ideological traditionalists, most of whom are Catholic. They have come to associate everything bad in contemporary America as the natural outgrowth of the Founding era’s commitment to Lockean liberalism. I’ve come to call the position held by this newer crowd Critical Catholic Theory, or CCT, the general framework of which holds that the American Founding is best understood as a set of theological, metaphysical, and anthropological propositions that are fundamentally at odds with the classical and Christian roots of Western Civilization.
Perhaps a better response to the CCT position, however, is to show the tremendous respect American Catholics at the time of the Founding had for Washington and the nation he helped design. The most authoritative and obvious evidence for this is the pair of eulogies that John Carroll, the first Catholic Bishop in the United States, gave in Washington’s honor.
Carroll reminds his audience that one cannot honor Washington without celebrating the nation he fought to free and the government he helped to design.
Carroll goes on to argue that “libertinism and irreligion” are completely inconsistent with the Constitution and the life of Washington—they have no place in America. Those who oppose the Constitution and its laws, either for love of the old Confederacy or love of excessive liberty, are equally guilty of violating Paul’s teaching that we must submit to political authority.
after an orderly and well-spent life, they might be entitled to a place among the blissful inhabitants of the Heavenly Jeruzalem.”
The reference to Ambrose is meant to remind Maryland’s Catholic priests that God is willing to use all humans as instruments of his Providence regardless of their faith and that it is possible for any person to possess extraordinary natural virtue.
a single, long quote from Wisdom 8, that indicates Washington’s dependence on Providence for all the good that he accomplished. The focus on Providence allows Carroll to emphasize the universal appeal of Washington. Unlike the first eulogy, the second does not have any political jabs, though it continues to call, in the name of Washington, for unity under the Constitution. He elevates Washington above the fray, making him—like the Constitution he helped to craft—an object that all are right to look to for encouragement in promoting a nation with “undefiled religion,” accompanied by morality, peace, unity, and liberty.
Providence, he says, is an artist that impressed a character on the life of Washington so that it might use him as its “principle instrument.” Providence exhibited in Washington multiple endowments and prepared his body and mind for his vocation as a leader of the Continental Army, President of the Constitutional Convention, and first President of the United States.
in his Farewell Address when he admonishes us “to bear incessantly in their minds, that nations and individuals are under the moral government of an infinitely wise and just providence; that the foundations of their happiness are morality and religion; and their union amongst themselves their rock of safety; that to venerate their constitution and its laws is to insure their liberty.”
In this depiction, Washington is not offered as the true Father of the Nation—God is the Father. God is the Founder. God is the Legislator. God is the Executive. God is the Judge. Washington was the willing instrument.
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