The Believer as Citizen

One man’s vision and the Catholic League’s mission:

by Quentin L. Quade

Three years after his death, there are many ways to remember Father Virgil Blum. Those that come first to mind, of course, would be as a lover of Christ, as a loyal son and soldier of Christ’s Church, and as a proud member of the Society of Jesus, in which he spent most of his life.

Other ways of remembering, particularly from my point of view, would include the fact that he was a very great teacher. I came to know Father Blum first in 1954, when, having left the service after the Korean War, I began school at Creighton University as a freshman. I knew Father Blum as the whole Department of Political Science at that University at that time. He worked in all the facets of the discipline, and taught in them all, and he taught outstandingly in each of them. Not too many years later, in 1961 to be exact, I came to know Father Blum as a colleague, when, at his request, I joined the Department of Political Science at Marquette University. By that time, in a larger university and a considerably larger department, Father Blum had been able to specialize in those things for which he is most noted, areas of constitutional law and interpretation particularly, and his virtues as a teacher became even more pronounced. In addition to teaching, he was also a fine scholar and fecund writer, publisher, and speaker, as you all know, and those are other ways in which he will be remembered. And, more personally, he was a counselor, he was a friend, he was a baptizer of our children and he was a staunch fellow defender of a very dry martini.

He was also a hound of heaven, if I may borrow another Jesuit’s metaphor. I know of Father Blum’s persistence from the experiences of many, including some in this room. But I know this aspect of his personality personally, too. The bulldog’s teeth marks are still there on pertinent portions of my anatomy. I heard as a freshman” Ah, Que, you’d better leave the path of riches and become a scholar,” though I hardly knew what the term meant at the time. Later I heard, “You really should leave one fine Jesuit university and come to another, namely mine, Marquette.”

And later still. “You really need to leave the comfortable and happy confines of faculty status and become a graduate dean, and an academic vice-president, and an executive vice-president because this Catholic university needs that now.” Finally, from his deathbed, I heard I’d better come to help him with various League affairs as he prepared to depart this earth.

Creativity, Integrity, and the Believer-as-Citizen

Yes, he had the virtue of persistence. He also had an unusual creativity, as you all know. And that manifested itself in many ways, but I suppose most importantly it manifested itself in the creation of CEF, the Citizens for Educational Freedom, and also in the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights which we are here celebrating today. What is important to note about these creative efforts is that they encouraged action from good ideas, and thus they encouraged a certain integrity of word and deed. And that is the dimension of Virgil Blum that I thought most about in preparing these remarks, and on which I will reflect especially today. To use a phrase that I coined many years ago for many reasons, some of which you will shortly hear, Father Blum was a classic believer-as-citizen. As well as anyone I have known, he fully understood the implications of Christian faith for the modern political order, and a great deal of his life can be understood as an effort first to live out those implications, and then to find ways to encourage others to do the same. That is why when I was first contemplating and then finally designing the Center for Parental Freedom in Education at Marquette, it became clearer and clearer to me that it should be named after Father Blum.

The Beast of Disintegrity

If fully developed, understood, and honored, the concept of the believer-as-citizen, which Father Blum so well exemplified, slays three major dragons. The first of those dragons I will call the Beast of Disintegrity. What do I mean by that? I mean essentially a person’s failure, for whatever reasons of weakness or poor teaching, to see within Christian faith its demands for political and social responsibility. I mean a failure to see how the duties implicit in the concept of being our brother’s keeper move from one-to-one relationships in ancient and biblical times, to one-to-untold-others relationships in modern times. That is for two reasons’ one of which is essentially technological. It has become a small world. Technologically it is possible for us today to touch on countless people in every area of the globe, whereas in biblical times such relationships were inconceivable. And also, in political categories, in democratic times the idea that I am my brother’s keeper expands from personal to social precisely because we can influence policy. We are responsible for policy in a sense that individuals were not in biblical times, which were, after all, autocratic times. By contrast, we in the late twentieth century carry what long ago I described as the burden of freedom. That is, we can decisively impact on the quality of policies which our state employs as it impacts on people across the nation and around the world, and in that sense we also have untold and remote neighbors rather than simply a few proximate ones. We can impact on people in many places in varying degrees, and the integral believer-as- citizen sees how the principle of Christian benevolence extends to the citizen’s role with appropriate action expectations. (For more extended discussion of this theme, see my ‘Role of Religious Value in Political Judgment,’ Review of Politics, Vol. 30, No.4, October, 1968; and ‘Complicating the Simple,’ Crisis, June and July, 1985.)

Paralysis from Perverted Pluralism

The second of the dragons slain by the concept of believer-as-citizen we can call the Beast of Paralysis, the paralysis which flows from a misunderstood pluralism and democracy. There is a perversion of democracy which pretends that it means each part within a democratic society must look like all other parts. In this view, for example, every social entity must permit within its own organizational confines what any other entity may permit. Let me illustrate. In universities properly understood there are vast curricular and extra-curricular dimensions of university life in which responsible leadership can distinguish between the discretionary and the non-discretionary actions available to itself. And if it does that, if it sees and accepts its broad discretionary capacity, if it puts appropriate distinctions in place, then it can in fact place limitations on discretionary activities and encourage positive directions from other discretionary activities. That is one way in which the Catholic university takes its Catholicity seriously. For example, it can ensure that it manifests its religious beliefs and commitments in countless ways in its day-to-day life, thus maintaining a recognizably Catholic character. In our day and age it is common for spurious arguments to be brought forth to the effect that “No, no, no, Jeffersonian ideals necessarily insist that every university look just like every other and that if Harvard does it then Marquette must, if the University of Wisconsin does it Notre Dame should,” etc.

This is an argument that essentially consists of saying you must be just like me. I want you to be just like me, therefore be just like me. That whole approach to reality violates the genuine democratic spirit. Democracy is a political order in which we establish an agreed-upon process of decision-making, a rule of law will govern governors as well as the governed, and policy finally should express majority-based determinations. It does not mean that subordinate and subsidiary social organizations must take on the same identity as others, the very denial of democracy’s freedom in favor of social monolithism.

Likewise, the concept of pluralism becomes perverted when it is extended beyond the idea of tolerance for the multiple forms which social freedom always produces. Authentic dedication to pluralism means exactly that we are pleased to tolerate multiplistic social forms not because we necessarily value those forms but because we want the freedom, and greatly love the freedom, which gives rise to them. It becomes perverted when people insist that instead of tolerating the diversity which naturally comes from free social circumstances we must seek diversity and promote it in all facets of social existence. If we do that, pluralism and diversity become relativizing forces instead of affirmations of freedom’s virtues and benevolent tolerance toward its results. And when we become captive of that interpretation of things we become persons who are hollowed out and emptied of our own character. It is crucially important to remember that true pluralism calls for an affirmation of the other person’s worth and freedom, and an acceptance of freedom’s results, not an intentional creation of diversity. Seen that latter way pluralism has the effect of legitimizing all things and causing us to relativize our own values instead of saying, “Look we respect you and respect the tact that you’ve arrived at positions different from our own. And we cherish the freedom which makes that all possible. But please understand that we will be expending every effort to affirm our particular values, and we invite you to share them.” There is really no other way to treat seriously seriously-held positions on serious subjects.

That is the genuine meaning of pluralism. If we succumb to the perverted forms of pluralism, wherein pluralism is used to destroy pluralism, then the tendency is to lose our own identity in the process of affirming others rather than tolerating them. Being a good citizen does not mean being less a believer. Thus, the idea of the believer-as-citizen protects us from falling into the relativizing traps of perverted pluralism and paralysis. (For a fuller discussion of this key issue, see my ‘Pluralism vs. Diversity,’ Freedom Review, Vol. 22, No.2, 1991, and reprinted in Current, No. 334, July-August, 1991 .)

Church-State-Entanglement

The third of the dragons slain by the concept of the believer-as-citizen is the Beast of Illusory Church-State Entanglement.

This is an especially American phenomenon, of course, tied directly to the use of judicial review as a legislative surrogate, and to the misuse of constitutional provisions in the process of Judicial review.

Instead of using the Constitution’s church-state admonitions in a common sense way, insuring that the state is not taken over by church authorities, and that the church is not wantonly intruded upon by state structure, we have permitted the specter of church-state entanglement to be used to portray the believing citizen as an agent of the church, and thus a second-class and suspect citizen. In this view, that second-class citizen can cure his suspect status if he but declares his freedom from his church by saying, in effect, “I’m not really serious about it. I don’t really mean it. Don’t worry about a thing. You’ll never know that I am a member of the Church. Take my word for it.” In that fashion, the illusory church-state entanglement theme insists on the believer-as-citizen stripping himself of his belief in favor of a simply denuded citizenship. (See my ‘Catholics-as-Citizens Heal Thyselves,’ Crisis, Vol. 1, No. 6, May, 1983.) Thus, for example, the simple and obvious educational aid to parents (not churches) for children (not schools) which educational choice would provide, that simple provision of aid to parents for children, is attacked by those who wield the church-state illusion as if such aid were church-state entanglement. Religious believers who are anti-abortion or pro-life have their motives impugned. “We can’t let religion settle social issues,” we are told, and “We can’t legislate morality.”

The truth is that all politics reflect human value judgments, human morality. Politics is just a species of ethics, as Aristotle knew, and there is literally nothing to legislate but morality. The true question is not whether we will legislate morality, but whose moral vision will influence the laws, and religionists are misled and mistreated when their religion-in-formed judgments are said to be politically suspect. Unless you prove conspiracy on the part of some religionists, in which case religion is not the issue but conspiracy is, it is truly true to say that the source of political judgment, whether it be religious or philosophical or habitual or sectist or parental, is entirely irrelevant. The proper question about political values is not where they come from but how much you can convince others of their worth, and how much you can therefore rightly bring them to bear upon the political order in which you happen to reside. When religious-based value becomes a citizens’ political priority, that value has complete political legitimacy, as a moment’s reflection will show to any objective observer. It is at that point not a religious issue at all, but a political value borne in the citizen’s breast, as politically germane as if it flowed from economic interest or racial interest or ethnic interest or any other source.

Try telling a labor leader he should not bring his labor interests to bear on minimum wage questions or workmen’s compensation. Try telling Jesse Jackson he is disqualified on all matters of racial politics because his values stem from root convictions. Try telling the National Association of Manufacturers not to be concerned for trade policy. These absurdities are equivalent to telling Roman Catholics not to look for ways to express their basic convictions in public policy. Once those convictions are in a citizen’s heart their source is a matter of complete political indifference.

The Roman Catholic or other religionist who falls for the church-state entanglement smoke screen, who apologizes for and strips himself of his notably religion-based values, is self-paralyzed. He becomes, as Plato might say, “a natural slave.” And he winds up mouthing the classic non sequiturs, for example, “I’m personally opposed to [whatever it is that we're talking about], but I will not impose my values on society.”

Such a statement is absurd, for under the rule of law, while all law is imposition, in democracy law is to come only after dialogue, and political exchange and due process, and is intrinsically less arbitrary than in autocratic regimes. No individual rightly imposes simply personal views on anyone. Be that as it may, my personal values are the only ones that I can bring to the fray, after all, so when I renounce them for political purposes I have emptied myself of value and stand simply as one who wants power. Examine another of the common assertions: “As Governor I am sworn to carry out the law of the land and therefore I will do nothing to intrude on the imposition of [whatever that law happens to be].” This statement is not only obvious, but it is also essentially irrelevant, unless it is followed by the clause “and when I disagree with the content of that law I will bend every effort trying to change it, not act as if it were immutable.”

The concept of believer-as-citizen slays the ugly beast of corrupted church-state concern by recognizing that politics is always about human values and morality, and that fully-fledged citizens bring those values to the political contest. It is always morality which gets legislated for there is nothing else to legislate. The concept of believer-as-citizen reminds us that religious belief is a prime source of political value perspectives and, once adopted and announced by citizens as politically germane, the religiously-rooted value enters the public arena and the political arena unblemished and equal in value to any other value politically expressed.

Theory to Practice

Let us apply these principles, and the idea of believer-as-citizen, to two cases of special concern to Virgil Blum and to the Catholic League, and to Catholic citizens generally, if they haven’t already succumbed to such numbing realities as Roe and Blaine-type impositions, and the church-state smoke screens which accompany them. Let us apply these things to abortion and to parental freedom in education via educational choice. What is so special about them for Catholic purposes? Why are they unlike, for example, tax policy, and trade policy, and defense policy, and countless other issues which are important and have human impacts and therefore are germane to Catholic consideration? When we move to specific policy in such areas as those just listed, by contrast with abortion and educational aid, there is, in fact, no truly Catholic position but only Catholic values prudentially applied by citizens and, we hope, by politicians. There is no “black-white” difference presented on such issues as these. There is no way to say, for instance, that the Republicans will have no tax policy while the Democrats will; nor that the Republicans will have no trade policy or no humanly alert trade policy whereas the Democrats will; nor that the Republicans will not provide for the national security, whereas the Democrats will. In all such areas, we distinguish only by degrees. There is, in that sense, no Catholic position, but only degrees of judgment to be brought to bear by Catholics and all others in the prudential process.

In the matter of abortion and the matter of parental freedom in education via educational choice as currently debated in America, by contrast, there is a powerful argument that there is a Catholic position on both of them. I do not mean exclusively Catholic. I do not mean doctrinal in the sense that we would say Christ’s divinity is at the very core of Catholic doctrine. But these two issues are truly Catholic in a way other political issues are not and indeed cannot be. They are singular issues for Catholics, as I noted some years ago. I will explain how that is so. If we look first at the case of abortion, why is there a Catholic position in a sense different from most political issues? There are a number of reasons, the most important of which is that it is a universal teaching of the Catholic Church. There is no practical division among authoritative Church teachers as regards the question of whether or not abortion is a legitimate human act. It is always seen as wrong and it is always taught as it is seen, even if in different ways. And it does present a nearly unique, black-white, political picture.

The fact of the matter is that you can reduce the question as follows: you can ask of politicians and political parties “Do you favor no restriction on abortion for the sake of convenience, and no protection for the unborn? Or, alternatively, do you favor some restrictions on abortion, from some to complete, because you recognize the value of a second party, an unborn human life, and you wish to bring some protection to that unborn human life?” In the first case you are saying essentially there is no second party and in the second case you are saying essentially there is a second party even if you might disagree as to calling that a human person or calling it unborn life or whatever. The fact of the matter is that in the one case you are saying, “Whatever that thing is, it has no political importance, deserves no protection through policy and, therefore, should produce no restriction on abortion for convenience’s sake, birth control, or for any other purpose.” Whereas in the second case you are saying, “No, that’s not correct. There is something of value involved here and there is a radical disproportionality between killing it, on the one hand, and another’s inconvenience, on the other,” and you are saying therefore that “We should recognize the value of the second party, the unborn human life, and place some (some to all) restrictions on a person’s legal right to have an abortion.”

There is a logically compelling Catholic answer to the question, “Is there a difference between these two positions?” And when I say logically compelling I mean that if we accept an obligation to follow reason we will be compelled by logic to acknowledge there is, indeed, a clear difference between these two positions. I am not talking here about what happens to the interior state of your soul. I am talking about whether you will, in truth, accept logical implications or not accept logical implications. It is logically necessary for a Catholic to say that it is better to have some or all restrictions on the right to have abortions than to have none, if we assume that legal restrictions will, in fact, protect some unborn life. For it is logically necessary for a Catholic, given blindingly clear church teaching, to say there is real value in the pregnant woman’s womb and, if there is real value, as between no protection and some protection the Catholic is logically going to say there is an argument to be made for some protection for that life and some restriction on abortion even at the price of some inconvenience for the woman. That is a logically necessary answer if one says that “religious belief necessarily is foremost for the religionist” and then says, “I will accept the obligation to explore the implications of my religious belief for my life of action, and when I find such I will pursue it and apply it. There is a clear Church teaching in this area, regarding the reality of the thing that we identify as unborn life. There is no evident break in the continuum between conception and death and therefore I will seek to protect more rather than less on the question of abortion policy.”

But we have fallen back. In three years we have continued to lose our identity, we have permitted further deadening of Catholic sensitivities in this regard instead of fully exercising our believers’ rights as citizens. As polls show, Roman Catholics have become increasingly indistinct, passing up clear political choices, refusing to impose clear political penalties on those who choose to thumb their noses at what amounts to a clear Catholic teaching with direct political implications for the Catholic citizen .

Now let us look at educational choice. Again, it is not exclusively a Catholic issue but it is a clear Catholic issue. Unfortunately, from a statistical point of view it is becoming less and less Catholic as the Catholic proportion of educational life in America has shrunk greatly in the last quarter century. Fortunately, others have taken up our cudgels. Praise the Lord for those others. Educational choice is a Catholic issue more for historical reasons than for the kind of universal teaching reasons that make abortion a Catholic issue. But it is no less a Catholic issue. In a sense, it is a Catholic issue in much the same way that civil rights is a special and natural Black interest, or that assured freedom from persecution is a natural interest of Jewish citizens. For religious reasons American Roman Catholics did create educational choice and did live it out for many, many decades. The nuns and others of this country, but especially the nuns, gave the Roman Catholics of America the essence of educational choice. That is, they gave Catholics the capacity to choose an independent educational alternative without serious financial penalty . That is what educational choice is at its core, and today’s calls for tuition vouchers or tax credits are but today’s way of saying “give us choice without unfair financial penalty.”

Religious schools came to be a primary expression of American Catholic practice and culture. They were never renounced by American Catholics, either. Rather, that vital aspect of American Catholicism has simply been permitted to undergo a long, gradual strangulation. The simple fact is, though not doctrinally insisted on, under the circumstances of American society in history the creation of Catholic schools was a perfectly natural expression of the overall nurturing responsibilities that families have. We rightly assert family responsibility for meeting the physical, emotional, intellectual, and moral needs of the young, and the Church and parishes made to Catholic parents a gift of schools which could reflect parents’ basic convictions. The parents, in turn, could and did offer those schools to their children, as an entirely natural way of fulfilling their duties. Educational choice without financial penalty is what is needed today to enable parents to continue to offer to their children an educational framework which reflects the family’s basic values. (See, e.g., my ‘The Family’s Values and Educational Choice,’ The Family in America, Vol. 7, No.3, March, 1993.)

Now in addition to being a crucially vital and legitimate Catholic issue, the question of educational choice for parents, and their freedom flowing from it, is radically joined with other constituencies and indeed with the general welfare, and still the Roman Catholic community is hanging back, refusing to accept the implications of clear choices. By clear choices I mean, much as in the case of abortion, that we have one political entity, one political group, willing to support educational choice and another group saying absolutely “no” to educational choice. This is a clear choice presented by the political order. You have one group willing to permit the National Education Association to call the shots contrary to Catholic interests, and another prepared to endorse educational choice and the Catholic interest implicit in it.

Despite this, and despite the relatively small size of the interest groups opposed to Catholic interests and the massive size of the Catholic community, so empty have been Catholics for political purposes that a candidate and his party could literally ignore, belittle, and rnisportray Catholic interests, knowing full well that they would pay no price for doing so. So a powerful Roman Catholic interest in independent education rooted in the nature of family responsibilities, and in long-standing American practice, is choking right now thanks to the passivity of Catholics. The special evangelical expression which Catholic schools are is being weakened by public policy which ordains educational finance monopoly and precludes parental choice. Catholics are twenty-eight percent of the American population at the present time, amazingly enough, but they appear not to see, not to grasp, and not to perform, the citizen’s role. They are not even allying effectively with the new natural constituencies which have in recent years become more and more energized on the question of educational choice. I refer here to the business community, to the poorest of the poor,’ to the larger morally-concerned community of which the Roman Catholic community is only a part, to taxpayers excessively burdened by escalating educational costs. If we take all of these groups together, obviously, the Roman Catholic interest is seen not just as a private interest amidst a set of private interests but as one vital part of a new movement representing the general welfare of American society for educational purposes. And still Roman Catholics have not seen the way to exercise their role as a community of believers-as-citizens.

With those two sad cases in mind, those two cases in which the believer-as-citizen role of the Catholic community has been so pitifully wasted and underutilized, let us ask how we might imagine Virgil Blum, that very special believer-as-citizen, would be counseling American Roman Catholics at the present time. I think he would argue strongly that Roman Catholic citizens, if they are serious about their faith and understand its social responsibilities, should articulate the faith’s implications generally but especially on the two points here noted, precisely because those two points are distinctively of Catholic interest and distinctively yield to Catholic views.

I think he would insist that we recover lost ground on abortion and remove as public policy the essentially preposterous notion that there should be no restraint on elective abortions because there is only the mother’s interest at stake and no recognized value residing in the womb. That is, in fact, the clear logical implication of the slogans used to defend Roe and all its spawn: we will talk simply about the prospective mother’s rights of privacy or reproductive rights, and rigorously insist in so talking that there is no other interest involved, no other party, no other creation at issue when the question of abortion policy is discussed. I think he would insist also that we call by its real name, that is to say, call it the self-excusing non sequitur that it is, the misguided thought of those who say, “I’m personally opposed, but. ..” whether it be for abortion or educational choice or any number of other things. Saying, “I’m personally opposed, but…” is the same as saying the Catholic could be a real citizen only if he is willing to emasculate himself and thus approach the political bar shorn of all prime values, “men without chests,” as C. S. Lewis might call them. They are self-designated second class citizens. I think Fr. Blum would also insist today, as he did throughout his life, that we should reject such diversions as “Don’t tamper with the constitution,” when it is in fact exactly earlier constitutional tampering which must be fixed, as in the case of Roe vs. Wade, for example. In a case such as that we want only to restore the constitution, acknowledge it does not settle such issues, and then use legitimate political processes to arrive at whatever our policies will be on abortion control and related issues.

I think he would insist, also, that we follow the overpowering logic of educational choice. There is no downside educationally speaking in breaking educational finance monopoly – the current central educational reality – and replacing it with parental freedom in education – the right and natural alternative to educational finance monopoly, in which parents allocate some or all of education dedicated tax dollars. There is no educational downside. There is a downside only for those vested interests whose material welfare is tied to the maintenance of the monopoly which presently prevails. Fr. Blum would indeed argue, as I would argue, that greatly in favor of educational choice is the crucial responsibility of parents to nurture their children in all respects, not only the physical and the intellectual but also the moral and the value-formation aspects of their growth. He would know that the state of nature, if we could go back to it and move consciously out of it to devise an educational policy, would most assuredly not bring us to the sad circumstance of educational finance monopoly in which we presently stand. He would say also that this is a powerful Roman Catholic interest, and that anyone who is not confused will recognize it. And he would argue with Catholics to harness the momentum that all others, all other natural constituencies, are providing and thus to notify candidates of all parties that in the future it will be extremely injurious to their political health to tell a small interest group “Of course we will do what you want since you are unified and well-financed and occupying a monopoly circumstance, and since those whose interests are deeply involved, such as the Catholics, are just politically ineffective. Though sixty million in number they have no practical political meaning for they will exact no price from us. They won’t connect their own legitimate self interest to the interest of the poorest of the poor, and bedraggled property taxpayers, and the employers suffering from lack of qualified help, and to the national welfare. They simply will not do that. We know because we see how they operate and they operate in such a way as to permit politicians simply to ignore them, almost to taunt them, by promising complete conformity with the vested interest-protecting policies of narrow pressure groups.”

It seems to me all these things are implicit in the concept of the Catholic believer-as-citizen. What do I believe, what do I stand for, the integral citizen asks himself, and of that, what has logical implications for public policy, which public policy is always engaged in moral choosing? How justly and effectively can I bring those values and their implications to bear on policy formation, thus achieving the integrity of faith and action implicit in “by their deeds shall ye know them” ? That is what the believer-as-citizen is obliged to do. That, I believe, is what Virgil Blum would be counseling all of us to do. Let the Church teach that faith carries social and political implications and obligations for the faithful. Let the faithful fulfill those obligations by free exercise of all their citizen’s rights.

If Catholics will but pick up these responsibilities they will at the least insist in the case of abortion that we drop the Roe illusion, the illusion that the Constitution contained a right, hidden for two centuries, to essentially unrestricted abortion; and that any rational discussion of abortion policy must include the fact that more than one human interest is involved in the act of abortion; and that, since one of the interests, unborn life, is essentially defenseless, is truly the weakest of the weak, it is logical to ask whether and how policy might seek to protect that unborn life.

And those same Catholics, if they ask of their interests and responsibilities in education, will recognize that they are by their passivity participating in an essentially unnatural and contradictory educational growth which serves no welfare except that of the vested interests whose material welfare is tied to the status quo.

Unnatural and contradictory? Those are big and tough words, and I want to be entirely clear as to their meaning by inviting you to “inspect my premises,” which are as follows:

First, that the family is the right and natural entity to guide and nurture the child, in all facets of his growth.

Second, that as a society we continue to expect that of families, and chastise them if they are derelict in these duties.

Third, most families, advantaged and disadvantaged alike, most of the time, want their children’s welfare and will strive to advance that welfare. In a natural environment, most parents would ask, just as the Clintons asked, what would be the best educational environment for their children and would end their inquiry, just as the Clintons did, by choosing from among all qualified educational alternatives. Any Clinton failure is not in the quality of their action, but the complete failure to see the clear public policy implications of that action.

Fourth, flowing directly from the preceding points, rational and humane social policy on education would encourage families to fulfill these expectations, not hamstring them in their efforts.

But, if you accept these logical premises, then when you look at prevailing educational policy, in every state, you will be forced to conclude that such policy illogically and inhumanely works against family capacity to fulfill clear duties, and thus disrupts the natural course of events. The policy in question is educational finance monopoly. Its opposite and its cure is educational choice. Catholics owe it to themselves, and to the poor, and to society as a whole to help break the monopoly and enable parents to fulfill their responsibilities by exercising educational choice without financial penalty. Let us be up and at it.

Quentin L. Quade is Raynor Professor of Political Science at Marquette University, and Director of its Blum Center for Parental Freedom in Education there.


Share

Written by Bill