Why I Serve on the Catholic Advisory Committee of the Trump/Pence Campaign
In the first presidential debate, Hilary Clinton paraphrased words attributed to the great French writer Alexis de Tocqueville: “America is great because America is good. If America ever stops being good, it will stop being great.” Those words were probably not written by him. Nor were these words,
I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers — and it was not there. … in her fertile fields and bound less forests — and it was not there … in her rich mines and her vast world commerce — and it was not there. … In her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution — and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.
I accepted the invitation to the Catholic Advisory group to Trump/Pence 2016 campaign because I believe these words are true, no matter who wrote them.
The American Founding
Our age is reeling under what Pope Benedict XVI called a “dictatorship of relativism.” Relativism says there are no objective truths. The American founders were not relativists. They declared independence with the bold words “We Hold These Truths.”
They affirmed that fundamental human rights were endowed by the Creator. The Catholic Church affirms these truths. But it just doesn’t affirm them in theory. It demands that we work to promote and defend them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (numbers 2239, 2240) says very clearly that we citizens have the duty to work for “the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom” as an act of gratitude for what we have been given. Then it says:
Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community. Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country.
As a Catholic clergyman, I take this duty seriously. I am grateful to my country and love the United States, and very concerned for her future. This election matters. It also matters to the Republican Party that it hear the Catholic voice strongly.
The Right to Life and Religious Freedom
First among the truths our nation’s founders declared is the Right to Life. This is not a right our nation now fully recognizes. Abortion is legal in the United States. Innocent children in the womb are being killed by surgical instruments, chemical weapons or suction, at any time and for any reason. Every procured abortion is a violation of the Natural Law Right to Life.
We have no excuse. We know these children are our brothers and sisters. We offer surgery to them. We prosecute someone who takes their lives in the commission of another crime. We take 4D and 3D images of these children and send them to friends. We know what we are doing and are culpable as a Nation.
The next president could name four Justices to the United States Supreme Court. Those appointments will determine if this horrible practice continues. Even just two could shift the balance and change the law for generations. Donald Trump affirms the Right to Life and Hilary Clinton denies it.
The Constitution protects religious freedom. It requires the government to accommodate religious faith, but now we find it increasingly treated with hostility. I don’t need to go over the examples.
Just think of the baker who can’t bake a cake celebrating a same-sex “marriage” because of her deeply held religious conviction about marriage being persecuted and fined. Or the Little Sisters of the Poor. Or the growing effort to compel Christian institutions to deny sexual difference and conform to the radical gender identity agenda. There are many more examples, and the number is growing.
Our founding fathers understood that the nation they’d created couldn’t survive without a strong religious people. In 1798 John Adams 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.”
Our founders understood that the free exercise of religion goes beyond the freedom to worship within church buildings. They knew it included bakers baking cakes and nuns caring for the poor. Donald Trump affirms religious freedom. He will correct the abuses unleashed by the Johnson Amendment which gags the speech of the Church and support the First Amendment Defense Act. Hilary Clinton opposes both and is hostile toward the Church and religious freedom.
Marriage and Family and School Choice
The rights of children and the common good are best secured by recognizing the uniqueness of faithful monogamous marriage above all other relationships. The family is the first society, first economy, first school, first civilizing and mediating institution and first government, and the first place for the formation of virtue and character in children. This is both common sense and my Church’s teaching.
In rejecting marriage, the United States Supreme Court in its Obergefell opinion erred. In the dissent of Chief Justice Roberts, he noted “the majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent.” He was correct.
Donald Trump will protect the rights of the Church to advocate for marriage and the family free from governmental coercion and persecution. Hilary Clinton will not.
The founders also understood the parents right and duty to direct their children’s education. So does the Catholic Church. The Catechism calls the right of parents to choose a school for their children “fundamental” and says that the government has “the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise” (number #2229).
Donald Trump supports school choice. Hilary Clinton is opposed to it.
Good Government and Economic Freedom
Finally, two other areas guided my choice to join the Catholic Advisory Group. They are matters of prudential judgement, meaning that people who hold the same principles may have different ideas about how to act upon those principles. In many cases of prudential judgment, I find myself in agreement with the Trump/Pence campaign and opposed to the Clinton/Kaine campaign.
First, I affirm the principle of subsidiarity. Governing should first occur at the lowest level and any other governing entity should defer and assist the smallest governing unit, not usurp their role.
Donald Trump will devolve government back to the state and local levels. He will recognize the necessity of supporting mediating associations, those groups like the family and churches that stand between the individual and the state, that make up what we call “civil society.” Hillary Clinton advocates increased centralization of power at the federal level and letting government over-ride mediating institutions.
Second, I believe in a truly free economy. By that I mean one that should not be controlled by either a federal bureaucracy or a corporatist class. The free economy will expand participation while promoting enterprise and awarding initiative. After reviewing the economic policies of Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, I determined Trump promotes economic freedom.
I accepted the invitation to the Catholic Advisory Group to the campaign of Donald J. Trump to offer the kind of policy analysis I have expressed in this essay to the campaign.
A fuller explanation of Deacon Fournier’s decision to join the Catholic Advisory Committee can be found on Catholic Online.