Why 2008 candidates should meet the human person
By Douglas W. Kmiec
Why 2008 candidates should meet the human person

.- Watching the multitude of 2008 presidential candidates, there is a sense of unease. It's not that the nation's security, immigration reform, health care and education are unimportant; far from it. It is that the proposals of the candidates seem shop-worn, partisan and just plain hollow. That two-thirds of eligible citizens don't bother to even vote suggests something more fundamental needs attention in the American body politic.

With only a secular vocabulary, however, what ails us is hard to articulate. We know that free markets are efficient, but we also see massive disparities in wealth. The middle class, which Aristotle opined was essential to good governance, often seems consciously short-changed. All but the very wealthy are meaningfully priced out --- from the pursuit of public office, affordable housing and even Notre Dame with its $46,730 tuition and fees, for example.

We all value freedom of expression, yet, often what is expressed becomes coarse and immoral. The Internet which binds us in conversation is drenched in venomous "chat" and pornographic exploitation.

We value law, but there seems far too much of it to go around, and its administration is, or is troublingly alleged to be, based on who you know rather than on objective standard.

We yearn for the "good ole days," looking for a candidate who will restore our self-esteem and standing in the global community --- restoring, if you will, the image of a scrappy, open, honest, compassionate and principled America rather than Abu Ghraib, U.S.A.

The conservative and liberal political vocabularies of the 2008 debate platform are inadequate to these tasks. They fail most specifically to account for the foundational idea that is America: men and women created equal and seeking a well-ordered civic society in order to pursue a transcendent end.

Competing conservative and liberal ideas reflect a diminished conception of the person. Without a sense of man's supernatural self, conservatives emphasize individuality and overlook the need for community and human solidarity; liberals turn "right" into assertions of demand, tolerating if not extolling policies --- such as abortion or commitment-free sexual practice --- that are utterly destructive of the family and the basic goods of nature.

Since these conceptions of the person are incomplete or just plain wrong, they leave us yawning when they are rearticulated in partisan fashion by candidate A or B.

Of course, the failure of the United States to address its own malaise does not exempt us from the resentment produced among very poor nations because of U.S. citizens' attachment to materialism and shifting cultural values. To poor nations, Americans are endorsers of cultural decay exported by market practice and depicted in film.

And when materialistic choices (and their related dependency on foreign oil) end up associating Americans with the worst elements of other societies, the error is compounded by indiscriminately backing the wrong team with U.S. economic and military power.

A thoughtful presidential candidate will help voters to re-examine their national conscience, to contemplate what it might mean for them, for the U.S. and the entire world if they understood the human person authentically and completely --- that is, in the Catholic vernacular in terms of the Trinity and the identity of Jesus Christ.

In so doing, Americans might well rediscover a calling to get beyond self; a capacity to understand that exceeds one's own point of view; a willingness to see one's destiny as inseparable from that of others; a grasp of how a true generosity of spirit breaks down barriers of suspicion and creates community and long-lasting friendship.

The personalist tradition of Catholicism, of course, is not intended as a political platform for any particular nation. As the writings of Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI reveal, it is a way to live, informed by revelation and the tradition of the church. Americans knew that once --- and can know it again.

The candidate who discerns how that might be so will deserve trust.

Douglas W. Kmiec is Caruso Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University, Malibu.

Published with permission from the author.

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic

Liturgical Calendar

April 23, 2014

Wednesday within the Octa ve of Easter

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 28:8-15


Daily Readings

First Reading:: Acts 3:1-10
Gospel:: Lk 24:13-35

Saint of the Day

St. Adalbert of Prague »


Homily of the Day

Mt 28:8-15


Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
Text only

Follow us: