Filial Piety, Patriotism, and Voting

September 5, 2012

A well-known Catholic blogger announced a couple of weeks ago that he will not be voting this year because he cannot support either presidential candidate.  This led me off on one of my philosophical jaunts into the subject of filial piety and patriotism, a phrase that keeps popping into my mind from my Catholic education in the 1940s and fifties.  Back then St. Thomas Aquinas’ writings were the touchstone for presenting a Catholic approach to all aspects of our lives, even in grade school.

My chief problem with this blogger’s stance is that it sweeps aside what I firmly believe to be a fundamental obligation we Christians have in the eyes of God towards our country – that of exercising, as St. Thomas put it, “the natural virtue of justice.”  Because of our political structure, the chief way of doing justice is by voting.  It is not, of course, the only way, but who we place in office has a great deal to do with whether we do justice to ourselves and to our neighbor in most other ways available to us.  Thus, the act of voting is a moral issue.

Unfortunately, there is not and never will be a perfect candidate, because earth is earth and heaven is heaven.  We are living in an imperfect society which will remain ever so until Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead.  Thus we must sift the candidates to discover the ones that are the best, even if they are the best among what we believe to be the worst.  Why?

Filial Piety and Patriotism

Filial Piety and Patriotism disposes us to honor, love, and respect our parents and our country.  Paul J. Glenn at his site, A Tour of the Summa, gives us a simple explanation of what St. Thomas writes:

Piety is the virtue which disposes a person to show due deference, honor, and veneration to those who hold a place of excellence, and who have conferred benefit upon him. Piety is paid first to God [as in the First Commandment], the supreme excellence, the giver of all good gifts. Secondly, piety is honor and veneration shown to parents [as in the Fourth Commandment]. Further, piety is due reverence and respect paid to kinsfolk, to superiors in Church or state, to one’s government itself and its allies and friends [patriotism].

Piety is a special virtue which springs from justice. It is specified (that is, given its character as a distinct virtue on its own account) by the fact that a special debt is owed to the principle of one’s being – God first, and then parents. The same virtue extends to those that represent the principle of spiritual and political citizenship, that is, leaders in Church and government.

Nobody who has paid attention to the culture of death could disagree with the fact that the United States is at a turning point.  This November we will choose either life or death.  We will either give our government the unequivocal rights to take away our religious freedom or we will refuse to surrender it.  The life issues and the religious freedom issues cannot be separated, and they both are inalienable rights bestowed upon us by God.  But these choices don’t reside solely in the vote for President.

In spite of the grave deterioration of justice in the court systems of our country and the abandonment of our Constitution by all too many leaders, we have one branch of government for sure that we can influence for the better.  Even if the strongest pro-death person ever to occupy the White House is re-elected, we can  and must vote for Congressional candidates who recognize and will act upon the preservation of life at all stages of existence and the preservation of religious liberty.  Persons with these priorities are running in every state.  This November we can move pro-life, pro-religious liberty politicians into the majority in Congress.  That should be our primary goal.  If we can prevent another four years of the current pro-death administration as well, we are obliged to do so.

Re-directing our country towards the good for which it was founded doesn’t happen over night.  It took a long time for us to arrive at the mess we’re in and it will take a long time to set things right.  Avoiding voting because we are in a snit over the quality of the candidates or their negative campaigning is an abdication of our rights.  Abdication’s direct result is total loss.  Worse than that, abdication is a failure to do our part in practicing the virtues of filial piety and patriotism – a failure in practicing justice and charity towards all.

Let’s let the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen have the last word:

The treatise on Patriotism in the writings of the greatest philosopher of all times, St.Thomas Aquinas, is to be found under the subject of “Piety”. This at first may strike as strange those who think of piety as pertaining only to love of God. But once it is remembered that love of neighbor is inseparable from love of God, it is seen that love of our fellow citizens is a form of piety. In these days when so many subversive activities are at work, a reminder of the necessity of loving our country is very much to the point.

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Friday, October 5th, 2012 Catholic culture, Culture of death, philosophy, politics

3 Comments to Filial Piety, Patriotism, and Voting

  1. Amen. Well said.
    Colleen recently posted..Sunday Snippets – October 7

  2. Colleen on October 6th, 2012
  3. Politics is a touchy subject, and one I’m finding increasingly difficult to reconcile with my faith. There has been precious little–I set out to say none at all, but thought that might be overstating it–respect for life shown by politicians of any stripe; by which I mean respect for the dignity of their opponents (who, after all, are human beings with innate dignity as much as the unborn children are). The election process has become so foul, so polluted, so insulting to the electorate, that I completely understand someone choosing to abstain altogether. I had another friend post this, with a related point of view on the topic of voting responsibly:

    I guess the other thing I would point out is that no matter who is in the White House or Congress, the world’s problems will remain. Sometimes I think we get myopic about politics being The Way To Change The World, when the truth is, abortion, contraception, murder, cheating, lying, environmental pollution–everything bad about the world is going to continue no matter who’s in charge or what’s on the books. I often think we’d spend our time more profitably by working person to person, changing hearts, than plastering bumper stickers.
    Kathleen Basi recently posted..The Five Best Gifts Ever Given To Me

  4. Kathleen Basi on October 8th, 2012
  5. Kathleen, I think we have to do both. It’s what we’ve been put here to do.

  6. barb on October 8th, 2012


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