Democracy Needs Virtue

Saint John Paul II once reminded Americans: “Democracy needs virtue… Democracy stands or falls with the truths and values it embodies and promotes.”

The American founders understood the fragility of democracy, and knew it could be destroyed without virtuous men and women. They had no illusions that the Constitution alone could save the American Republic.

John Adams declared: “Human passions unbridled by morality and religion… would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.”

Virtue is required of citizens and public officials, of voters and political candidates. On leadership, Adams said: “Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increases as the importance of the position increases.”

Even prior to policy prescriptions, leaders must set a moral example of how to live virtuously; otherwise, their words and promises cannot be trusted by the people. Indeed, where the bonds of trust break down between leaders and citizens, respect for authority is diminished and the common good is undermined.

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