SEARCH
  About Ignatius Insight
  Who We Are
  Author Pages
  Pope Benedict XVI/Cardinal Ratzinger
  Pope John Paul II/ Karol Wojtyla
  Rev. Louis Bouyer
  G.K. Chesterton
  Fr. Thomas Dubay
  Mother Mary Francis
  Fr. Benedict Groeschel
  Thomas Howard
  Karl Keating
  Msgr Ronald Knox
  Peter Kreeft
  Fr. Henri de Lubac, SJ
  Michael O'Brien
  Joseph Pearce
  Josef Pieper
  Richard Purtill
  Steve Ray
  Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, OP
  Fr. James V. Schall, SJ
  Frank Sheed
  Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar
  Adrienne von Speyr
  Louis de Wohl
  Books
  Magazines
  Catholic World Report
  H&P Review
Article Archives
  Jan 2006-Present
  July-Dec 2005
  Apr-Jun 2005
  Jan-Mar 2005
  Nov-Dec 2004
  June-Oct 2004
Interviews
  Press Room
  Music
  Videos
  Software
  Sacred Art
  Religious Ed
Resources
  Request Catalog
  Web Specials
   
  Ignatius Press
  History
  Staff
  Specials
  Contact
   
  Noteworthy News
  Catholic World News
  EWTN News
  Vatican News
  Catholic News Agency
  ZENIT
  Catholic News
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
 



The voters in Louisiana, following the lead of several other states, voted this fall to not allow homosexual "marriage." Obligingly, within a very short period of time, a judge declared this to be unconstitutional.

I say "obligingly" because for many years people pushing for social change have known that, if they shop around a little, they can find a court that will give them just about anything they want. We have in effect two different, even opposed, governments - that of elected officials answerable to the voters and that of judges who are beyond anyone's control except that of judges at a higher level.

During the election season, polls showed that people usually mentioned the war and the economy as the issues that concerned them most, which is not surprising but is misleading, because I think most people do not fully understand how the judiciary functions and what great effect it has on national life. When courts hand down unpopular decisions people are outraged, but they seldom seem to ask themselves how that came about.

Polls show that an overwhelming majority of people oppose homosexual "marriage" and partial-birth abortion and think religion should play a major role in public life, to take only some of the obvious issues. Over half the electorate should now be classified as pro-life.

But that is precisely the point, say the defenders of the courts. The people simply cannot be relied upon to do the right thing, thus we have to have unelected guardians who correct the people's ignorance. Liberals who are passionate about what they consider undemocratic elements in our system, and talk continuously about giving more power to the people, here take the exactly opposite position. The justification for all-powerful judges simply comes down to the fact that the people really cannot be trusted.

Of course the rationale for all this is the Constitution, the fact that the Bill of Rights exists to prevent a majority from oppressing minorities. The fallacy is the courts' claims that they have "found" a right to abortion or homosexual marriage in the Constitution and that the Constitution decrees a secular society. This is as blatant an exercise of power as any king ever thought of, government not by law but by decree -- "the law is what the judges say it is."

In the coming election it is not clear how much the main candidates actually differ over the war in Iraq, and it is always doubtful how much any president can do about the economy. Thus I think that, especially for religious believers, the future of the courts ought to be the primary consideration. The war will eventually end, the economy will continue to have its ups and downs, but changes decreed by courts in the very fabric of social life will endure for many decades. The Supreme Court had been divided along a 5-4 knife edge for some time, with the "swing votes" going now one way, now another. It is reasonable to assume at least three new appointments during the next presidential term, and the character of those appointments will have immense effect on national life.

To mention only the most obvious, there will probably be court cases over homosexual marriage, abortion, human cloning, the role of religion in public life, suicide, euthanasia, and the rights of parents over the education of their children. If the courts are remade in a permanently liberal way, the "culture wars" will be over and the moral and religious beliefs of the majority of Americans will have been permanently excluded from public life. In the coming election no issue is more important than that.




Dr. James Hitchcock, professor of history at St. Louis University, writes and lectures on contemporary Church matters. His column appears in the diocesan press. He is the author of several books, including The Recovery of the Sacred, What is Secular Humanism?, and Years of Crisis: Collected Essays, 1970-1983.

Princeton University Press just published his two-volume history of the Supreme Court, The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life: The Odyssey of the Religion Clauses (Vol. 1) and From "Higher Law" to "Sectarian Scruples" (Vol. 2). He is also a regular contributor to many Catholic periodicals, including Catholic World Report.

This article originally appeared in October 2004 on the Women for Faith & Family website. It is reprinted by permission of the author.



   




www.ignatiusinsight.com
World Wide Web






















 
IgnatiusInsight.com

Place your order toll-free at 1-800-651-1531

Ignatius Press | P.O. Box 1339 | Ft. Collins, CO 80522
Web design under direction of Ignatius Press.
Send your comments or web problems to:

Copyright 2013 by Ignatius Press

IgnatiusInsight.com catholic blog books insight scoop weblog ignatius