Recently, I’ve been reviewing Hillsdale College’s Constitution 101 course, which is offered online for free. This is a great introduction not only to the Constitution but also to how the founding fathers thought about the American Mind. One of the defining principles of the Constitution was that our founding fathers held the truths in the Constitution to be self-evident and endowed by God, thus making them an extension of natural law, which is, by definition, self-evident and immutable. The nature of things does not change, only our perception of the thing. As we hold in the Catholic Church, the truths of natural law do not change through time and differing societies. Truth is truth. Always.
It makes me wonder whether our president is in exile from himself, and wants to lead our country into exile from its true self. The real question is, “Will we let him?”
We’ve heard a lot this week about how our modern society has changed, and the laws and thoughts that may have governed us in the past are outdated and really have no place in our society today. This is the liberal or progressive view of justice and the rule of law: we must change with the times. However, Dr. Larry Arrn, president of Hillsdale College and one of the instructors in the Constitution 101 course makes a very eloquent argument that our founding fathers did not believe that the Constitution was an organic or relativistic document. On the contrary, through multiple sources, he argues that the real utility of the Constitution is that it is drawn from natural law, which is unchanging and immutable. He goes on to state that we will soon be faced with a serious choice to go down a different path with our Constitution. A choice that will result in a very different country.
In reviewing the readings for the course, I came across this quote from Cicero, who was a great defender of the Roman republic and a master of oratory. Cicero was the first to speak of natural law as a moral or political law and was an important influence on the Founders. (cf. http://www.hillsdale.edu/constitution/pdfs/01_2_OntheCommonWealth.pdf )
True law is right reason, consonant with nature, spread through all people. It is constant and eternal; it summons to duty by its orders, it deters from crime by its prohibitions. Its orders and prohibitions to good people are never given in vain; but it does not move the wicked by these orders or prohibitions. It is wrong to pass laws obviating this law; it is not permitted to abrogate any of it; it cannot be totally repealed. We cannot be released from this law by the senate or the people, and it needs no exegete or interpreter like Sextus Aelius. There will not be one law at Rome and another at Athens, one now and another later; but all nations at all times will be bound by this one eternal and unchangeable law, and the god will be the one common master and general (so to speak) of all people. He is the author, expounder, and mover of this law; and the person who does not obey it will be in exile from himself. Insofar as he scorns his nature as a human being, by this very fact he will pay the greatest penalty, even if he escapes all the other things that are generally recognized as punishments…
Our president has found it necessary to voice his opinion on the moral issue of gay marriage. There was a story on NPR this morning about the religious foundation of marriage that was making an argument that gay marriage is not forbidden in the Bible. “Jesus never said a single word about anything even remotely connected to homosexuality,” says Episcopal pastor Susan Russell. Even as this statement is technically true, how disingenuous! Although Jesus does not speak to homosexual relationships, he affirms marriage between a man and woman in Matthew chapter 19.
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
This is a re-quoting of scripture by Jesus from Genesis, a scripture that He obviously knew well. “He made them from the beginning male and female.” Sounds pretty clear to me. And I’m not that surprised that our liberal media would castigate Jesus for not using the same rancor to denounce gay marriage that they themselves use. In fact, would we expect Jesus to do anything other than affirm the truth – that marriage is a sacrament, instituted by God, defined not in human terms but by natural and divine law, between a man and a woman, and thus immutable? The “definition” of marriage that we are hearing in the media today is radically different from this view.
It also makes me wonder, in light of Cicero’s quote, whether our president is in exile from himself, and wants to lead our country into exile from its true self. The real question is, “Will we let him?”
Image: Cicero, Marcus Tullius: bust of Cicero. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/24967/Cicero-detail-of-a-marble-bust-in-the-Capitoline-Museum