Democracy depends on sound moral judgment. Of course, that’s true for any political system: good laws are made by good people, by men and women with a well-formed moral sensibility: a sense of justice, and of obligation to fellow citizens.
The idea of democracy is that laws can be made by all of us, that the collective judgment of citizens is sufficient for a nation to rule itself rightly. The Founding Fathers of our country believed in that idea: they were dedicated to the notion that people could be smart enough, and virtuous enough, to govern themselves.
But the Founding Fathers understood that self-governance could only work when each citizen took seriously the obligation to form his conscience, to hold fast to the unchanging moral truths of natural law.
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral… people,” wrote John Adams, our second President, “it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
In short, the Founding Fathers knew that the American experiment depended on the reasonable, prudent conscience of the people.
I believe our nation is a great nation. We have been the agents of great good across the globe. But we also permit great travesties: the violation of religious liberty, the sexual degradation of women and children, the dismantling of the family. Our national conscience is eroding, and when that happens, our democracy is can be used as a tool for injustice, for oppression, and for greed.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “when he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.” Today, it seems that our nation hears God speaking ever less clearly.
The greatest travesty permitted in our country is the surgical and chemical abortion of more than 1 million children every year. Together we mourn those children. But Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said that children are not the only victims of abortion.
“There are two victims in every abortion,” Mother Teresa wrote, “a dead baby and a dead conscience.”
If the American conscience is deadening, we can look to the millions of children killed by abortion for the reason. If we treat each other with more injustice, more violence, and more vulgarity than ever before, we can know that our tolerance for abortion is at the root.
“We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred,” Mother Teresa said. “If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?”
Abortion has begun to erode our national conscience, and with it, our democracy itself. But it is not too late for us to stem the tide.
When we pray for an end to abortion, or offer penances, or March for Life, we awaken the dormant voice of conscience in our culture. When we witness to human dignity, and offer ourselves to the cause, we call forth the divine guidance offered to each one of us. When we work to build a culture of life, we also build a national culture of sanctity: strong, free, and just.
If we want greatness for our nation, we will work together to end the unspeakable shame of abortion. We will speak from our hearts for those who cannot speak at all.
This month, more than 200 students, a record number from the Diocese of Lincoln, will travel to the March for Life to pray for end to abortion.
On Jan. 18, a novena for life will begin in our diocese (click here for more info).
On Jan. 25, I’ll walk in the Nebraska Walk for Life, at 10 a.m., at the State Capitol (click here for more info).
On Monday, Jan. 20, at 8 p.m., I’ll join UNL and Pius X students in a candlelight vigil at the Planned Parenthood abortion facility. And every Tuesday, at 8:15 a.m., I pray the rosary at the Planned Parenthood abortion facility.
Please join me at these events, or in prayer. Please pray with me for an end to abortion, for justice, and for a revitalization of our national conscience.
The unborn depend on your prayers. And so does our nation.
Posted with permission from Southern Nebraska Register, official publication of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.