Monday 31st August 2015

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic… Presidential Power: A Rescuer, Not A Nemesis

March 22, 2014 Frontpage No Comments

By STEPHEN M. KRASON

(Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s “Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic” column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly]. He is professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. He is the author of several books including The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic [Transaction Publishers: 2012], and most recently published an edited volume entitled Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System [Scarecrow Press: 2013]. This column originally appeared in Crisismagazine.com. All rights reserved.)

+    +    +

Conservative voices are railing against excessive presidential power in this Obama era of government by executive order to advance a destructive leftist political agenda. Their criticism is “spot-on,” but they need to consider that the strong exertion of presidential power may be the best way after Obama to restore liberty and begin to mend the social fabric whose erosion has accelerated during his administration.
In an article I published in 1995 in The Wanderer, later reprinted in my book The Public Order and the Sacred Order, I argued how the sweeping exercise of executive power was perhaps the most certain way to begin to check the forces of cultural decay, protect the erosion of traditional citizen rights, and resist the overreaching power of the judiciary (which by that time had legalized abortion and since then has made sodomy a constitutional right, nudged us toward a right of same-sex “marriage,” and given the national government the power to tax economic inactivity and control American health care).
Not only have genuine rights eroded much more since 1995 — we now see the greatest threats to religious liberty in America since colonial times — but it’s increasingly clear that they will be sacrificed on the altar of ersatz ones like abortion and same-sex “marriage.”
In that earlier article I pointed to the history and tradition justifying sweeping executive power. In ancient Greece and Rome, in times of great internal turmoil or external threat, there was provision for giving almost absolute power to an eminent man to get them out of the mess. So, when the Athenians got into trouble they turned to the great ethical poet Solon and gave him near complete power. He made sweeping but wise reforms that ameliorated the tensions among classes that were threatening to break out into civil war. After the crisis passed, he stepped down and went into self-imposed exile.
The senate in early republican Rome twice made the statesman Cincinnatus dictator, once to battle enemy tribes that were about to swarm over the city and later to defeat an internal conspiracy. He assumed power just long enough to do his job, and then returned to the plow on his farm.
Both men were notable examples of self-limited power to our Founding Fathers. George Washington was sometimes called the “American Cincinnatus.”
Both Aristotle and John Locke said that in times of a breakdown in sound culture and the rule of law — both advancing in our time — executive power assumes greater importance. While Locke was the great promoter of parliamentary power against kingly absolutism, he nevertheless endorsed “prerogative power.” This gave the political executive the discretion to act for the public good “without the prescription of law and sometimes even against it.”
Actually, what’s needed right now in America is not really for the president to act outside the law, but to exert extraordinary power to uphold our fundamental law, the Constitution, and the principles of our tradition and the natural law that stand behind it. Edward S. Corwin, perhaps the greatest American constitutional scholar of the first half of the 20th century, said that our Founders believed that “a broad range of autonomous executive power or ‘prerogative’” was lodged in the presidency. He also emphasized that such power was not limited to wartime or even to situations of great urgency, but could be exercised so long as needed for the “public good.”
Theodore Roosevelt’s “stewardship” theory of the presidency embraced such a perspective. In his book, Constitutional Dictatorship, the famous conservative historian Clinton Rossiter showed how contemporary constitutional regimes have found it necessary in times of crisis to grant extraordinary power to government, especially executives, which for a time may even alter the character of the regime.
What is needed now is not necessarily the extra-constitutional means that Lincoln used to save the Constitution, but rather the utilization of powers that presidents possess but have seldom exercised or exercised to the degree necessary. While we are not witnessing wholesale disorder of the nature of, say, widespread violence in the streets — though we see massive amounts of more specific violence, as in abortion — we are certainly facing a deeper, cultural disorder that becomes more intense each passing year.
A new American Cincinnatus — a president who would exercise executive power to perhaps an unprecedented degree — could certainly act forcefully and decisively to protect traditional citizen liberties when the courts do not or when they themselves thwart them. In truly serious situations, he could refuse to enforce court decisions and even resist them when necessary.
He could act to ensure that true American constitutional principles will be upheld. Rebuilding a sound culture is not something one man can do alone, but he could take dramatic initiatives — even if resisted by the other branches — that could decisively set the country in that direction. In the long or even sometimes the short run people will fall in line and accept a new course that a leader insistently sets them on, even if they resist it at the start.
This would especially be so if he revived the educative function of politics, persistently making his case to the public in an understandable way while always remaining on the rhetorical offensive against his opposition and not allowing himself to be outflanked by it.
There are many specific things that he should do:
Reverse Obama’s executive orders; sweepingly abrogate federal regulatory law in many areas — starting with the HHS mandate, EPA overreaches, and a whole host of repressive IRS regulations — and simultaneously act vigorously to get the kind of control over the federal bureaucracy that presidents are supposed to have; put the federal government on a firm course of gradual disengagement from many programmatic areas by refusing to seek reauthorizations and progressively, but sharply, cutting down the federal budget (while at the same time making sure the human needs in question are addressed by actively working to build up civil society).
And: Interpose federal power to protect churches and defend religious and personal liberty against the encroachments of state agencies, such as when human relations commissions force Christians to violate their consciences by providing services for same-sex “weddings” and states subvert parents’ rights to make choices about medical care for their children (seen with reparative therapy for same-sex inclined children and the current outrageous Justina Pelletier case); even more critically, intervene with federal power — irrespective of what the courts say — to protect the Terri Schiavos of the future.
And: Outright refuse to carry out unconstitutional Supreme Court decisions such as U.S. v. Windsor, which mandated that federal benefits be given to same-sex “spouses”; take an aggressive stance against the UN and EU as they try to subvert authentic human rights in favor of the homosexualist and sexual libertine agenda; and, perhaps most dramatically, finally engineer a constitutional confrontation against the court on abortion.

Times Of Crisis

If, say, a state governor rounded up every member of a certain ethnic group and put them all in a concentration camp, would anyone seriously say that the president has no power to stop it if a federal court refused to? It is no different with abortion: A whole class of American citizens is summarily being deprived of a right even more fundamental than their liberty, their life. So, would a president truly be acting tyrannically by simply shutting down the abortion clinics?
If rebuking the Supreme Court seems extreme or unthinkable, we should recall: Federalist 78, which says that only the executive has the sword (that is, the enforcement power); Andrew Jackson’s refusal to carry out the court’s mandate in the Cherokee Indian Cases (which rendered it null); and Lincoln’s insistence that a Supreme Court decision, such as Dred Scott, did not bind the political branches for all time.
If it’s true that the president — and Congress, for that matter — may not resist the most blatantly unconstitutional decisions by the courts, we have become what the great conservative scholar Russell Kirk called an “archonocracy” instead of a democratic republic.
Executive power used in even an unprecedented way does not mean despotism. Rather, when exercised by a virtuous, capable man with a strong sense of self-limitation and an understanding that it is only temporary, it can be used to stop the slide to despotism. Building up a healthy culture and political order take much time, but if we don’t check — more, start to reverse — the advanced state of decay of our traditional liberties and constitutional principles, we may not get the chance.
In ordinary times, we can accept the interminable deliberation, plodding, excessive compromising, and willy-nilly decision-making of legislative bodies. It is different in times of crisis, where a civilization hangs in the balance and time is short — and, in any event, we can’t even seem to forge legislative majorities that will uphold our traditions and moral truth.
The question is: How do we find the new American Cincinnatus and get him elected?

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Untitled 3

Pope FrancisAn Open Letter To His Holiness Pope Francis      Given the controversy and confusion surrounding the 2014 Synod on the Family, the staff of The Wanderer and its supporters thought it appropriate to address Pope Francis with an open letter . . .

Cardinal Francis Arinze: 50 years as a Bishop

Yesterday Saturday 29 August 2015, Francis Cardinal Arinze, 82, marked fifty years as a Bishop. In an interview with Vatican Radio’s English Africa Service to mark to the milestone, Cardinal Arinze was in high spirits. Although now retired and living…Continue Reading

Russians to construct ‘the tallest statue of Jesus Christ in the world’

Towering 80 meters monument to ‘Christ the Teacher’ by Zurab Tsereteli to find home in Vladivostok, Christian Telegraph reports according to RISU. The statue was cast in 2013 by Tsereteli, the famous Georgian-Russian sculptor, known for his gigantic projects such…Continue Reading

If You Still Support Planned Parenthood, You Are Simply Not A Decent Person

Another Planned Parenthood video has been released. I promised I would write about every new video that comes out, so here is my write up on the latest. Please read and share. I don’t usually ask you to share things…Continue Reading

“Catholic” Group Sends Cakes to Thank Planned Parenthood Staff After It Sells Aborted Babies

Apparently, Catholics for Choice want their friends at Planned Parenthood to know how appreciated they are since they will be “harassed” tomorrow at the protests across the country regarding their organ harvesting business.  As LifeNews previously reported, tens of thousands…Continue Reading

Facebook’s very (very) suspicious ‘trending’ Planned Parenthood story

Update Aug. 20, ’15 at 7:54 AM EST: I woke up this morning, and lo and behold, the “trending” news topic had changed. It now reads, “7th video critical of organization released by anti-abortion group.” That’s more like it. I…Continue Reading

Questions raised after pro-life activist Twitter accounts suspended without warning: one now restored

ONTARIO, August 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — A pro-life activist campaigning against Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s abortion extremism as well as a pro-life organization on a mission to show the violent reality of abortion through large graphic billboards had their Twitter…Continue Reading

Archbishop Cordileone thankful for San Francisco teacher contract agreement

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 23, 2015 / 06:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Efforts to promote Catholic culture in the San Francisco archdiocese’s high schools and to agree on a contract acceptable for the schools’ teachers concluded on Wednesday with a new…Continue Reading

Catholic Priests’ Forgotten Flock: Catholic Men

The New Emangelization Project has documented that a key driver of the collapse of Catholicism in the U. S. is a serious and growing Catholic “man-crisis”.[1] One third of baptized Catholic men have left the faith and the majority of…Continue Reading

Shortages in Venezuela mean priests are running out of Hosts

Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 15, 2015 / 03:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis has hit the Church in a unique way: the production of Hosts fell 60 percent during the past month, affecting three states in the South American…Continue Reading

Do We really need a new day dedicated to the environment?

The Pope has decided in the wake of his well received encyclical on the environment to institute a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. This day will take place on 1st September. At present the 1st September…Continue Reading

There is no equivalence

Here’s a simple exercise in basic reasoning. On a spectrum of bad things to do, theft is bad, assault is worse and murder is worst. There’s a similar texture of ill will connecting all three crimes, but only a very…Continue Reading

Syrian Bishop: on kidnapping of Christians from Qaryatain

(Vatican Radio) The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo in Syria, Antoine Audo says he believes the so-called Islamic State fighters are seeking to push Christians out of Syria and spread terror everywhere. He also warned that if the war continues, as…Continue Reading

Newsmax

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope Francis: Angelus appeals for persecuted Christians, migrants

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued a twofold appeal on Sunday: for persecuted Christians and for all persons forced to flee their homes in search of a peaceful and secure existence in foreign lands. Recalling the beatification on Saturday in Harissa, Lebanon, of the martyred Syrian Catholic Bishop Flavyānus Mikhayil Melkī, Eparch of Gazarta – or what is Cizre in modern-day Turkey, who was killed in Gazarta during the sayfo or “putting to the sword” of…Continue Reading

Pope Didn’t Bless ‘Gender Theory’ Children’s Books

pope725

Holy See Denies Any Papal Endorsement of Children’s Books Promoting Same-Sex Relationship Italy, August 28, 2015 (ZENIT.org) Luca Marcolivio Once again Pope Francis is being “used” by those in favor of promoting the same-sex lifestyle. The latest case arose this morning following news of a letter sent by an official in the Vatican Secretariat of State to the author of children’s books that promote “different family types.” The Guardian reported the letter with the headline,…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Recalls Feast of St. Monica

Vatican City, August 27, 2015 (ZENIT.org) Deborah Castellano Lubov Pope Francis has recalled the feast day of Saint Monica, mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. Toward the conclusion of Wednesday’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square in his remarks to Italian-speaking pilgrims, Pope Francis recalled that today, August 27, is the feast day of St. Monica. To the intercession of her and her son, Francis said, “We entrust newlyweds and Christian parents so that, like…Continue Reading

Lex Cordis Caritas – The law of the heart is Love

God’s greatest and most beloved treasure is human life by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki The Bible points us to the truth of what lies at the heart of every moral teaching of Jesus Christ and his church. In the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, we hear him warn the people to “[w]atch carefully how you live” (Ephesians 5:15). He does this not because he wants to control their lives, dictating what they can…Continue Reading

The Family Synod’s Instrumentum Laboris Presents Many Grave Problems

By MAIKE HICKSON After reading the Instrumentum Laboris (working document) for the upcoming October 2015 Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, when it was first published in June, the author of this short article was somewhat stunned and increasingly troubled. Yet I was soon helped by others to acquire a better understanding. It is…Continue Reading

Syrian Apocalypse

By JOHN J. METZLER UNITED NATIONS— Syria continues to descend into the inferno while the international community stands transfixed. A political solution seems elusive as ever, the civil war grinds on having killed over 250,000 people, and more than twelve million people have fled their homeland. Alarmed by these developments, the UN Security Council has…Continue Reading

One Catholic Congressman … Prepping For The Pope’s U.S. Visit

By MATT HADRO WASHINTON, D.C. (CNA)— As the nation’s capital works to get ready for Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. this fall, one Catholic congressman is preparing by reading papal encyclicals. “I say as a Catholic, I’m pretty excited,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R., Kan.) told CNA of the upcoming papal visit. He added that…Continue Reading

ACLU: Force Catholic Hospitals To Abandon Catholic Faith

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY The woefully misnamed American Civil Liberties Union is launching a crusade to force Catholic hospitals to act against Catholic moral teachings and the natural law. This is an un-American attack on religious liberty. The ACLU’s intentions came to light this week after it threatened to sue Mercy Medical Center in Redding,…Continue Reading

Kenneth D. Whitehead, RIP . . . A Personal Tribute To An Outstanding Layman

By JAMES LIKOUDIS Last April, the Church in the United States lost to cancer one of its most dedicated and well-informed laymen. His life was dedicated to defending the faith from the major errors that have afflicted the Church in the postconciliar period. I had the great privilege of working with Ken Whitehead when for…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

End Media Blackout On Planned Parenthood Baby Parts Scandal

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The baby parts sale scandal at Planned Parenthood is being aided and abetted by another scandal: the refusal of vast portions of the mainstream media to cover the issue. The release of numerous videos that detail the brutal and criminal killing and dismembering even of babies outside of the womb in order to obtain body…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course… The Man Jesus — Humanity At Its Perfection

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 17 What was Jesus like, as a Man? We know about His divinity, we believe in it, but what was He like in His daily life with people in general? We call this topic investigating the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, or, more simply, Jesus the Man. In an obscure province of…Continue Reading

The Episcopal College And The Pope

By DON FIER When Jesus founded the Church, as we saw last week, “He gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], n. 874). With the overarching objective to ensure that the ministry He introduced during His time on earth would be carried forward until the end of time, Christ organized her along hierarchical…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. The Supreme Court has a history of immoral decisions, such as declaring black slaves as property, permitting credit card companies to charge usurious interest rates, allowing the public sale of contraceptives, okaying the killing of unborn babies, and approving sodomy. What’s next? Polygamy? Incestuous “marriage”? Person-animal “marriage”? It would appear that we are on a par with Sodom of…Continue Reading

A Blindness In The Heart

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Third Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Isaiah 35:4-7a James 2:1-5 Mark 7:31-37 In the first reading God speaks through the Prophet Isaiah telling the people that those whose hearts are frightened should be strong and not afraid because God is with them. He then says that on that day the eyes of the blind…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Aidan

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Church names many saints as patrons of certain professions, troubles, or countries. St. Benedict is the patron saint of Europe. As the father of Western monasticism, he is credited with building Western civilization. St. Catherine of Siena is also a patron of Europe since she played important roles in settling both civil and ecclesiastical disputes. St.…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Bernard Of Clairvaux

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the Gospel of John, during the Last Discourse at the Last Supper, our Lord prays for unity. Jesus said: “that they may be one even as we are” (John 17:11). During the most challenging times of Church history, God has sent men to restore peace to His Church. Certainly St. Bernard of Clairvaux should be counted…Continue Reading