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Americanism, Rightly Understood

By Brianna Saylor, Staff Writer

The McKenna School hosted its first lecture of the new academic year on Wednesday, September 13, at 7:30 p.m. at the Fred Rogers Center in celebration of Constitution Day and the commencement of its annual series of lecturers, sponsored by the Center for Political and Economic Thought.

Dr. James Patterson, an associate professor and chair of the Politics Department at Ave Maria University, spoke on Americanism, Rightly Understood. Patterson is a Fellow at the Center for Religion, Culture, and Democracy and the Institute of Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America, as well as president of the Ciceronian Society, an organization of Christian scholars working in the humanities and social sciences, and a Contributing Editor to Law & Liberty. He received his BA in political science and media studies at the University of Houston and his Ph.D. in American politics at the University of Virginia, where he studied under James W. Caeser. His research primarily dives into religion, race, and American political development.


(SOURCE: SAYLOR) Dr. James Patterson spoke on Wednesday, Sept. 13, as part of the McKenna School Center for Political and Economic Thought lecture series.

He published his first book, Religion in the Public Square: Sheen, King, Falwell, through the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2019 and has published scholarly work in the Journal of Church and State, American Political Thought, Perspectives on Political Science, and Pietas. He has also published popular works in Law & Liberty, First Things, National Affairs, National Review, Providence, and Public Discourse.

On Wednesday, Patterson argued for a link between politics and religion.

“Americanism is Catholic Republicans,” he said. “More specifically, Americanism is both an intellectual and an institutional effort to re-ground the American Constitutional foundations on republican interpretations of Catholic social teaching wherein citizens receive their rights of God, the government exists to serve these rights, and therefore no government may infringe on them.”

In his talk, Patterson discussed the life and vocation of Fulton Sheen–a prevalent American religious leader, evangelist, writer, Roman Catholic priest, and radio and television personality during the 20th century. He further structured his talk through the ideas and observations of both Issac Hecker, an American Catholic priest and founder of the Paulist Fathers, and Pope Leo XIII, who was head of the Catholic Church for nearly twenty-five years during the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century.

He ended his talk by reiterating Sheen’s understanding of Americanism as it was to be understood by our founding fathers as “that being a literal expression of the Catholic doctrine concerning man, firstly, his rights come from God and therefore cannot be taken away, and secondly, the state exists to preserve them–the recognition of the inalienable rights of the person is Americanism or the apparent dignity and worth of man.”Finally, he said, “As a political document, the Declaration of Independence affirms what the gospel affirms as religion–the worth of man.”

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