During Parliamentary debates concerning artificial insemination two years ago, the Speaker of the Italian Low Chamber, Gianfranco Fini declared that “the Parliament should not pass laws that are inspired by religious precepts,” to which Elio Sgreccia replied:

“The issues on which Catholics intend to be active in politics are not definable as ‘religious precepts’ because they pertain to fundamental rights that are written in human nature, demonstrable by reason, and endorsed by the Italian constitution. Catholics are in the right position for actively participating in the public and parliamentary debate against abortion and euthanasia and to protect family.”

Nadia Urbinati at The Immanent Frame comments:
“In his answer to the Speaker of the House, Monsignor Sgreccia adopted a style of reasoning that John Rawls’ revisited public reason and Jürgen Habermas’ post-secular democracy would consider legitimate. Indeed, while publicly proclaiming principles that he derived from his comprehensive doctrine, Monsignor Sgreccia made an effort to reach out to non-religious citizens by arguing that those principles can also be accepted by them because they are in agreement with the principles of public reason contained in the Italian constitution although expressed not in the form of public reason (like constitutional rights) but in the philosophical language of natural rights, according to the Thomistic tradition. Endorsing this discursive style would seem to be a secure passport for citizens with comprehensive doctrines to actively participate in the public sphere of deliberation.”

Robert P. George, for example, adopts this style in his important article “ What Is Marriage? ”, co-authored by Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis, in which he appeals not to religious precepts or sensibilities, but to reason.

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