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We Hold These Truths at Fifty: John Courtney Murray's Contested Legacy

John F. Quinn


John Courtney Murray's landmark work, We Hold These Truths, was conceived and brought into being by the editors of Sheed & Ward, who were anxious to bring Murray's ideas to a broad cross-section of America. When the book first appeared, it was hailed by political conservatives such as William F. Buckley who were pleased by its defense of natural law principles and limited government. By the time of Murray's death in 1967, however, he was generally seen as a liberal, and remembered for his role in drafting the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Liberty and for the part that many thought he had played in John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign. At this time, some theologians tried to draw on We Hold These Truths in support of liberal causes such as the legalization of abortion. In recent years, the book has been reprinted and has continued to attract notice from Catholic scholars. It now has many critics on the Left and the Right as well as staunch defenders. Neoconservatives such as George Weigel are especially keen proponents, noting the book's opposition to secularism and statism at home and totalitarianism abroad.

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