The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Robert Novak, R.I.P.

Last week, after a year-long battle with brain cancer, Robert Novak died at the age of 78. He was an honest man and one of the nation's more colorful news commentators and columnists.

For years I have enjoyed reading and listening to Novak, who could always be counted on to tell it like it is. He was the straight-shooter par excellence, a man committed to ensuring his readers knew the truth about what was happening in Washington. This was no mean feat in a city dedicated to hiding the truth beneath a mountain of lies.

Novak understood that the real purpose of the press in a free society was not to propagate a political agenda, but to tell the people the truth, to expose the lies and misinformation, to reveal just whom we have elected to represent us. Like James Madison, he knew that "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." Of course, as we all know from personal experience, men are not angels and government is necessary, as is a free press. And so, when it comes to government, the obvious choice is to limit its size and its sphere of action so that all those non-angelic politicians can do the minimum amount of damage.

This is exactly what our Constitution was intended to accomplish. Contrary to what our courts seem to believe, the Bill of Rights was intended to limit the actions of government, not to limit the actions of the people.

If, for example, we turn to the freedom of religion clause in the First Amendment, we find a simple statement: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Note that the onus is on Congress. The clause does not restrict the individual citizen. But for a variety of ideological reasons, men have turned the meaning of this straightforward clause upside down and decided that it actually places limitations on the individual's right to practice his religion. If a normal person of reasonable intelligence spent a lifetime reading and rereading, parsing and analyzing that simple clause, he could not find a logical way to claim that it prohibits an individual from, for instance, praying in a classroom. Sadly, our courts are populated neither by angels nor by normal people of reasonable intelligence, and so the freedom of religion clause has been turned into a freedom from religion clause. Our poor founding fathers, those men who thought they had created a government that might actually work, would no doubt wonder whether it was all worth it...well, they would if they were in a place where its citizens had such worries. But I digress...back to Robert Novak.

What many people don't know is that Robert Novak, born and raised a secular Jew, converted to Catholicism late in life. For the last decade of his life he lived his faith to the fullest and in his illness experienced the consolation that comes from the sure knowledge of eternal life through Jesus Christ. I will miss him and his words, but trust that he now rests in the Father's loving embrace. Requiescat in pace.

If we're fortunate another honest man will step into Novak's shoes and continue his honorable mission of exposing lies and revealing truth.

The following is an audio interview of EWTN's Raymond Arroyo made by Al Kresta shortly after Novak's death last week. Arroyo was a friend of Novak's and provides some wonderful insights into the personality and work of this remarkable man.

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