aware of no religious community represented by ASP members that would demand strict adherence to particular policies. Most churches articulate principles and leave their application to the judgement of individual members and office-holders. Even if the leaders of one church tried to exercise undue influence on the political process via ASP members, surely members of the party from other faiths would object.

ASP sometimes expresses its positions in Christian terms because many of its members are Christian. But this doesn’t mean that ASP does not welcome people of all faiths, or that its positions only make sense if you are a Christian. Indeed, people of many faiths, and even no faith at all, have articulated many of the same policy positions.

But at its heart, the question about church and state is about the role of religion in the public square. It is a topic of profound importance, one definitely worth addressing.

In Defense of Religious Pluralism

I am a Catholic and have attended worship in the Church’s various traditions: Roman, Greek, and Maronite. But I’ve also attended services in other churches: Episcopalian, Methodist, Evangelical, Mormon. Not so long ago I attended Friday prayers with a friend at her mosque.

Last year I had the chance to visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, popularly known as The Punchbowl, in Hawaii. It is home to thousands of war dead from World War II. Many of them are Japanese Americans from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit in American military history. And as you walk along their tombstones, you notice something interesting: a great many, perhaps most, of them do not have a cross on top, but a Buddhist prayer wheel.

Our nation was founded by people of various faiths: Protestants from high church Anglicans to dissenting Quakers and everything in between. There were a few of Catholics and Jews and more than a few deists of various kinds. The Founders crafted a Constitution which neither enshrines a single faith as the official religion, nor bans religion from public view. They wanted a vigorous public discussion between many faiths.

I do not, as a matter of theology, believe that all religions are equal or correct. But I respect the dignity of all people, including their religious beliefs, and I recognize that, as a matter of public policy, our country is made stronger when people of faith share and act upon their values.

Some people fear an undue influence by Christianity or a particular Christian denomination over our national politics. There has indeed been a sad history of religious oppress oppression and violence across the centuries; I’ll not say such fears are unfounded. But the answer is not to banish religious voices. On the contrary, I welcome more of them. I would love to see a member of Congress introduce legislation by explaining that the policies it contains are supported by the principles found in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Quran. I would love to see an Indian American run for office and explain how his or her Hindu faith inspired public service. And I would love to see Christians campaign for the values of the Gospel.

America needs religion.  But, to quote T. S. Elliot, “There is no competition— / There is only the fight to recover what has been lost / And found and lost again and again… / For us, there is only the trying.”

Seeking Solidarity: Against Liberal Libertines

I often hear that we as a party that supports spending other people’s money, that we will run up the public debt, and we essentially political libertines trying to socially engineer Marxism. This is mostly due to our support of a decentralized public assistance system.

To the first objection I would like to jovially point out that I am a tax payer as well. April truly is the cruelest month with the innumerable taxes to be paid every year after you had already been taxed with each pay stub. So to say that we desire to spend other people’s money would be a gross overstatement. We don’t desire to spend anyone else’s money any more than we want to spend our own money. We are, like every other tax payer, human as well with our own desires and obligations.

That said, we do not wish to put any burden on our neighbors that we are not willing to shoulder ourselves. This is part of our principle of Solidarity. Community is voluntary association and the solidarity bonding it together is for the advancement of the common good, not special interest. Thus, the nature, scope, and cost of such a system would be decided by the community to meet the common good of the citizens in it.

Now, many will likely attack our position as a means to redistribute wealth. In a sense, that is precisely what it is. We believe that the world has natural inequalities and these stem from natural evil rather than explicit moral evil. Some people are born into poverty through no fault of their own. We also believe that the fruits of the earth were given to all men equally and that in the beginning there was no lack of resources nor disproportion in their distribution. Yet the fallen nature of the world causes these resources to be scatted according to the evil in the world and not by the justice in which it was created. Man, caring for his fellow in stark contrast to Cain, as the steward of the earth must see to it that these natural injustices be eliminated when possible or at the minimum reduced.

Naturally, meeting this obligation requires immense amounts of time and money and everyone doesn’t want to give up too much of their time and especially not their money. But the demands of justice call to each and every one of us and we cannot be blind to the Lazarus outside our own gates. It is a bold undertaking that we have received from the Gospels and one that requires all the actors in the community to come together in solidarity. As Pope Leo XIII said, “It is no easy matter to define the relative rights and mutual duties of the rich and of the poor, of capital and of labor. And the danger lies in this, that crafty agitators are intent on making use of these differences of opinion to pervert men’s judgments and to stir up the people to revolt.” Like Leo, when we talk about assistance to the poor, we cannot fail to address its purpose: the acquisition and retention of private property.

It is the right of every human being to acquire and retain private property. Leo writes:

The fact that God has given the earth for the use and enjoyment of the whole human race can in no way be a bar to the owning of private property. For God has granted the earth to mankind in general, not in the sense that all without distinction can deal with it as they like, but rather that no part of it was assigned to any one in particular, and that the limits of private possession have been left to be fixed by man’s own industry, and by the laws of individual races. Moreover, the earth, even though apportioned among private owners, ceases not thereby to minister to the needs of all, inasmuch as there is not one who does not sustain life from what the land produces. Those who do not possess the soil contribute their labor; hence, it may truly be said that all human subsistence is derived either from labor on one’s own land, or from some toil, some calling, which is paid for either in the produce of the land itself, or in that which is exchanged for what the land brings forth.

Here, again, we have further proof that private ownership is in accordance with the law of nature. Truly, that which is required for the preservation of life, and for life’s well-being, is produced in great abundance from the soil, but not until man has brought it into cultivation and expended upon it his solicitude and skill. Now, when man thus turns the activity of his mind and the strength of his body toward procuring the fruits of nature, by such act he makes his own that portion of nature’s field which he cultivates – that portion on which he leaves, as it were, the impress of his personality; and it cannot but be just that he should possess that portion as his very own, and have a right to hold it without any one being justified in violating that right.

Private property, no matter how small, gives a man dignity and worth. It is something of his own that he can maintain and cultivate for his descendants. It is important to remember that we, along with Leo, do not consider wages to be private property in the strictest sense. It is a means to private property, but it is not to be the end as private property. Wages, therefore, need to be supportive of that end such that the reasonable worker can provide for his family and attain property for himself. Such wages should always be determined by agreements between the employer and the worker, though the State has an obligation to ensure that the requirements of justice are met. Thus, union bargaining, minimum wage laws, and other such remedies on their own are insufficient to address the issue of wages. Businesses should conduct themselves according to the principles of solidarity between employer and worker rather than adversarial disputes. States should enact laws that encourage such solidarity and foster good relationships in the community.

Sometimes, however, it is not possible for innumerable circumstances, for a person to be paid a wage that can lead to private property. Further instances make it impossible for a person to even feed their family or have housing. These are great struggles implicit in the fallen nature of man and the world, but they are equally great opportunities for solidarity. Essentially, sometimes people need help and the community needs to be there for them.

This is likely where the accusation of large government expenditures will begin. We do not, again, desire taxes to rise or deficits increase. Indeed, we know that there are ample resources already available both from the public and the private sectors. Our approach is two pronged: reform the public systems to better reflect the needs of the local community and integrate the efforts of the private sector with the public sector.

The first is simple. The lion’s share of control over how programs are implemented should go to the local government. The only directions from Richmond should be the support of basic subsistence programs i.e. food, clothing, and shelter, ensuring that programs comply with state laws regarding discrimination, and coordinating the programs of the various localities when necessary. No fiats should come that directly dictate how a program should operate in a locality as a bureaucrat from Richmond has little idea as to the actual life of a community in Roanoke. While the bureaucrat has to operate from quotas and spreadsheets, the local communities operate from personal, firsthand knowledge and experience of the needs and best practices.

The second is less so and it is best to leave this less defined. The various localities would know better regarding the resources and needs of their community. We are a party that is principle driven, not policy driven. We keep things vague in certain areas because we believe that they should be vague enough for the local communities to determine what is best for them. That said, the policies should conform to the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity. Beyond that, there is little to be said on local practices. As for state practice, we can be more specific. The government in Richmond should concentrate its efforts on inter-jurisdictional organizations i.e. organizations that need to cross county lines to do their work. Even then, the state’s oversight should not infringe upon the local control to the extent that they directly influence policy.

Now we come to the final objection: that we favor Marxism or desire some utopia. We are not ignorant of the human condition; we know that this is a difficult task. We cannot, however, believe in the commonality of the earth’s fruits and the rights and duties of private property and shirk the demands of justice. We cannot create a perfect world, but we can at least ease the suffering of those in it and give them a reasonable chance at attaining the same dignities that we enjoy. Also, since we draw almost all our inspiration from a specifically anti-Marxist movement, this charge is beyond absurd. Solidarity is the enemy of Marxism. Where Marxism seeks to isolate men as merely a collection of individuals whose only strength is collective revolution and dissolution of the only thing giving them dignity i.e. private property, Solidarity acknowledges and defends the personal dignity of each human person as a unique creation and offers free association to each person so that united on common ground based in common sense, we may affect the common good. We are the enemy of Marxists because we deny them the envy they need to sow the seeds of their dissent. We bring people together through mutual cooperation rather than violent upheaval. We are, just as the Polish Solidarity was to the Soviet oppressors, the greatest threat to Marxism the United States has seen. We show, more than any other political movement, that their promises are empty and their motives are not liberation but slavery to greed and envy. 

The American Solidarity Party seeks, above all, for the care of the community and all its members. Like Solidarity in Poland, we are against social engineering but rather for social interaction. We are against central planning and unseen bureaucrats; we are for all people in their local communities coming together to support one another and grow with each other, defending each other’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We seek to protect private property as the essential component of human dignity by tearing down obstacles to it and fostering its growth and acquisition. Above all, we are for life and life that is lived well in the company of others towards the final end of all men.

It worked for Poland.

Seeking Solidarity: Equal Justice Under Law Requires Just Laws

The highly politicized and polarizing cases involving the death of Freddie Gray and the officers implicated in his death have all been dismissed. The outcry is great as the demand for justice is great. Despite the relative political and social views, there is a great outcry for justice. In our time, we see people everywhere thirsting for justice, both in our nation and abroad. We demand justice for the police officers killed. We demand justice for those killed by police officers. We demand justice for the victims of ISIS and other terror attacks. We demand justice for the refugees from the Middle East. The whole earth cries out for justice, culminating in one plaintive choir to the Almighty.

Yet, justice is a tricky thing. In his dialogue, “The Republic” Plato examines the nature of Justice. Indeed, most remember the book for its utopian city and allegory of the cave. But few recall that the initial question, the interrogatory that started that dialogue was the question: What is Justice?

In the dialogue, Cephalus, Polemarchus, and Thrasymachus each give a definition of justice respectively: giving what is owed, giving good to friends and evil to enemies, and enforcing the will of the stronger. In our own times, we can see these definitions being touted by various politicians and thinkers. How often do we see someone explain justice as “balancing” scales between two parties? How often do we see justice explained as the giving of goods from one person we dislike to another we like? How often is justice awarded to the one who fought harder?

Yet all these things are not justice. The first is wrong because, strictly taken, it reduces everything to a monetary or material exchange. No price can be placed on the death of a loved one; no one can return life where it is taken. The second is wrong because it would prejudice one group simply because we do not favor them. Justice becomes a benefice on those in favor and a curse to those who are out. The third is wrong because it is an arbitrary standard, dependent on the whims of the powerful.

Justice is a habit, guided by prudence and censured by mercy, by which we render to each person according to their due. While this may seem like the first definition, the due involved is not based on a monetary or legal claim, but on the inherent dignity of man. It is in this dignity, shared by all men of all races, colors, and creeds, that gives man his rights or, from the Latin, his Iura. Indeed, the word justice comes from the Latin word meaning “law,” “right” or “duty.” It is the laws of nature and nature’s God that endows us with this dignity and these rights. They cannot be taken away; they cannot be created. Our rights preexist the rights offered by governments and supersede them. No constitution can afford any right other than what man has already. Determining those rights is one of the fundamental human questions that the whole human race seeks the answer to.

It is in this way we can perceive what government protects our rights as opposed to one that does not rather than appealing to 200 year old compositions on vellum. We can say the killing of young black Americans is wrong, not because of an amendment to a human body of law, but because the rights of man entitle them to the Right to Life, from conception to natural death. We can say the same for the police officer and the refugee and the host countries’s citizens.

But why do I still speak of rights when we are talking about justice? Well, the Latins had the right idea conflating law, rights, and duty into one word. With such rights, we have the duty to mete out what is due to each according to their rights. It is a great duty incumbent on the rights themselves. In essence, we do not affect justice when the duties associated with those rights are not accomplished. Rights to property, for example, are held not for hoarding or dissipation in rakish fashion, but for the sustaining of life. The abundance of property is by no means needed for sustaining the life of the immediate owner and so the duty of charity is incumbent on the owner to take what he does not need and help sustain others.

Take an example of a poor man and a rich man. The poor man has, through no real fault of his own, scant means for his provision. The rich man has ample store with which to be comfortable and aid the poor man. The rich man does the poor man an injustice by hoarding those goods which, were the world truly fair and equal, would ordinarily provide for the poor man. The duty on the poor man, when given from the excesses of others, is to put it to good use and for the advancement of his state in life. Were he derelict in his duty, he would do an injustice to the rich man, though the justice of the rich man, regardless of the poor man’s dereliction, would have been satisfied. In other words, the failing of one person’s duty does not invalidate the accomplishment of another’s. The rich man has acted justly regardless of whether the poor man has. In the same manner, the poor man acts justly when he works within his means to advance his status and is not invalidated by the failing of the rich man.

Justice is something we clamor for, but is it something we will work for? Not work in the sense of protests or demonstrations, but are we willing to work for justice by being just? The American Solidarity Party seeks to promote a more just society by affecting justice at the lowest levels, starting with the individual and ending in our global partnerships. If we want to make this world more just and receive justice, we must be just ourselves by fulfilling the duties our rights place upon us. Here are three ways we can fulfill our duties specifically with regard to the recent shootings.

First: Every community must move swiftly, through public dialogue, to foster trust and understanding between police and the citizens they serve. Voices that are often ignored must now be heard.

Second: Each community must determine for itself the best way to improve relations and outcomes. For some, this may involve the use of body cameras and the permanent or temporary storage of the images they contain. For others, improved police presence outside of emergency situations would be the most significant step forward. Still others may decide to restrict the pool of candidates for law enforcement to residents of the city or surrounding communities.

Third: groups of police, city administrators, and citizens should be formed to review the effects of new policies and their reception by the public.

These measures will help to restore the mutual trust and sense of community that are essential to a peaceful society. But in the long run, they are not enough. As Dr. King also remarked, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If we would have a peaceful and prosperous society, we must eradicate all forms of injustice—in our laws, in our economic relations, and in our foreign and domestic policies. Only when our society is firmly rooted in solidarity will the threat of violence truly be diminished.

It worked for Poland.

Seeking Solidarity: The Necessity of Christian Democracy

As Americans, we tend to focus on our own achievements rather than see those of others. As such, President Reagan is often credited with destroying the Soviet Union. This is not only untrue–though Reagan did play a large role–but actually unintentionally disparaging of other actors and, no, I don’t mean Margaret Thatcher.

Poland in 1980 was ruled by the Soviet Union and several good, Catholic Poles had had enough of the Soviets running the trade unions. In 1980, Solidarity was formed in protests against higher cost of living expenses dictated by the Soviet Polish government and the firing of union members from the Lenin Shipyards. With the government forced to recognize the legality of Solidarity in 1980 under the Gdansk Agreement, the first trade union free of Soviet bureaucracy and espionage.

Their numbers soared as distrust and disapproval of the Soviet government rose. They formed a platform of republican principles against the single party rule of the Soviets. Even the martial law of 1981 could not break them. The Soviets were forced to negotiate with them. When the Polish Round Table Talks were finished in 1989, Solidarity had secured semi-free elections of a president and senate as well as the allowance of independent trade unions. Solidarity’s political wing then went on to sweep the elections and taking the majority of the seats in the newly formed legislature as well as the presidency. This was a shock to the Soviet power that was felt all the way in Moscow. If one small association of people can gain autonomy from the empire, then it could spread.

Solidarity was formed with the principles found in Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis or “The Social Concern.” It is in these principles, coming from the very font of Life and Wisdom found in the Gospels, that succeeded in engendering the support of the West and destroying the empire. They were able to affect real social change and true political development because of their commitment to solidarity. We need Solidarity in America.

The social concern of the Church, directed towards an authentic development of man and society which would respect and promote all the dimensions of the human person, has always expressed itself in the most varied ways.”

Indeed, this is should be the social concern of all human beings in all governments everywhere. What man would honestly eat dung if he could have cake? The only way you can is by convincing him it is not dung, but cake. A more appropriate analogy would be two competing piles of indistinguishable dung being advertised as red and blue cakes of radically different flavors.

But here Pope John Paul II gives us several things: purpose, scope, and options. He gives us a purpose: authentically develop man and society. The scope he gives us is to do that in ways that respect and promote the human person in all his dimensions. He gives us options by saying that this has been done in a variety of ways. Here he speaks of the Church’s concern being expressed, but as I said before, it is a good model for all of us to follow.

Our nation suffers from a lack of purpose. The red liberals and the blue liberals offer nothing but crass materialism and and 30 year old grudges. They offer no authentic developments for man or society, certainly none that respect and promote even a few dimensions of the human person. So what must we do? Well, we can write as I have done. We can also form a new party.

This is not such a radical idea; the libertarians have been fairly successful and may prove even more successful in the upcoming election. Also, it worked for Poland. If we accept the idea that this evil empire of red and blue are inevitable and unchangeable, then we have already lost. We have not gotten to the protests of 1980, or the martial law of 1981. We would never get to the talks of 1989.

The American Solidarity Party seeks to follow those principles that Solidarity fought hard to see realized and have that social concern for authentic development. Christian democracy has been widely successful in countries such as Austria, Poland, and Germany. These parties have not only led their countries to financial solvency, but also show to be some of the happiest countries.

If the decadence and the corruption of the nation, at the very heart of each person, is too much for you to bear; if you see the two dung piles for what they are and cannot stomach them further; and if you believe that man was made for greatness, not mediocrity of the slaves to pleasure and profit we have become, then join us in solidarity and united together, we can defeat the American evil empire.

Seeking Solidarity: Maintaining the Seamless Garment

Original post here.

The great legacy of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was the idea of the “seamless garment” and the creation of the theology of a Consistent Life Ethic (CLE. The idea was based on the principles of the 1964 Encyclical Humana Vitae by Pope St. Paul VI. Even though Cardinal Bernardin based his beliefs in Catholicism, he argued that these principles were universal and could be found in a traditional, secular natural law theory. In America, we believe in the common notion that “all men are created equal…that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” as a foundation for our national philosophy and ethic.

So naturally, in a time of great uncertainty, an ethic that opposed war, euthanasia, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, capital punishment, and poverty would not seem that popular. Opposing war at that time with the Soviet Union posed to devour Europe was immensely unpopular, yet Bernardin argued–and Pope John Paul II put into action–against nuclear war and even conventional war when all other means had not been exhausted. In the wake of the Sexual Revolution and Roe v. Wade, opposing the supposed means of sexual liberation–abortion and contraception–was immensely unpopular, yet Bernardin argued that such evils would degrade society to the throw away culture we have today.

Despite its faithful adherence to Humana Vitae and the Gospels, the CLE and the seamless garment has been under consistent attack. The main criticism is that, in applying the necessity to defend life to more categories than abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and contraception, it dilutes the intended purpose i.e. to show the interconnected nature of the various life issues and simply be used as an excuse to deny certain aspects of it. The argument typically goes that a politician will claim they are for CLE because they support aid to the poor but they simultaneously support abortion. (Looking at you Tim Kaine.)

Yet, this argument necessarily is true of its inverse. Entire news sites are devoted to the opposition of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and contraception and critical of opposition to alleviating poverty, opposing war, and ending capital punishment. That is not to say that abortion is equal in gravity to poverty or unjust war. Inherent in the crime of abortion is a violation of the natural law of particular horror where the most vulnerable of human beings are attacked and brutally murdered. What it does say is that these issues are connected and are all moral imperatives.

These two arguments, the vice and the excessive scruple, try to cover themselves with half the garment and consider themselves fully clothed. The doctrine has never supported the acceptance of some principles while ignoring others. Implicitly, it does not seek to place some on a higher platform than another. Instead, the CLE is merely being consistent with the principle everyone agrees with i.e. that life is worth defending.

What actually has happened is that the CLE is under attack by secular forces trying to appeal to voters. The cause against abortion and against poverty have been appropriated by their respective partisan champions. We are not debating over methods to alleviate them but whether they should be alleviated at all. Thus, the very right to life, on both sides of the current false dichotomy we call a two party system, is under attack. The only solution is to endorse the CLE in it entirety. It cannot be pieced out or divided up. It must be, as Cardinal Bernardin said, seamless and covering all issues regarding life.

This does not mean that some issues are inherently more grave than others. The evil that is abortion violates the laws of nature so perversely that there are few, if any, cases were it could ever be justified. One can argue and disagree over capital punishment. One can disagree on the way we assist the poor. But abortion is the one issue that cannot be negotiated. It cannot be left to the states, the courts, or any human jurisdiction to decide whether it is a right or not. Due to its circumstances whereat the most vulnerable human life is at stake, protecting the life of the unborn is the first and foremost issue in any truly consistent life ethic. Since this is where life begins, this is where our life ethic must begin.

Yet the gravity of one issue should not preclude us from working on another one or even finding connections between those problems. In the end, the effort is to defend life at all stages of development and that can’t be done piecemeal without making man himself piecemeal.

The American Solidarity Party is the only political party in the US that support the CLE and works to end abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, embryonic stem cell research while resisting unnecessary war and alleviating poverty. The ASP works for the “integral ecology” espoused by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si. A vote for ASP is a vote to defend the first and most precious right every human being has, from conception to natural death: life. Support ASP; support Life. It worked for Poland.

Some Frequently Asked Questions: Religion, Foreign Policy, Drugs, and Amnesty

(Original Post here.)

As friends and acquaintance read over the platform of the American Solidarity Party (ASP) and some of the various articles that have been written about it, there are some questions I hear more often than others.  Today I’ll try to answer four of them, based on my personal understanding of ASP’s principles and platform.

Q: Is ASP a Christian party?

A: Sort of. ASP is a party in the tradition of “Christian democracy.” This is a movement that began in 19th century Europe and really gained momentum after the horrors of World War II, as people undertook the work of rebuilding society in a way that would be just, secure, and peaceful. We also draw inspiration from America’s Founding and the Civil Rights Movement, both of which also have Christian roots.

ASP acknowledges the role of the Judeo-Christian worldview in America history and culture, but advocates for the protection of all religions, as guaranteed by the First Amendment. The party is a broad tent. ASP members come from many faiths, as well as people of no faith at all. A wide variety of Christian denominations (and localities!) are represented: our presidential candidate, Mike Maturen, is a Catholic in Michigan; the chairman of our national committee, Matthew Bartko, is a Protestant in Pennsylvania; our media manager, Christopher Keller, is an Orthodox Christian in Minnesota. This comes as little surprise, since Christian democracy itself is ecumenical, having been influenced by Catholic thinkers such as Pope Leo XIII and Jacques Maritain, as well as Protestant thinkers such as Abraham Kuyper.

Q: Is ASP pacifist or isolationist?

A: Neither. ASP opposes war apart from the traditional criteria of just war. In other words, war must be a last resort, only used in grave circumstances, when there is a reasonable probability of resolving the conflict. In the conduct of such a just war, the use of force must be proportional to the threat and the rights of non-combatants must be respected. In line with such thinking, ASP opposes torture, attacks on civilians, and preemptive strikes. ASP calls for a less aggressive foreign policy, without unilateral military intervention in foreign countries or military bases which are not needed to protect our diplomatic missions or treaty allies.

None of this means that America should disengage from the world. On the contrary, I think ASP’s platform implies a brotherly concern for all people. America’s history and many material blessings have placed us in a position to do a great deal of good in the world. Through the use of traditional state-to-state diplomacy, public diplomacy (where we reach out directly to foreign populations, particularly those whose governments may not be telling them the full truth), intelligence, trade, student exchanges, and the work of so many private organizations, America can promote a more free and secure world, to the benefit of our own country and the whole world. This is the notion behind full spectrum diplomacy. From time to time the use of military force is necessary, but it is a tool rarely used, and only as a last resort.

A quick look at the federal budget gives a sense of how ASP priorities might be applied. In fiscal year 2015 the federal government spent $3.8 trillion. Of that, $598 billion was spent on the military. In contrast, the State Department received $46 billion, less than a tenth as much, for diplomatic efforts. The Peace Corps spent $380 million, or less than 1% of what the military spent and 0.01% of the total budget. I am under no illusion that doubling the Peace Corps budget would make peace break out throughout the world or end the need for the military. But given how inexpensive soft power is when compared to military hardware, it’s probably worth investing in a little more soft power.

Q: What is the difference between legalization and decriminalization of recreational drugs?

A: Legalization would mean that drugs became like any other product: state and local governments would be free to tax or otherwise regulate their sale and consumption, but, generally speaking, using them is allowed. Decriminalization would mean that drug use becomes something like speeding: you could be fined for it, but it’s not a criminal offense, so users wouldn’t be tried in court, sent to jail, or have a criminal record.

ASP endorses the decriminalization (but not legalization) of recreational drugs. The “War on Drugs,” launched in the 1970s, has proved a terrible failure. In spite of spending billions of dollars and incarcerating millions of Americans, there is no sign of drug use abating. Incarcerating drug users not only costs tax-payers money, but also separates drug users from their families and society, making it harder for them to get a job after release, for example, and putting them in contact with far more serious criminals. Let’s admit that the “War on Drugs” has failed and try something different.

Q: Why does ASP support a pathway to legal residency for illegal immigrants?

A: ASP supports broad immigration reform. Squeezing one part of the immigration balloon without addressing the full problem will simply put increased pressure somewhere else.

Countries have the right to know who is entering and to control that movement of people. But we must also recall that America is a nation of immigrants. We have been richly blessed by generations of new arrivals from around the world. That people continue to want to come to the US is a tribute to our great nation. Moreover, we have a duty to care for the poorest and weakest among us, which includes refugees fleeing religious, political, and racial persecution. We need to reform the bureaucratic processes by which people can legally enter the US. At present, these processes are too convoluted and too lengthy, mired in red tape.

Reforming the immigration process may address future immigrants, but does not address the millions of people who are here illegally.  In many cases, illegal immigrants were brought here as children and were in no way responsible for their status.  In other cases one member of a family entered legally and, when the red tape defeated their loved ones, other family members entered illegally to re-unite the family.  Moreover, children born to illegal immigrants are US citizens, even if their parents are not.

Leaving the millions of illegal immigrants currently living here – many of whom are long term residents, most of whom are hard working and, apart from their immigration status, law abiding – in legal limbo does no one any good.  It discourages them from seeking things like a driver’s license or reporting crimes to the police, for fear that their status will be discovered.  It allows unscrupulous employers to pay pitiful wages, blackmailing their employees with the threat of reporting them to immigration authorities.

There are various proposals for a pathway to citizenship, or at least permanent legal residency, for illegal immigrants.  The usual requirements for citizenship – including a rigorous exam in American civics, which, frankly, many Americans could not pass – need not be waived.  Those who have committed crimes while here need not be eligible.  But for those who simply want to care for their families and contribute to American society, ASP believes its time to bring them in from the cold.

Finding Solidarity in the Founders

“We the people, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The words of our magnificent constitution echo in the hearts and minds of all Americans. In an exceedingly polarized nation, we can see that each person, regardless of their affiliation, appeals to these general principles. It seems that our forebears had captured the very essence of what a government was for and its purpose. What is even more remarkable is, whether they realized it or not, they were the first Americans to call for solidarity.

Solidarity bases itself on the notion of free association of persons into mutual agreement for the common good. The framers, in whatever wisdom the Almighty saw fit to give them, began the whole structure of governance around “We the people.” The very cause, the actual mover that makes our nation exist is the free association of the persons living there. It is not a royal we or a metaphorical we. It is the kernel of truth that “people…are linked together by a common destiny, which is to be constructed together, if catastrophe for all is to be avoided.” We are linked by our interdependence and need to work together to affect our common good.

Yet, implicit in that interdependence is the need for order and a form to the unified solidarity we have. Thus, we must form a union, binding each other together in law so as to make our stand more firm. And that union is to be the most perfect it can be. The law of the land must never be a cause of division or consternation but the legal representation of our free association and solidarity. It should reflect a national sentiment of unity and the striving toward better unity, rather than taking solace in forced dichotomies and brute political force. All throughout the Federalist Papers, Hamilton, Jay, and Madison talk about “the Union” and the best way to preserve it. These were not men willing to let the several states to dissolve into independent states or even separate confederations. We had, by our rebellion from Great Britain, become a new people and a new nation. As such, our unity was crucial. The Constitution itself is our expression of the founder’s intent and our continued intent–inspired by our human desire for community–for unity among our people for their common good and the good of generations to come.

The purpose of such a mighty endeavor is clear: justice, peace, security, prosperity, and freedom for ourselves and future generations. This is a lofty goal and many may quote Bismark’s pithy phrase, “Politics is the art of the practical.” While this seems rather pragmatic, it is a negative view of humanity. Basically, the mentality that we should be content with what seems practical instead of what seems ideal is what creates the problems of mediocrity. Our founders cried out for more and better things and they achieved it. They never believed that their posterity would attempt to stagnate in the things of the past or abandon their principles altogether. These principles are self-evident and universal, but they also need to be reexamined in the light of new problems. We hate to be so mediocre but it is easy. “From the depth of anguish, fear and escapist phenomena like drugs, typical of the contemporary world, the idea is slowly emerging that the good to which we are all called and the happiness to which we aspire cannot be obtained without an effort and commitment on the part of all, nobody excluded, and the consequent renouncing of personal selfishness.”

We know we are called to a greater life and a better happiness, but the mediocrity that we settle for is far more “practical,” that is to say easier. Our founders gave us a great tool in our constitution and the principles in it. Like any tool, it must be sharpened and honed with the passing years so that the executions of government can be precise and specific. They did not envision any government to be so over loaded with burdens and powers that cause it to strike like a blunt ax upon an insect, breaking all about while leaving the insect unharmed. Neither did they envision a government with no teeth; the Articles of Confederation were replaced because of such a problem. Rather, they created a structure so that the power inherent in the natural rights of every man may be exerted in such a way as to affect the common good rather than the majority interest.

That structure reflected an ideal known as subsidiarity, which goes hand in hand with solidarity. Madison wrote in Federalist 45 this lapidary quote that forms the basis for American subsidiarity: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” Our forefathers did not envision a centralized government dictating domestic policy every year to the consternation of the states. The Articles of Confederation also showed that  the prevailing ideal was that the majority of the power be invested in the states to govern themselves. Who is better to regulate the the St. Joan river running through Dover, Delaware? The legislature that is right down the street or some office 200 miles away in Washington, D.C? Subsidiarity details that an issue be handled at the lowest level possible. Like the blunt ax striking the fly, a removed and large organization addresses local problems. Furthermore, the locality of the agency allows better solidarity in the citizenry to occur. The citizens are better able to have concerns addressed or voice opinions to local officials. Have far and removed offices handling their domestic affairs robs them of their natural solidarity and forces them in individualistic isolation.

The American Solidarity Party stands for Solidarity: the authentic and free association of persons and the only true and free union possible. Even though it may not have been their intent, it is remarkable that the patrimony of American politics from the founders speaks so much of unity and fraternity in relation to good government. It is as if, unbidden in their minds, their hearts, yearning for something greater than the dead democracies and republics of the Old World, stumbled upon the formula for authentic community and therefore Solidarity. I would say that the American Solidarity Party envisions the true intent of the founders in every respect, but especially the unity they desired.

After all, it worked for Poland.

It Is Time to Reclaim Social Justice

It needs to end. The continued assaults on Social Justice need to end. Once again, a perfectly natural and good thing like social justice is paraded around as some specter hanging over the world, inciting unpleasantness everywhere. In reality, Social Justice is the one thing that prevents our society from falling apart.

Probably the best example of ideological propaganda to grace the 21st century

We have all seen the tropes: whiny, rich, college student protests about something every hard working, red blooded, tough as nails, blue collar American knows is hogwash. The memes and jokes are endless while the articles defaming the youth as “Social Justice Warriors.” Books and articles from all the talking heads and professionals about these evil Millennials and their quixotic crusades are equally  numerous. But what is missed is that both the conservative pundits mocking and the small but vocal minority crusading is that Social Justice is something far greater.

First, Social Justice begins with solidarity because solidarity is the authentic action of the society and brings society to act collectively towards their common good. It really cannot function without it. When you are committed to the common good rather than simply your own or for some minority, you necessarily and sincerely seek the good for the whole society. It compels the human person outside of his  self inflicted”monkey spheres“–be they the “conservative” notions of individualism or the liberal notions of socialism–and into a wider community. This is not the vague compassion we see at contemporary demonstrations of the right or left. This is the firm commitment to the good of society that compelled Martin Luther King, Jr. to march on Selma. “At another level, the roots of the contradiction between the solemn affirmation of human rights and their tragic denial in practice lies in a notion of freedom which exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them. . . It is precisely in this sense that Cain’s answer to the Lord’s question: “Where is Abel your brother?” can be interpreted: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Yes, every man is his “brother’s keeper”, because God entrusts us to one another.” (Evangelium Vitae) We are not alone and we not various conflicting and struggling groups; we are one human family, united for one common good.

Second, justice must be properly understood. The word justice comes from the Latin word ius, meaning right and duty. Justice is not something we merely dispense at our pleasure. It is the fundamental rights and duties of mankind. “A link has often been noted between  claims to a “right to excess”, and even to transgression and vice, within  affluent societies, and the lack of food, drinkable water, basic instruction  and elementary health care in areas of the underdeveloped world and on the  outskirts of large metropolitan centers. The link consists in this: individual  rights, when detached from a framework of duties which grants them their full  meaning, can run wild, leading to an escalation of demands which is effectively  unlimited and indiscriminate.” (Charitas in Veritate) The rights and duties of man don’t stem from social norms, but from our very nature. The cause of justice therefore is the cause of rights and duties. When someone’s rights are being violated, the majority of the time it is because some person or entity failed to protect those rights.

So when, then, is social justice? It is the societal protection and affirmation of the natural rights and duties of man. It is not simply demanding free education or the ability to protest. It is affirming and achieving the basic human needs for people in our country and around the world. It is providing education to those who are ignorant. It is caring for the sick and the elderly. It is recognizing the inherent dignity in each and every human being and working to protect it.

Since Social Justice is such a large part of our humanity and authentic human development, it is a large part of the American Solidarity Party’s platform. From immigration, to just wages, to education, to care of the elderly, the ASP is dedicated to the whole society affecting justice for all according to a moral principle. This is not the Social Justice of memes and pointless demonstrations. This is true Social Justice, the sort of Social Justice that gave women and minorities the vote; the sort of Social Justice that seek and common good, not a common interest and; the sort of Social Justice that can make real, lasting change not only on our politics, but on our everyday lives.

After all, it worked for Poland.