There are other, deeper reasons for this form of pro-''choice" hyper-partisanship, however. Our public culture is deeply confused about the moral life and about the relationship between virtue and happiness. Happiness, for many Americans, is a matter of willfulness, not a matter of living in ways that we know are, objectively, worthy of human beings. Indeed, the very idea of "objective" moral truth is one that Americans seem uncomfortable defending today. Something may be "true for me," but not "true for you." And pushing beyond that kind of radical subjectivism is too often deplored as "judgmental."
Yet there are serious confusions-within-confusions on this front in the American culture war, a struggle that's at the root of our many contemporary political divisions. As moral philosopher Janet Smith has long argued, if you think Americans don't believe in moral absolutes, just light up a cigarette, cigar or pipe in the non-smoking section of a restaurant. Or try parking in the "Handicapped" spot at your local supermarket without the appropriate license plate. Americans believe in moral absolutes, all right; some of us just don't know how to justify them--which is to say, make sense of them.
In a mess like this, the Church's primary task is not to endorse policies or candidates. It's to do its best, through preaching and catechesis, to rebuild a national moral consensus based on the moral truths inscribed in us by "Nature, and Nature's God" (as Mr. Jefferson once put it). That consensus is the cultural pre-requisite to a politics in which differences are engaged with respect, and serious problems get addressed and solved.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
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