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TV interview
Faith and Politics: Voting the Catholic Conscience
Alan Keyes on EWTN
April 26, 2005

JOHNNETTE BENKOVIC: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "The Abundant Life." I'm Johnnette Benkovic. He is a seasoned statesman, a well-educated leader, pro-life champion, a dedicated family man, and our guest today. Stay with us, as Ambassador Alan Keyes gives us insight and instruction on what it means to vote with a conscience directed by our national moral creed and our Catholic faith.

[applause]

BENKOVIC: Church teaching tells us that Catholics have a moral obligation to use their vote to promote the dignity of the human person and the common good. It is in this way that the Catholic faithful play their full role as citizens, and exercise their proper task of infusing the temporal order with Christian values.

While all this sounds reasonable and good, just how does it play out in the life of a Catholic in America today? And how should it influence the way we approach social issues, candidates and ultimately our voting privilege?

Here to answer these questions for us and to give us good guidance is our own Father Edmund Sylvia in studio, and via satellite today, Ambassador Alan Keyes.

Father Ed, before we go to Ambassador Keyes--who will be with us, as we've just mentioned, by satellite--I think it's important for us to realize that Catholics have a role to play in the public square, and that this voting privilege that we have by virtue of our citizenry, must be used in such way that it promotes the human good and that it does also specify for the dignity of the human person. Where do we find this teaching given to us?

FATHER SYLVIA: Well, Johnnette, many places. But I have my Catechism in front of me, because in some way it would surprise many of our listeners to realize that if you look at the fourth commandment of God--that commandment that we learned, certainly, as children, having to do with honoring our parents--in the Catechism, you have a wonderful explanation that there's a whole lot more to it than just honoring my mother and father. And part of that is, again, carrying out my duties toward all authorities, and those authorities include, again, government, those that guide us on every level.

You know, the Catechism itself then goes on to talk about the duties of citizens, as well as the responsibility of those in elected office--those who are exercising that authority. But there's a section of this right at the very end of this presentation entitled, "The Political Community and the Church." Many people think that politics--you know, when they hear that phrase "separation of church and state," they somehow or other think that politics has nothing to do with our life of faith. And nothing could be further from the case for us as Catholics.

But here is paragraph 2246. It says this: "It is a part of the Church's mission 'to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it. The means, the only means, she may use are those which are in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all men according to the diversity of times and circumstances.'"

That is the Catechism quoting from Gaudium et Spies, the church in the modern world from the Vatican II Council.

BENKOVIC: It certainly does make it clear, then, that we have a very vital role to play in this restoration of the temporal order. And I'm so delighted that we're able to have with us today as our guest Ambassador Alan Keyes, who is with us via satellite.

Ambassador Keyes, welcome to "The Abundant Life." It's good to have you with us.

ALAN KEYES: It's good to be here. Thank you.

BENKOVIC: I am so happy that your time permitted you to be with us today. You know, this is such a very important issue that we're discussing, and it's the heart of what is required of us with regard to our voting privilege.

I know that you have in many, many different forums spoken about a moral creed and a public conscience. Could you define what you mean by those terms and why a moral creed and a public conscience is absolutely essential to the governance of people and a nation?

KEYES: Well, I think it's essential in the first instance just as a matter of clear, natural law. At the end of the day, the purpose of law in human affairs is to try to conform the rules and regulations that govern society with the will of God--which is ultimately the guide that has to shape what we do, both in terms of personal conscience, our obligation to the first society, which is the family, and to the larger society, which ultimately produces things like government.

So, that's fundamental, it seems to me, when one wants to walk the walk that remains under the purview of God's authority and respect for God. I also think it's especially true in a society like the United States, which was founded on the principle that our rights as human beings come from the hand of God. Obviously, if we're going to appeal to God's authority for our rights, then in our exercise of those rights--in the things that we do with our freedom, whether as a collective as a people, or as individuals--the exercise of those rights also has to respect the authority from which they come. Otherwise, we involve ourselves in a destructive contradiction.

So, I think at the end of the day, the moral element is foundational and fundamental, both in terms of human politics in general and especially in terms of the politics of self-government and constitutional government that we have in the United States.

BENKOVIC: Ambassador Keyes, you know, according to positivist law today, there is a desire to remove God from all of the various ways in which we operate as a people, especially as it affects legislation. Share with us a little bit why this is not in concert with the American Constitution, of which you are a scholar.

KEYES: Well, first off all, I have to say it quite bluntly. The entire doctrine of separation, as has been applied by the courts--in particular the federal courts--is based on a lie. They continually say that the Constitution forbids religious establishment, that the First Amendment forbids religious establishment. That is not so. The words of the First Amendment are clear: "Congress," the federal law making body, "shall make no law respecting," that is, concerning or on the subject of, "an establishment of religion."

That doesn't mean that Congress can't establish a religion. It means it cannot address the issue at all, in any way, one way or the other. Can't establish. Can't disestablish.

Essentially, that was a provision intended to establish not separation of church and state, but the separation of federal from state power.

The power to deal with issues that had to do with religious establishment, with church/state relations, was left by our Constitution in the hands of the state governments. It says so in the Tenth Amendment: "All those powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively and to the people." And in this case, the power to deal with the issue of religious establishment was withheld from the federal government and was reserved to the states and the people.

Even if you argue, as some people do, that the Fourteenth Amendment applies the Bill of Rights to the states, it would simply mean that this immunity of the state governments and the citizens from federal interference and dictation on the issues of religious establishment--that has to be respected as an element of our citizenship under the Constitution.

And the federal courts are, of course, violating it. They are usurping the rights of the states and the people. And in so doing they are destroying, in fact, the constitutional federalism that was established and intended by the First Amendment.

BENKOVIC: Ambassador Keyes, you bring up such a good point here. And I do want to pick up on it. Let's talk for a moment about the activist judiciary that we're seeing today, and the way in which this is actually usurping the position of the legislative branch of our government.

KEYES: Well, I think we see, sadly, two things that are going on. First, if you look at Massachusetts, and the issue now with things like same-sex marriage, you have courts--with no basis in the Constitution, no basis in the laws of their state--dictating to the legislature what shall be the content of the law, based essentially on the whims of the judges, with no other foundation than that they have decided "this is how it should be."

Well, that is not how we're supposed to be governed. We're not supposed to have government that is based on the word of the judges. The laws in this country are to be made by representatives of the people. That is what it means to have a republic, to have constitutional government, as defined by our Founders in the Federalist Papers and elsewhere.

Ultimately, that requirement--that the representatives of the people be the source of law--is how we respect in our Constitution the fundamental element of justice in government: that it must be based on the consent of the people--that consent [which is] given through periodic elections, so that representatives chosen in those elections then make the law.

The role of the court is not to decide "what is in the law," but to apply what's in the law in particular cases and controversies. Just as the Executive doesn't decide what's in the law--he or she merely carries it out. And so, we have that division and separation of powers.

Our courts have been violating it. They have been taking over all the power of government into one place, in one hand. And that, our Founders said, is tyranny.

Sadly, we ought to be stronger. It is not judicial activism we're seeing when they do that. It is judicial dictatorship. And it destroys, in fact, the constitutional framework of our government.

That's the first side of the problem.

The second, of course, is the way they've used the power that they have usurped. They have used it in order to assault the moral foundations of the society--to institute abortion; to institute acceptability of same-sex marriage; to move in directions that fundamentally assault the most important principles of moral conscience, like the respect for life, and of social institutions, like the God-given nature of the family.

And in this way, they have not only usurped the power, but they are abusing it in order to destroy the foundations of our liberties. So, it's a very dangerous phenomenon.

BENKOVIC: Ambassador Keyes, historically, when did we begin to see this shift in power taking place, and do you think that there is a opportunity or a hope for rehabilitation?

KEYES: Well, I think, historically, in our time it began in the late 1940's or so, when they started making decisions that first asserted the role of the federal courts in deciding what states could or couldn't do with respect to matters of religious conscience. Could they let children out of school, for instance, to go attend religious instruction? Could you have state support of education? Could you teach from the Bible in school? Could you pray in school?

They took it upon themselves at the federal level to interfere in all these things, based on the notion that somehow or other they had the power to decide whether there was an establishment of religion--when in point of fact, the power to deal with that question, as a whole, was withheld from the federal government, and the federal judges should have, in fact, nothing to do with it.

So, I think we have seen it since the late 40's, and it has grown progressively more abusive. At first they used the power in their first judgment to say, "Well, let the kids out for school." So, it looked benign and the people who were concerned about this government dictation in terms of our religious affairs, as a people, might have breathed a sigh of relief.

But little by little, they revealed their real agenda, until we come to the time today, when, on the basis of this notion that you cannot reflect religious conscience in the laws of society, they are dictating acceptance of homosexuality, destroying the understanding of marriage that has been the basis of laws in every state in this society, and taking it upon themselves essentially to become the moral dictators who will, at the end of the day, be telling us that we can no longer be able to preach from the scripture, that we must accept their understanding of sin, and that we are going to be forbidden, as citizens, even to speak the name of God in terms of our public arena.

BENKOVIC: You know, even as you say that, I'm imaging what some of our viewers today are thinking, and I think that many of them are probably shocked by those statements that you have just made, in thinking that we might not even be able to mention the name of God in public. And, if we were to use the airwaves to speak out against what we, as Catholics, profess to be sin, and know is not in accordance of God's will for man, that we could be accused of hate speech and eventually even potentially be arrested for that, as we're seeing happen in other countries throughout the world. And yet we know that this is a very real threat.

Do you think that there is a hope for rehabilitating what we have seen happen here and restoring that legislative power back to the legislative branch and taking it out of the hands of these activist judiciaries, or as you say, this tyrannical control?

KEYES: First of all, there is a hope, of course. The way that the federal Constitution is written, the Congress ultimately has the say over the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the federal courts. The cases over which the court has jurisdiction are granted to it under the Constitution "with such exceptions and under such regulations as the Congress shall make."

That means the representatives of the people can police the courts' observance of the boundaries established by the Constitution. And this can be done, by the way, by majority vote. It doesn't require 2/3rds--the way an amendment to the Constitution would or even impeachment. It simply requires a majority vote declaring that these matters are no longer subject to the jurisdiction--or simply recognizing that they never were subject to the jurisdiction--of the federal courts.

That's a step that can be taken. But of course, in all these areas--whether it's this area, whether it's support of something like the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would define things in such a way as to preclude the courts from interfering with the prerogative of the state governments to define marriage according to their laws and constitutions--we're not going to see it happen until the representatives of the people are feeling the pressure from the grassroots.

That's why it's so important that people understand that you have to vote. You have to be a force in politics that is to be reckoned with if you care about these things. And if you don't get involved, then, of course, in an era when we have so many finger-in-the-wind politicians, we're not going to be the prevailing wind, and as a result things will be blown in the wrong direction.

So, I think it's a call right now to activism. But thank God for this: that our Constitution gives us the levers, gives us the paths and instruments we can use, if, in fact, we are willing to be active citizens--fulfilling, according to our Christian conscience, the responsibilities we have as citizens.

BENKOVIC: Well, you issue a challenge to all of us today. And that challenge, of course, is to use our voting privilege to preserve and to protect what is God-honoring in our country, and to restore it to what is God-honoring in our country.

I want to go to a break, and when we come back, Ambassador Keyes, we're going to continue our discussion. We're going to look at some of the most pressing issues that are facing us as we determine how to cast our vote. So, friends, I do hope you will stay with us. We're going to be right back.

[break]

BENKOVIC: Welcome back, friends. We're visiting with our guests today here in studio--Father Edmond Sylvia, our theological advisor as well as the chaplain of "Living this Life Abundantly," and in addition, via satellite, Ambassador Alan Keyes.

And we're talking about a very important issue. That issue being how we as Catholics must let our voice be heard, let it be heard loud and strong in the public square.

Ambassador Keyes, as we went to our break, you were sharing with us what is necessary in order to regain that legislative power back to the legislative branch. And the thought that kept running through my mind was, we need men and women of backbone. We need men and women who are willing to stand up, and not to evaluate their position based on the potential repercussions.

In too many cases, we have found our legislators following sway to the political correctness of our day--that notion of tolerance--as well as bowing to the greater lobbying efforts of some of these more militant activists. How do we face that issue and what do we do?

KEYES: Well, I think the first and most important thing is that people need to develop a good understanding of the issues that we are faced with, particularly in light of Catholic and Christian conscience. That's the first step.

Very often people are saying and doing things out there--whether it's Catholic citizens or politicians or whatever--that are totally contrary both to the teachings of the church and to any possible understand of the Christian faith. And yet, they are either ignorant of it or oblivious to it.

Take the issue of same-sex marriage, for instance. This issue is actually rooted--it begins--in the very place the church has for the longest time taught that it begins. Do you know where it begins? It beings in contraception. You're going to say, "What does that have to do with same-sex marriage?"

The contraceptive mentality is the mentality that suppresses the child, that basically says that the sexual relationship is not about procreation, does not exist in the context of God's plan for procreation. Once you've turned your back on that plan, the next logical consequence--and sadly we've seen it, in great tragedy--is abortion. Because having suppressed the child conceptually and in your action from the meaning, the central meaning and significance of the sexual act, when the child appears as a consequence, it is then suppressed by this brutal means. Its life is taken.

Finally, of course, that means that when you look at sexual relations in marriage, if the child is no longer central, if procreation and the plan of God is no longer central, what is marriage? Marriage is just a relationship between two individuals for self-fulfillment, selfishness, self-interest, for what they can get out of it.

And however high-minded we make it, at the end of the day once you have removed that God-ordained purpose of the relationship between the sexes, what you get is a selfish relationship looking for selfish fulfillment. And guess what happens? Then people who are homosexuals for whom the relationship can be no more than the personal pleasure involved--it isn't haunted by the presence of that third being, the child, who represents in fact the authority and will of God for the relationship, it's not there--and then they step forward and say, "Well, if marriage is just about pleasure and personal fulfillment and the relationship between the parties involved, we can do that. How can you discriminate against our relationships?"

So, once we start to turn our backs on the real meaning of sexual relations, we gut the real meaning of marriage. Right? And at the end of the day, the institution is destroyed in its very concept, because we have turned our back on God's plan.

Now, that being the case, it's hard for me to understand how folks who say that they embrace God's plan and authority can then embrace same-sex relations or act as if somehow embracing same-sex marriage doesn't matter.

Finally, this point. It's not as if this is a secondary issue, the sexual nature of human beings. Right at the very beginning of our scripture, what does it tell us? Male and female, He created them. I often look at people and I say, "You profess to be followers of Jesus Christ--who, according to the scripture, is the Son of God and is our Savior--and yet the authority of this scripture is what you base our reverence for the Son of God on, and you're telling me that it lied to us about ourselves on the very first page?" The very first thing it says about human beings is a lie?

How can we consistently believe in a faith that is based, at the end of the day, upon God's word and scripture in establishing who Jesus Christ is, and then say that it lied to us about who we are on the very first page? It doesn't make any sense.

BENKOVIC: Ambassador Keyes, you outlined for us a little earlier in your response the slippery slope that Pope John Paul VI outlined for us in Humani Vitae. And, of course, we watched when the Texas sodomy law was overturned, and we heard Senator Rick Santorum discuss what we could expect to have happen as a result of that--and, indeed, we're seeing that being fulfilled. He was vilified both in the print media and in the electronic media for his comment. What do you see as the resulting condition, as we continue along this path, and now make certain that same-sex marriage can take place?

KEYES: Well, first of all, we've got to stop it, because once we have embraced same-sex marriage, we have destroyed the civil institution of marriage. Obviously, it's not going to destroy the religious institution. We'll continue within the church as long as we can to practice and observe. Eventually, that may, by the way, be subject to persecution. We'll just have to see.

But the first step is to not . . . why should we let it happen? We have courageous people stepping forward, like a Rick Santorum. We have folk who are, in fact, the majority in Congress who would be willing to move if they can find a way to do so.

What's the missing element? The missing element--we always say it's the media, it's the backbone, and so forth. No, the missing element is the people.

This is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. If the people sit on their hands, if they are indifferent, if they don't participate, if they don't vote, if they don't register, if they don't move forward, if they don't march, if they don't rally, if they don't get involved, then it's not going to happen.

People say, "We're very concerned about this," and so forth. Well, if you're concerned, you've got to DO something. The opportunities are in front of you as an American. It's not as if we have some secret police keeping us from participating, as if we have laws that don't allow us avenues through which can bring to bear our influence. We have them. We're just not using them.

And I think that that's where we have to begin to realize that if we're going to act in faith, then we must understand that part of that action is to carry our Christian heart, our Christian conscience, into our citizen vocation. Because if we don't, obviously that citizen vocation is either going to be fruitless, in the true Christian sense, or it's going to be used for wickedness. Meaning, our votes will go in support of those things that, according to our faith, are evil and wrong. We must take responsibility, both for being citizens and for the consequences of our actions as citizens. And we must do so, I believe, under the rubric of our Catholic and Christian conscience.

If we're not going to do that, then I think that we are failing in our true Christian vocation--because after all is said and done, we will answer to God for our use or abuse of the great opportunity that He gave us in our lives to be citizens in a country where we have this kind of ability.

It's just like David or Solomon in the Bible. They were anointed and designated by God, anointed kings. They were answerable to Him for how they used that anointing. The people of this country have been, as it were, anointed to be the sovereigns here. We choose the president. We choose the legislators. We choose those who will choose the people who sit on the bench and so forth. We ultimately act here as the kings acted in the Israel of old. And I think that we're going to answer to God for our use or abuse of that kingly power which, by His grace and providence, has been entrusted to us as a birthright.

BENKOVIC: We've received letters in the mail and emails and phone calls, where people say, "Yes, but isn't it confessionalism to bring our Catholic faith to bear upon the way in which we cast a vote? Is it right for us to make these moral claims?"

Dispel that myth from the minds of our viewers today, and encourage them to go forward and to vote according the mind of God, as He would have it be in our land.

KEYES: I guess I have never understood--maybe folks are simply too much willing to accept what I think is the brainwashing of our day, this false presentation about separation of church and state.

And I'm not saying here that church and state don't have different roles to play. Of course they do. Obviously, we don't want the state dictating what shall be the elements of our religious worship. We don't want the state dictating what shall be our understanding of the word of God, and so forth and so on.

But on the other hand, it was never conceived--not by our Founders and not in conscience--that it is possible that human law and the actions of government are not to be governed by consciences that respond to God. If they are not governed by such consciences, they will be evil, and you and I both know it.

So, obviously, it cannot be the case that we want to see acting in human affairs, in the public arena, consciences free of the fear of God--consciences not submissive to the authority to the One who makes the laws for the universe, including the moral laws.

I think that was clear even in the scripture. A lot of people will cite, for example, the famous passage where Christ is asked about taxation, and they remember the punchline, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." But they forget the rest of the story. When He was approached with that challenge, what was the first thing He said to them? I think it was one of those occasions where He kind of fiddled in the ground and He looked at them and said, "Show me a coin." And He looked at the coin and said, "Whose image is stamped on it?" And the response was "Caesar's." And then He said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's."

By putting the focus on the image that was stamped on the coin, what was He reminding us of? He was reminding us of the very first words in that scripture about who we are. "Male and female He created them, in the image and likeness of God created He them." Stamped upon our nature is the image of God, meaning to say, His claim of ownership of all our humanity, including Caesar.

And that means that Christ isn't telling us that we can worship God and Mammon. He says in the same book--Matthew--but in Matthew 6, He says you can't serve two masters. So, He's not telling us give to one master one thing and another master another thing. That would be a lie. What He's telling us is that God is the master of all. That He owns Caesar. That ultimately human conscience, even positions of government power, indeed especially those positions, must respond to the sovereign will and law of God.

And that means that there is a seamless responsibility here--our Christian vocation, our submission to God's will in our Christian heart, as individuals, cannot be separable, in fact, from our vocation as citizens. For, when we act in that public vocation, we are still acting under the sovereignty of God.

BENKOVIC: When an individual makes a decision about the individual for whom they will cast their vote, very often and very frequently there are a number of different issues that they look at, and some of the issues seem to rise to the top and others seem to fall to the bottom. Very frequently people vote according to the economic issue, according to the social issue, very often they do not look at the some of the very key issues that will ensure that our nation will be guided according to the law of God.

In your estimation, Ambassador Keyes, are there some non-negotiable issues that we should look at?

KEYES: Well, I think that that's clearly true. First, there are issues that involve fundamental principles of conscience, where we could not choose the wrong side except we are willing to commit mortal sin and to place ourselves, essentially, in the camp that is against God, that is making war upon His will. Abortion is clearly such an issue.

God has told us clearly that the taking of innocent life is an abomination. And we have had in the teaching of the Church a clear understanding that that respect for human life is a fundamental premise of moral integrity for Catholic conscience.

It couldn't be any clearer than that, in terms of our responsibility both as individuals and in our terms of role in public life. So the careless taking of innocent life for callous reasons, disregarding the claims of innocent life as protected by God's will, that is something that fundamentally violates that.

And when people go forward and with indifference do that, they are not only violating a moral principle, they are violating their own conscience and placing themselves in a state of mortal sin, making themselves complicit with evil. And obviously that ought to be a bottom line. We can't do that; not just as citizens, but as individuals we are not to do that. We are not only to avoid sinning, but the occasion of sin, and becoming the occasion of sin by supporting laws that then create these pitfalls for people in our society. So, clearly that's a responsibility.

We also have an American responsibility.

BENKOVIC: Ambassador Keyes, I'm going to need to interrupt you here, because we're going to go to a break. And when we come back, we're going pick up and talk about some of those additional fundamental issues. So, hold that thought.

And, friends, you hold that thought, too. We're gonna be right back. Stay with us.

[break]

BENKOVIC: Welcome back, friends. We're visiting with our guests today via satellite, Ambassador Alan Keyes, and with us here in the studio, Father Edmund Sylvia.

When we went to our break, Ambassador Keyes, we were talking about what those non-negotiables should be, as we consider our vote and who the elected officials should be for our country. And you talked about abortion. And you talked about the reason why abortion has got to be one of those non-negotiable issues upon which we cast our vote.

There are some other issues related to the human person today, especially as it regards to the unborn that has come into the limelight. And I'm thinking here about stem cell research, using embryos, and I'm also thinking about cloning. Let's address those two issues.

KEYES: Well, I think we are, in fact, here talking about the same issue: our respect for the integrity of the human person, as ordained by God, and as established, by the way, independent of human judgment and will. That is a principle--not just of Catholic doctrine--it's a principle of American doctrine. The Declaration says that our rights come from God, not from constitutions, not from human judgment, and that means that they are ordained and established before human beings set up their constitutions and their laws, and we have a claim that is antecedent to that human action to be respected in our lives.

Then the question, of course, becomes: "Well, who determines when you're a human being? "Well, God determines that by a simple claim, it seems to me. If your mother and father are human, then you are human. I often wonder about the folks who say somehow or another that this a problem. And I look at them and say, "What claim do you have to humanity?" And at the end of the day, if we're going to start establishing a rubric, I don't know, [like] "read Shakespeare and like white wine before I'll consider you a human being"--there are elitists like that. We can't have that.

We have an equal claim, and that equal claim is a birthright, one that comes to us from the simple fact that our parents are human. And that's a fact, by the way, that is there prior to conception, and that reflects the truth of what God Himself has told us, "Before I formed thee, I knew thee," He said. "Before."

Before that moment of conception, as an idea in God's mind, we are already ordained as a fact of His will. He publishes His will in the womb. And that means that it is ordained in a place where human beings don't have a choice.

That's why I think the whole pro-choice movement has been such folly for us, because, in fact, it is undermining the very principle on which Americans claim their rights. So, I think this is a fundamental issue.

It's a litmus test. People often say you shouldn't have a litmus test. Of course you should: a litmus test that defines your unwillingness to cast your vote in a way that makes you a party to evil, that sets up laws which become an occasion for sin, by declaring that to be lawful which violates the fundamental premises of God's will and of human conscience.

BENKOVIC: When we think about the whole issue of marriage--and we've spoken about it at length--I want to ask you this question: Should this marriage situation that we're looking at with same-sex unions be one of those fundamental principles, non-negotiable issues by which we cast our vote?

KEYES: Absolutely. As I have said, I think we're actually seeing a permutation of the same issue, because the embrace of same-sex marriage is ultimately related to the rejection of procreation, as the central substance of the sexual relationship, the rejection of the child.

The abortion/contraception mentality is at the root the notion that somehow or another one can define marriage apart from procreation.

So, I will argue, the conscience that has moved to be pro-life is a conscience that has already acknowledged the principle that then must become the basis for true marriage--that is to say, male and female haunted by God's purpose for their union, which is the manifestation of His will in that gift of life in the child.

So, I think this is all part of the same moral universe, and that's why, by the way, the people who are pro-abortion are also the people who tend to totally nonchalant and accepting of this destruction of the real meaning and true nature of marriage.

BENKOVIC: When we look at the good of the country, and we look at the institution of marriage both in civil law as well as in religious belief system, why is marriage so essential to a nation and the governance of a people?

KEYES: Well, obviously, it is the establishment of that unit through which life is perpetuated--life not only as a physical matter, but life as a matter of morality, life as a matter of character, life as a matter of the habits and conventions that people will grow up to practice and to respect. It becomes the unit through which a society, for better or worse, perpetuates its institutions, through which they are built into human heart and awareness, consciousness and conscience.

Obviously, if you let your family deteriorate it means you're neglecting your children, you're neglecting to raise them up in the way they should go. In a society, where those children must ultimately be part of the citizen body, when you let the family be corrupted, you are corrupting the citizen body.

It's just like the people in the old days when they had emirs and despots. If you wanted to take over the kingdom, you corrupt the young despot. You get him addicted to sexual pleasure and the harem and so forth and so on, so they would waste all their time in dissipation. And the grand vizier would take over the kingdom and do what he pleased.

I think that's what happening to the American people, and through the corruption of the family institution, we are being turned from a people capable of citizen sovereignty into people capable only of being subject to, and slaves of, those can manipulate our passions and appeal to those passions in order to keep us enslaved.

That's where were headed. So, I think that the family is fundamental, and a right understanding of marriage is obviously foundational to the family.

BENKOVIC: You just made a very big statement there, Ambassador Keyes, and I think that it's an earth-shattering concept for very many of our people, and yet we have watched as the family, as a fundamental cell of human society, has broken down in our country. And we can see where it has taken us already.

This further disintegration of marriage can only portend very negative things for our marriage--for our society, rather. Share with us, if you will, where we have seen and reaped some of the very unpleasant fruits that's happened from the disintegration of marriage in our society to date.

KEYES: Well, sad to say, I think the community that in my person I represent--the black community--has been kind of the bird in a cave, as it were, in terms of this destruction of marriage. It's been the community that has been there already and is suffering the consequences, because the marriage structure broke down, pressured by many things, including, I think, a sadly misconstructed welfare system that encouraged the break up of marriages, but also by promiscuous sex, by music or raunchy music, and other influences, and etc.

And what have we found? We have found that the break-up of the family contributes to economic despair, to poverty, to violence, to young men who are raised without a sense of who they are and a capability of taking on their familial and fatherly responsibilities to young women who don't have respect for their bodies and their person. And we've seen a tidal wave of violence in the street, a breakdown of the kind of decorum necessary for education in the schools, and so on and so forth.

So, I think, right there in the black community, especially now in the urban areas--do you realize that in some of our urban areas that 90% of black children are being born out of wedlock? The dreadful and devastating consequences are palpable.

I think that what a lot of us need to realize is that is a forerunner of what could happen to our society as a whole--as we let this same breakdown overtake the general structure of the family--instead of letting that happen, we ought to be working desperately to put that structure back together for people in the communities that have been thus far adversely affected. That would be true compassion. That would be true decency. Not further to encourage libertinism in a way that destroys the foundation of decency for all people in the society.

BENKOVIC: Ambassador Keyes, share with us as a final statement here. What then should we as Catholics look for in a candidate running for elected office?

KEYES: Well, I think that the first thing we need to realize is don't look at the candidates first. First, spend a lot of time in prayer, spend a lot of time, say the rosary, go to mass, daily communion, things that will help to focus and center you on one thing--who is Jesus Christ? Who is He? What is His walk? What is His way? What is His will? What is the will of His Father to whom He looks exclusively in terms of shaping that walk? Once you've come to that understanding, just ask yourself, "Okay, in terms of the issues we face, what is Christ's way? What is God's way? What is His will?" And list all those things.

I think it's pretty clear on abortion, on marriage, on pornography, on this whole range of issues, including those that have to do with respect for the worth and dignity of human beings, in terms of economic affairs--we know what the answers ARE in terms of what's required in Christ's exampled words and in the will of His Father.

Then once you've reached that conclusion, just look at the candidates, and if they're standing where God stands, vote for 'em. If they're standing for what God detests, you can't vote for them. Don't make excuses, saying, "Oh, there's something in it for me. I'll get money. I'll get a program. I'll get Social Security." That's a way of saying that you will eat the fruits of wickedness, so long as you grow fat on them. And that's a wicked conscience. As Christian people, we are to reject that. I think that that's one of the reasons why fasting is enjoined as part of our preparation, so that we realize that we are not to live on the sinful fruits of this world, but rather to seek those things that are the fruits of the spirit. And by applying the judgment that results, that's how we choose our way, so that there can be life and that more abundantly, instead of feeding off of that, which at the end of the day, is the dross of a culture of death.

So, that's where I think we ought to make our choice. Not asking what party is right, or what this or that. No. Just say, "Now, what is God's determination? And who's for Him and who's against Him?" And on that very simple ground, one can, I think, in this society right now, make the bulk of our choices politically, because of these salient issues that are now front and center on the table as decisive issues for our time.

BENKOVIC: I've got to tell you, Ambassador Keyes, I can only hope that a copy of our interview today will be presented in every Catholic parish throughout the United States of America. The reality is that we, as Catholics, form such a large body here of the citizenry in the United States, if would vote precisely according to what you have outlined for us then we could change the direction in which we are headed.

I want to thank you so very much for the time that you've given us and for the good direction, excellent guidance, and the fine, fine way in which you have encouraged us to move forward.

KEYES: Thank you.

BENKOVIC: Thank you very much.

You know, Father, as we listen to Ambassador Keyes, my spirit is soaring inside, because he speaks truth. And to have someone speak truth today without embellishing it, without coloring it, without trying to change it to suit a political agenda or a lobbying effort is terribly unique and incredibly something to be treasured. I do hope that we can get this into the hands of every Catholic parish throughout the United States.

FATHER SYLVIA: People need this, and they need to hear it with the enthusiasm and honesty with which Ambassador Keyes speaks it.

BENKOVIC: Yes.

FATHER SYLVIA: I mean that reality of, again, what fruit are we going to eat from is an ever-present choice before us today.

BENKOVIC: And what he calls us to is a well-formed conscience. And in his summary statement, there, when he calls us to prayer, when he calls us to fasting, when he calls us to the rosary, when he calls us to what should be the very foundation upon which we base our vote and we base our political perspective, he does us a great service.

Let's talk for a moment about this whole business about a well-formed conscience. Why is this essential for Catholics as we make our way to the voting booth?

FATHER SYLVIA: Well, remember, a well-formed conscience is simply a conscience that is in line with truth. And truth, of course, must be sought. It must be accepted. We must be ready and willing to make adjustments in what might be more comfortable for me according to my strengths, and my weaknesses, my desires, etc. That forming of the conscience is so critical, because, without it, we are not persons of truth. We are not persons of integrity. Remember, integrity means all this person working together from the heart, such that I can live, as Alan Keyes says so well, be that person that God on page one made us to be.

BENKOVIC: There are many allusions that Ambassador Keyes made that we didn't have time to pick up and expound upon. I think one that was particularly gripping for me was when he said, "And, if we hold on to marriage, a religious notion of marriage, we may well be persecuted." I don't think that Ambassador Keyes is suggesting to us that this is all going to come without some participation in repercussions that could be painful.

FATHER SYLVIA: No. Absolutely not. I think he understands that, again, any honest participation requires sacrifice. And this is the number one need, clearly, that if Catholics are going to participate, and he would certainly say, I'm sure the ambassador would agree, that means participation on every level-not just showing up on voting day, as important as that is, but taking part in all the other levels of this. That if that is not done, and what does that require? It requires self-donation. It requires sacrifice. That we realize that we are more than just individuals, it's not just what's good for ME and even my family, but that common good which requires that, again, we willing to let go of what is pleasurable and feeds my interests and move into that which has to do with the good of society, my neighborhood, my city, our civilization.

BENKOVIC: What do we say to individuals, who may be with us right now, who are saying, "You know, but in a sense I can't find a political home anywhere, because I can't find a candidate who represents what you all are talking about today."

FATHER SYLVIA: Well, you know, the American bishops have address this on numerous occasions in most recent document 2004 "Painful Citizenship." They acknowledge the fact that many people find themselves in that situation. They cannot wholeheartedly participate in parties, as they have been defined for us.

We also, as Americans, have the responsibility of creating the party of the future. Whatever that might mean. I'm not necessarily saying that it becomes third party. If we do what Ambassador Keyes says in terms of making our will known, we will see change in the political parties that historically we now have.

BENKOVIC: And that's where soft-donation and the willingness to put up with things is understood, and potential persecution, and being able to put up with the side long glances, and the difficult comments comes in. But yet we know that, if we assume who we are to be in the culture of the day, we can change the culture of the day, and we can once again restore this nation to be God-honoring, and preserving all that God has given us to preserve. So, friends, we want to encourage you to make certain that you take to heart all that you've heard today, when it comes time for you to cast that important vote.

We're going to go to a break, and when we come back we're going to be giving you some good resources. Stay with us.

[break]

BENKOVIC: Welcome back, friends. We have some very important resources available for you today, and I want to issue you a challenge. I want you to get a copy of this video tape. I want you to get a copy of this interview with Ambassador Alan Keyes, and I want you to begin to be that individual who is a herald of the gospel who gets this message out everywhere.

We have an obligation to restore this temporal order. Each one of us can do it, according to the means God gives us. This is one way you can do it and do it well. It's #328. It's called "Faith and Politics: Voting the Catholic Conscience." It's available for you at Living This Life Abundantly. 1-800-558-5452. Every Catholic in America needs to hear what Alan Keyes shared with us today.

We also want to offer you the website of Ambassador Alan Keyes. It's www.renewamerica.us, www.renewamerica.us.

We need to be kept informed of current events according to a Catholic perspective. Our Sunday Visitor helps you to do that. Order your subscription 800-558-5452. Until we are together again, may the abundant life of Jesus Christ be yours.

[applause]

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