America is founded on principles deeply indebted to ancient Christian and natural law traditions.
America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding is an inquiry into “the lineage of the ideas that made the United States possible.” Robert Reilly has undertaken this inquiry because of an ongoing controversy about these ideas. There have, of course, been controversies about them from the beginning, but this one arose from reflections on “America’s current morally degraded condition.” Looking around at the pervasive nihilism, the destruction of the family, the failures of our schools, the casual millions of abortions, the transformation of human sexuality into gender, the pornography of popular culture, the tragic widespread drug abuse and despair, and the politics that nurtures all this devastation, some concerned and influential Catholic scholars asked themselves what could be the cause of it all and concluded that the American Founding is to blame. Our current evils are the logical working out of a founding, as Reilly summarizes the argument, “infused with notions of the radical autonomy and the perfectibility of man” and “inimical to the Christian and natural law conception of reality.” In other words, America is built upon ideas that are untrue and are responsible for “corporate and individual evil.” If one wants to be a good person and a good Christian, as Notre Dame’s Patrick Deneen argues in his influential Why Liberalism Failed (2018),
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