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Abstract

What could Pope Benedict possibly mean by the astounding claim that reason in public discourse must be "purified" by religion? What does he mean in saying that religion has a "corrective" role to play in the political process? In the essay that follows, first, I explore the meaning of this provocative passage as elucidated in the other documents of Benedict's papacy, in the work of Joseph Ratzinger prior to his election as pope, and in the larger body of papal encyclicals, conciliar documents and episcopal statements collectively known as "Catholic social teaching." Second, I will show how much of what Benedict has to say about the positive contribution religion can make to public life finds support in two diverse sources - the commentary of Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America and the work of contemporary political theorist Jeremy Waldron. Third, I will review the Supreme Court's recent decision in CLS v. Martinez in light of the positive and corrective function that Benedict says religion performs in the political process. I end the essay with a brief conclusion that ties together the various themes developed.

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