So then, at this point, someone reading this is wondering whether I am a socialist, or some other kind of traitor to our country. Have no fear, few things could be further from the truth. I love my country; I love it enough to point out its weaknesses (in hopes of fixing them). If anyone is curious (although I have said this before elsewhere) I am closer to a constitutional monarchist, but America is my home, and I love her (warts and all).
The words that begin the preamble to our Constitution are "We the people". Every American child learns about them in school: big gigantic letters, standing tall so that no can miss them. This is often a prideful point for many. "We" made this government; it was not made "for us" I have heard people say. Not everyone realizes that the concept of the people independently setting up their own governmental structures comes more from Jean Jacques Rousseau (who was not faithful to his Catholic education) than from anything distinctively Catholic.
When someone says "we the people" in their reference to the creation of a governmental structure, they are asserting their own authority to create their own authority (no, that is not actually a tautology). Although many Catholics may not recognize it, this is a decidedly protestant way of thinking (which should not surprise us since all of our founding fathers were protestant). Yes, there are many differences here and there, but protestants pretty much all agree that authority begins with the people. Whether it is Baptists ruling by committee, or Episcopalians ruling by a vestry, it is not much different.
Of course, there will be some protestants who object to this. They will say that my experience (in multiple denominations over a span of 22 years) is not universal. Yet, when the protestant principle of private interpretation is coupled together with the fact that most protestants see Christianity as a buffet style religion ("pick and choose what you like") it is hard to deny.
In contrast, the Catholic position has a different way of viewing the subject. Although not always well articulated (especially in places where there is a push to have more and more "lay leadership" in the Church), the Church teaches that power comes from God and should be determined by what He says first. In 1878, Pope Leo XIII wrote Quod Apostolici Muneris, where he said:
Hence, by a new species of impiety, unheard of even among the heathen nations, states have been constituted without any count at all of God or of the order established by him; it has been given out that public authority neither derives its principles, nor its majesty, nor its power of governing from God, but rather from the multitude, which, thinking itself absolved from all divine sanction, bows only to such laws as it shall have made at its own will.It is all quite clear, but notice especially the final statement. Those of this mind only bow to laws that they themselves made by their own will. You do not need to be an atheist in order to behave in this manner. There are many who claim that they want to serve God and yet will only serve Him when He commands those things that they already want to do or believe. True, the Declaration of Independence does make mention of a "Creator" but it only does so in reference to the freedom he has given to us and not in any sense of our accountability to him.
That final detail is a crucial point to realize. In essence it is saying clearly that "God gave us freedom to do what makes us happy" but never acknowledges that God calls us to obedience to Him and requires us to live by the principles that He has laid out (including in the area of political decisions). If it had done so, it would have been hard to start with "we the people", and the first words would likely be "thus says the Lord" followed by a reference to God granting us His grace to "have dominion" in this world (e.g. something about kings from the book of Proverbs).
It is interesting to note that the American Constitution has no reference to God at all. Many people have noticed this before me, and the usual explanation of this is that the Constitution is a political document and there is no need to refer to God when designing your own political sphere. Presuming you are rejecting the Catholic position, then that would be true; but not for us. Including reference to "the Creator" in the Declaration of Independence, but leaving Him out of the Constitution is like saying, "God gave us freedom to rebel against England, but from there we make our own choices". I wonder what Pope Leo XIII would say about that?
No, the Scriptures do not lay out for us a specific plan of political theory. Yet, that does not mean that we can ignore what the Scriptures say about good and bad politics, or what they say about where authority is derived from. If that had been included in our Constitution, bill of rights, and the Declaration of Independence, what might our nation look like today?
I have heard that when the Confederate States of America were setting things up at the beginning of the War Between the States, they also rejected such references to the Lord and His authority. Selfishness just seems to breed further selfishness. Where would be if all our forefathers had made a Catholic choice in these areas? And how might the hearts of Americans be impacted by this important truth? These questions need to be asked, and we need to consider them as we see the turmoil America is in today.