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Monday, July 4, 2016

Patriotism, Piety, and the Declaration

The treatise on Patriotism in the writings of the greatest philosopher of all times, St. Thomas Aquinas, is to be found under the subject of “Piety.” This at first may strike as strange those who think of piety as pertaining only to love of God. But once it is remembered that love of neighbor is inseparable from love of God, it is seen that love of our fellow citizens is a form of piety.

But where find the basis for the right of a man to be his own master, captain of his own soul, free in his right to pursue his ultimate end with a free conscience? Where root and ground the right to own property as the extension of personality? Where find the rock of all liberties which would be strong enough to withstand governments and powers and states which would absorb them as the monarchies did, then, and as certain dictatorships do now?

For such a foundation the Fathers looked first to England. There the theory was advanced that our liberties and rights are rooted in Parliament. This theory they rejected on the ground that if Parliament gives rights and liberties, then the Parliament can take them away. Next they looked to France, where it was held that the liberties and rights of man are rooted in the will of the majority. The Fathers equally rejected this on the ground that if the rights of man are the gift of the majority, then the majority can take away the rights of the minority.

Where find the source of the liberties and the rights of man? On what stable foundation are they to be reared? What is their source? The answer they gave was the right one. They sought the foundations of man’s rights and liberties in something so sacred and so inalienable that no State, no Parliament, no Dictator, no human power could ever take them away, and so they rooted them in God. Hence our Declaration of Independence reads: all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. . .among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We Catholics are taking religion so seriously in reference to our country that rather than see God perish out of our national life we conduct 7,929 elementary schools and 1,945 high schools, employing 58,903 and 16,784 teachers respectively. . . .and figuring on the basis of public school costs, we save the taxpayers of the country an immediate one billion dollar building program and, for maintenance, about $139,600,000 every year. Every cent of this money comes out of the pockets of Catholics, and why? Because we believe that the 2,102,889 children in Catholic elementary schools and 284,736 in Catholic high schools have a right to know the truth which makes them free.

In other words, we take very seriously the Declaration of Independence which derives the rights of man from God.