Where do rights come from? This is so fundamental yet (apparently) widely misunderstood. Human rights come from God. They do not come from government. Government properly formed, accepts its role to protect human dignity through our God-given rights. The framers of the Declaration of Independence understood that, stating “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
President Obama has famously omitted “by their Creator” on several occasions. It might be an innocent oversight (made repeatedly). Alternatively, it may signal a belief in government (not God) as the source of rights. If so, the Democratic party of John Kennedy has come a long way since his 1961 inaugural address:
…man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe – the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.
Many presidents acknowledged God’s law as fundamental, not a meaningless talking point to pander to a certain demographic. George Washington said “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” John Quincy Adams said “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” Abraham Lincoln said “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.” Ronald Reagan said “Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.” George W. Bush said “I believe all these things because freedom is not America’s gift to the world, it is the Almighty God’s gift to every man and woman in this world.” There are many, many more examples.
Catholic social teaching is also quite clear: the “roots of human rights, are to be found in the dignity that belongs to each human being” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine, #152). Such dignity is given to them by their creator – the “unalienable rights” referred to in the Declaration of Independence. The catechism says:
Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church’s role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.
The right to life is absolute (CCC 2270). Consider a woman’s “right to choose” (to kill her unborn child). There is no such right to take an innocent, human life. Being without legal consequence under man’s law, a law that increasingly distances itself from God’s law, in no way makes it a right or moral. God’s law (“thou shall not kill”) always has absolute precedence over man’s law. He is just… know with certainty that there are eternal consequences for the willful, unrepentant violation of His law.
Others share culpability in the exercise of this non-existent “right” in proportion to their role. This ranges from the direct material cooperation of the medical staff (for which they are automatically excommunicated) to voting for politicians who support abortion (even if, and perhaps especially if, they are “personally opposed to it”) AND eligible voters who fail to vote against such politicians. In the case of abortion, due to its extremely grave nature and intrinsic evil, this is of the highest moral weight making these serious sins. NO counter-balancing good is possible for a candidate’s support of abortion. Only other candidates’ truly equal positions on abortion could permit a voter to choose among them. That is definitely NOT the situation in this election.
To be perfectly clear, no Catholic can morally vote for Barrack Obama in the upcoming presidential election. There is no wiggle room on this. Prudential judgments on healthcare, taxes, government aid for the poor, just war and the death penalty (yes, just war and the death penalty are prudential judgments) do NOT “outweigh” his extremely strong support for the intrinsic evil of abortion. There are 1,200,000 human lives terminated by abortion each year in the US.
Many, many Catholics and other Christians will vote contrary God’s law, natural law and the clear / unambiguous teaching of Holy Mother Church. They will put their political ideology ahead of God. He will judge their hearts with culpability being reduced if they were somehow not aware of their candidate’s position on abortion, suffered mental impairment, were subject to forced coercion and so on. As in all sins, we are given free choice. We certainly have the legal right to vote for whomever we choose on whatever basis suits us. We are similarly free to make many other legal choices in life which are gravely sinful. Many mortal sins are perfectly legal.
Two other similar non-existent “rights” must also be mentioned. First, there is no right for people of the same sex to marry (sinful in several ways). Second, the state has no right to limit the free exercise of religion. Like abortion, these are very serious affronts to human dignity and non-negotiable (although secondary to life itself). President Obama’s positions on these issues also disqualify him from faithful Catholic votes.
Finally, this list would be incomplete without at least mentioning the wide breadth of other non-existent “rights” people are told they have – often for “free” things ranging from cell phones (morally neutral) to contraceptives (immoral).
Rights come from God and morality is not something we know and practice only at church or in the privacy of our homes. The wall dividing Church and state protects the Church from interference by government in the free exercise of religion (the very first amendment to the US Constitution). It does not, in any way whatsoever, impede an individual’s exercise of a well formed conscience in matters of the state – either by voters or by elected officials. Indeed our faith demands that we bring God with us into the voting booth and public service. To do otherwise is to deny Him, at grave peril to our eternal salvation.
- EWTN Morality of Cooperation in Evil
- EWTN A Guide to Catholic Teaching and Voting
- Catholic Answers Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics
- Jimmy Akin What Ratzinger Said
- Catholic Hispanic Leadership Alliance
“A vote for a candidate that supports actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful, makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”