Strong Catholic Minds

There is now and always will be tension—a distance, a difference—between what our human natures are prey to in politics, economics, and culture and the vision of friendship with him that our Creator has offered us. It may be much greater today than it has been.

Yet I am still hopeful. With Abraham Lincoln I accept that there is a natural moral decline built into the generations of human life. The heroism of fathers inspires and yet intimidates their sons, but bores their grandsons, who shun it. In Lincoln’s phrase, “the silent artillery of time” beats generation after generation against the hard-built foundations of the great achievements of the past. Not even the Church of Jesus Christ was able to avoid it.

In my view, to put it in the words of Joseph Warren, member of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, “our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of.” Everywhere we see the small beginnings of a drive for a “return to the Constitution” and a growing number of thinkers who are supplying fresh arguments for “revolving to first principles,” a policy that the founders advised for every generation.
Strong Catholic minds are offering a fresh articulation of the American founding principles in the new and richer context of the Catholic intellectual tradition. Tocqueville famously hinted at this possibility: that one day Catholics would become the best intellectual defenders of the American way of understanding natural rights.