Pope Sees a Fragile but Inspirational America

Father Roger J. Landry of the Diocese of Fall River has some thoughts on the meaning of Pope Benedict’s recent visit to the U.S. (h/t). In particular, he focuses on how the Pope called on our own founding traditions to reinvigorate us.

He came to speak to all Americans: to remind us who we are, what our particular cultural and political inheritance is, and inspire us to treasure, protect and advance it.
For Benedict, the greatest part of that inheritance is the way our constitution and culture has protected religious freedom. In an interview on the plane coming to our country, the Holy Father said that America’s founding fathers understood and applied a crucial paradox: that the best way to preserve religious freedom was to have a secular state.

Father Landry notes that the Pope, in a seeming echo of Edmund Burke, makes a critical distinction between the “positive concept of secularism” held–and handed down–by the American founders and the “negative European secularism flowing from the French revolution.” The Pope believes America can serve as the “’fundamental model’ for Europe,” but that many Americans believe in the European model instead of that of their own heritage and they must be persuaded to re-think their position. Why?

If this corruption of the positive American secularism continues — whereby faith becomes a civic virtue rather than leads to moral virtues — then the entire American experiment in self-government is endangered. This is not an exclusively papal insight, but, as the Pope himself noted, the clear conclusion of Presidents Washington and Adams as well as Alexis de Tocqueville. The 265th pope quoted the first president, who in his farewell address said that “religion and morality represent indispensable supports of political prosperity,” and added, “Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation.”


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14 years ago

The problem enters when moral values are seen as the exclusive property of those who profess a religion. It is unthinkable for anyone to run for national office in this country while proclaiming his/her self as an atheist. The obvious idea underling this prejudice is that atheists cannot meet the same “high” standards as those who profess a religion… Although I am a theist, my observation is that the opposite is true.

14 years ago

Although I am a theist, my observation is that the opposite is true.
Is that right? You must have missed out on the 20th century with its atheist “moral giants” Stalin, Mao, Castro, Mengistu, Ceacescu, Tito, Ho, Pol Pot, etc., etc., etc.

Recoverin Catholic
Recoverin Catholic
14 years ago

Why do we need Rev Landry to tell us, what the Pope said ?
The Pope was here to bash Gays and Lesbians
To bash Episcopalians for ordaining women, and Gays
To bash Bush on the war in Iraq
To bash the “operation round up the Brown People “Mr.&Mrs Carcieri”
And to cover for Cardinal Bernard
“above the law” Law. (who is now the second highest paid man at the Vatican
$90,000 plus a house,driver,maids, instead of a room at the ACI were he belongs

14 years ago

$90,000 makes him second highest paid in the Vatican?
wouldn’t be in the top 20 on the Providence Fire Dept.

14 years ago

In the first place, I was referring to people with whom I have a first hand acquaintance.
But to address you post:
Regarding Mengistu: It was widely rumored that Mengistu’s father was Dejazmach Kebede Tesemma, an aristocrat known for his involvement in a series of court intrigues, for whom Mengistu’s mother worked as a servant… He was probably the bastard son of an aristocrat. In any event, he was a right winger whose grandmother had become an Orthodox nun. Supposedly, on the special orders of her grandson, the nationalization of land did not apply to her. Why do you say he was an atheist? Proof please, otherwise, what you freely assert, I just as freely deny.
Ever hear of Francisco Franco and Antonio Salazar, dictators responsible for thousands of deaths, torture and arrests in Spain and Portugal. I point out the last two to illustrate that professing a religion does not make anyone more moral than an atheist or an agnostic. Both were very staunch Catholics. The Requetes, a Falangist group, were very staunch Catholics and engaged in some verifiable tortures and brutal treatment of prisoners of war during the Spanish Civil War. Look it up.
Check your history and look up the 30 Years War and the Hundred Years War, not to mention Torquemada, the Spanish Inquisition and Christian persecution of Jews. Hitler himself, professed a religion.
No, Mike professing a religion is meaningless. Jesus said, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” In other words, watch what they do, not what they say.
Some atheists are bad, some who profess a religion are bad. Goodness is not determined by one saying that one is religious.
My point is that for every “bad” atheist, there is a “bad” theist.

Kim Ahern
14 years ago

You should check out this piece from my alma mater’s President, Fr. Shanley:

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