WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - The American celebration of Labor Day usually signals the real beginning of the Presidential campaign. However, this year, people are paying attention a lot earlier. The economy is in a free fall and the sense of fear in the United States is palpable. A majority of people have lost confidence in our elected leaders.  

At the Iowa Republican presidential debate Thursday, August 11, 2011, Presidential candidate Rick Santorum experienced one more effort to exclude him from the campaign. This time, it came from Fox News. Some who bought the stereotype that Fox is a "conservative" network would have expected them to give him plenty of time. However, Rick Santorum is not an establishment conservative. He is a morally coherent, principled and courageous candidate who will not back down from his defense of the truth.  

In the first 45 minutes of the debate Santorum was only asked one question! He waved his hand and noted, "Um, I haven't gotten a chance to say a whole lot.  I told Iowans they'd see me in their hometowns, but not on TV; I'm right about that..." In the post debate reports, the followers of Ron Paul claimed that their candidate was the one not given time. In fact, Paul received numerous questions. His enthusiastic followers would cheer anything the man said - even when he suggested we should not oppose efforts by the regime in Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon!

During the second hour, Rick Santorum finally, received a few more questions. That was only because he had exposed the effort to keep him out of the debate. The panel members had to ask him something. As is always the case, in his answers he revealed a tremendous grasp of the issues in every area of public policy from economic issues, to domestic policy, to social/moral/cultural issues, to international relations.  He communicated with confidence and exhibited the demeanor which shows he has true leadership gifts.

However, it was one question from Byron York of the Washington Examiner which showed the mettle of this man. York focused in on the candidate's unequivocal, uncompromising and longstanding defense of the Right to Life. York asked Santorum if he would support abortions if the mother was raped. He told the candidate that "Polls have shown that large majorities of Americans support some exceptions for abortion. Are your views too much, even for many conservatives to support?"

Santorum did not have to stop and think. He wasn't buying the notion that polls dictate truth claims. In a courageous response he said "that child is an innocent victim. To be victimized twice would be a horrible thing. It is an innocent human life, genetically human from the moment of conception. We in America should be big enough to try to surround ourselves and help women in those terrible situations who have been traumatized already. To put them through another trauma of an abortion, I think is too much to ask. So I would absolutely stand and say that one violence is enough."

Given their numbers, U.S. Catholics can determine the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election in the United States. That is if we learn how to be, in the words of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "morally coherent."  That phrase was used in an instruction released in 2002 entitled a "Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life".It was directed to "the Bishops of the Catholic Church and, in a particular way, to Catholic politicians and all lay members of the faithful called to participate in the political life of democratic societies."

The teaching in the instruction informs the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church"  sections pertaining to the political participation of Catholics. (See, e.g. #565-574) Anyone who thinks the teachers of the Church are not clear on the duty to vote in a manner which is morally coherent has not read Catholic teaching. Here is an excerpt:

"The social doctrine of the Church is not an intrusion into the government of individual countries. It is a question of the lay Catholic's duty to be morally coherent, found within one's conscience, which is one and indivisible. 'There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called 'spiritual life', with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called 'secular' life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture. The branch, engrafted to the vine which is Christ, bears its fruit in every sphere of existence and activity.

"In fact, every area of the lay faithful's lives, as different as they are, enters into the plan of God, who desires that these very areas be the 'places in time' where the love of Christ is revealed and realized for both the glory of the Father and service of

others.  Living and acting in conformity with one's own conscience on questions of politics is not slavish acceptance of positions alien to politics or some kind of 'confessionalism', but rather the way in which Christians offer their concrete contribution so that, through political life, society will become more just and more consistent with the dignity of the human person."

That is NOT to say that the Church ever endorses a specific candidate. However, the Church does call all of her members to inform their conscience and then exercise their citizenship. I write this article as a private citizen. I cannot and will not remain silent as the Nation I love continues down the wrong path. I believe that the American founders got it right in that Declaration and there are Truths which can be held and rights which are inalienable.

Our insistence as Catholic citizens upon recognition in the positive law of the fundamental Human Right to Life is not about one political issue; it is about the very foundation of freedom itself. Human rights - such as the Natural Law Right to Life - and human freedoms such as the freedom to be born - are goods of human persons. When there is no human person to exercise them all the rhetoric extolling them is nothing but empty air and sloganeering.

Nor is our Pro-Life position simply a matter of our adherence to our "religious" beliefs. It is a response to the truth revealed by the Natural Law and confirmed by medical science. The Child in the womb is our neighbor. It is always and everywhere wrong to take innocent human life. The child in the womb is innocent human life. It is thus wrong to intentionally kill him or her through procured abortion.

Our faith gives us further insights into that truth and calls us to a greater obligation to insist upon the role of the Natural Law in the formation of the positive law. It also calls us to active participation on the political process.  The embryonic human person, the child in the womb, the disabled, the needy and the elderly are all members of our human family. We can never condone their intentional killing as some kind of exercise of the freedom to choose. It is never a moral choice but a crime, whether the positive law prosecutes it or not.

Rights are not ethereal concepts floating around in the cosmos somewhere. Rights are endowed by a Creator not conferred by the State. They are goods of the human person. Our opposition to the judicial manufacture of a "right" to take innocent human life in the womb must never take a back seat to any other concern in the public policy arena. Freedom must be exercised with reference to what is true and good in any just and moral society.

Abortion, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, is only the "cutting edge of the culture of death." Any time human persons are treated as "products" to be used, aborted, discarded, manipulated, enslaved, traded, made a means rather than an end.. there we find the "culture of death." We must expose, oppose and replace it. Catholics will be judged the most severely if we fail to act. The Biblical adage should echo in our ears, "To those, to whom much is given, much more will be required!"

Nor should we allow a fringe group within the homosexual equivalency movement which hates Rick Santorum's clear defense of the ontological truth about marriage to go unchallenged. Their vulgar use of the internet to defame this good man must not go unopposed. It is disgusting and vile.

Marriage, a lifelong union between one man and one woman open to the bearing and raising of children, is accepted across cultures.The effort to give an enforced legal equivalency to non-marital relations and force all of us to call what can never be a marriage to be a marriage, such as homosexual partnerships, is unjust. It can never serve the true common good.

The defense of marriage is also a defense of the blueprint for a just, healthy and happy society where children's rights are also respected. Marriage - and the family founded upon it- is the first government, first hospital, first economy, first school, first mediating institution and the foundation of our life together as a truly free people.

Our insistence upon defending the institution of marriage is also not only because of our religious faith.  Yes, for those of us who have faith, our faith informs our position. However, the truth about marriage is also confirmed in the Natural Law which is written on every human heart and knowable through the exercise of reason.

We are living under what Pope Benedict XVI called a "Dictatorship of Relativism" in the West. The culture stumbles, drunken on the false notion of freedom as giving some people a "right" to kill the innocent, divorced from norms to guide the exercise of human choice and govern our behavior. When there is a wholesale effort to deny the existence of anything objectively true which can be known by all and form the basis of our common life, then there is no real freedom. Instead, we teeter on the brink of anarchy.

September 12, 2011 will mark the fifty-first anniversary of John F Kennedy's address to the Houston Ministerial alliance. In that speech he opened the door to moral incoherence by "privatizing" the truths informed by faith and failing to acknowledge the existence of a Natural Law which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason. In the wake of his catastrophic mistake too many Catholics in public life, like Esau of the Old Testament, have sold their birthrights for a bowl of porridge and helped to construct the current culture of death. Morally coherent Catholics are the ones who must now expose their errors and replace them in office.

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum is cut from a different cloth. He gave an extraordinary speech in Houston on Thursday, September 9, 2010 entitled "Charge to Revive the Role of Faith in the Public Square."  He exposed the Kennedy Mistake and offered another model for Catholic political participation. In Senator Santorum's words,

"JFK delivered a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to dispel suspicions about the role the papacy might play in the government of this country under his administration. Let's make no mistake about it -- Kennedy was addressing a real issue at the time. Prejudice against Catholics threatened to cost him the election. But on that day, Kennedy chose not just to dispel fear, he chose to expel faith."

The speech by Senator Rick Santorum in Houston, Texas showed that he understands the direction of the Catholic Church to be morally coherent. He thinks clearly and is unafraid to speak the truth. I do not believe that we should let his candidacy be minimized by an establishment media which has decided that his positions on what they term "social issues" are unacceptable to establishment conservatives.

Catholics are not one more "interest group" which can be polled, pandered to and bought. Our social obligation is to promote the true common good, not just use the slogan to sound "catholic" as happened in the last political cycle. Our political participation must be committed to human life and dignity, marriage and the family, authentic human freedom, and solidarity directed by the application of the principle of subsidiarity.   'Morally Coherent' Catholics can - and must - change this Nation, for the Common Good.