Private and Public Morality

On September 26, 2020 President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court of the United States.  As a devout and practicing Roman Catholic, she was immediately denounced by the progressive and liberal factions of American civil and political society. The outcry was primarily related to the fact that, being a Roman Catholic, Judge Barrett would not uphold the existing laws related primarily to abortion rights and gay rights, specifically, the right to marriage by homosexual couples.

Private versus public morality seems an odd term.  Does it mean that what is morally good or evil for the individual is not the same for society?  The answer to that question, at least in the Roman Catholic tradition, is yes. In its simplest definition, public morality refers to moral and ethical standards in a society enforced by law.  However, there exists a tenet in moral theology that what is legal is not necessary moral.

So, in the case of Judge Barrett, the demand was that she should defend society’s laws regardless of her personal religious beliefs.  The fallacy to that demand being that the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America states:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

It is for this reason that many believe that abortion is unconstitutional and someday might well be overturned.  This is an apparently strong enough argument that the left has long feared a conservative majority in the Supreme Court.  With Judge Barrett on the court – she has now been confirmed and seated – there is now a 6 to 3 majority of conservative judges.

The left has similar fears regarding the loss of gay rights, but that seems less likely than the issue of abortion.

The issue of Private versus Public Morality is a complex one – much more so than this brief commentary.  Then again, some politicians have simple minds.