We Hold These Truths and the Problem of Public Morality
Catholic Social Science Review, Vol. 16, pp. 123-132, 2011
11 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2011
Date Written: July 20, 2011
This essay maintains that although We Hold These Truths represented an important milestone in Catholic reflection on the American regime, Murray's analysis of public morality and the state's role in its promotion and enforcement is notably weak and of little assistance to us today. More specifically, it argues that Murray’s analysis is insufficiently philosophical and too concerned with the pragmatic task of forging an approach widely acceptable in the America of his day; that it rests on an artificial distinction between “private” and “public” morality that fails to sufficiently appreciate the essential dependence of sound morals legislation upon the government’s recognition of moral truth; and that it too closely identifies the whole of law’s competence with the scope of its coercive jurisdiction, thus failing to appreciate the directive and educative properties of law and its role in the establishment of conditions conducive to human flourishing.
Keywords: public morality, john courtney murray s.j., cencorship, contraception, catholic social teaching, dignitatis humanae
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