The question of whether Catholicism is compatible with the American project in liberal democracy remains contentious. Many contemporary Catholic writers and intellectuals answer in the negative.
In The American Experiment in Ordered Liberty, the newest addition to Acton’s Christian Social Thought Series, John Pinheiro brings historical expertise to the topic, assessing the merits of the American project by focusing on the founding period. He examines the views of the founders and the realities of early American culture in light of the principles of Catholic social teaching and finds no simple answer to the question of Catholic and American compatibility.
“The answer rests on what ‘compatibility’ means,” writes Pinheiro. “John Paul II knew that to talk of compatibility with democracy is not to approve every decision the demos makes, any more than our freedom of the will means God approves every decision we make.”
The American experiment was not the realization of an ideological agenda; instead, it was the practical outworking of a commitment to protect traditional liberties.
Pinheiro points out that the task given to Catholics is not to raze the institutions of religious and political liberty but instead to “redeem the time” by embracing good and opposing evil in our own day.
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