Volume 11, 2006
Gary D. Glenn
Are there Catholic Antecedents of the Declaration of Independence? A Conversation between Archbishop John Ireland, Orestes Brownson and the Twentieth Century
In the 19th century, Ireland and Brownson are the two best Catholic thinkers from whom one can learn something about whether the principles of the Declaration reflect the teachings of pre-modern Catholic political theologians or the atheistic teachings of modern political philosophers. They disagree, and their disagreement is both thought provoking and instructive. 20th-century Catholic thinkers follow Ireland’s understanding that the Declaration reflects teachings of
Catholic thinkers, though there are important differences between more moderate and more extreme versions of this argument. The 20th century culminates in the teaching of the philosopher—Pope John Paul II, who finds in the Declaration’s principles a meaning compatible with Catholic moral teachings. However, no one in the 20th century addresses Brownson’s substantial argument to the contrary.