Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No Longer Politics as Usual?

I read this afternoon the transcript of Carl A. Anderson's address to the Catholic Press Association. Entitled "What Every Catholic Can Do to Transcend Partisanship," Mr. Anderson proposes four steps by which Catholic voters can contribute to the transformation of the American political landscape.

  1. Establish a firm commitment to civility in America's national discourse.
  2. Build up the fabric of American society through a fraternal solidarity based on personal works of charity.
  3. Build a consistent commitment to Catholic Social Teaching among Catholic voters in America.
  4. Based upon a commitment to Catholic Social Teaching, we will be able to transcend partisanship. 
To my mind, Anderson rightly notes that one of the fundamental breakdowns with the so-called Catholic vote has been our failure to live up to Catholic Social Teaching's consistent ethic of life and thoroughgoing recognition of the dignity of each human being. 

Catholic Social Teaching is the Church's gift to the effort to build "a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due..." (Deus Caritas Est, 28). While it is not the Church's job to supplant the State, she is not exempted from taking part in the struggle for justice. The Holy Father continues, stating that the Church "has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper." (28)

For far too long, Catholics in our country have contented themselves with choosing the "lesser of two evils" in voting, particularly when both candidates hold positions that are in some ways at odds with Catholic Social Teaching. I find Anderson's appeal to Catholic voters encouraging, insisting that they "insist that candidates measure their political platforms by Catholic social teaching - especially if they are Catholics." 

To live out boldly the requirements held forth by Catholic social teaching would hardly be politically expedient or painless in a sinful and broken world. Without question, if we have the courage to hew close to these ideals we will suffer for it. Setbacks, endured for the Kingdom, should neither frighten nor deter us. Rather than playing the game of secular politics, surrendering to the ways of the world, it is time all Catholics reacquaint themselves with the central themes of Catholic Social Teaching

It is within our power, today, to transform our political landscape. We don't need pastors endorsing candidates from the pulpits. We need women and men of good conscience to inform their hearts and minds and to demand that politicians robustly adhere to their values. Perhaps the only way around partisan politics is to argue "on the basis of reason and natural law, namely, on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being." (28) By recognizing the dignity of all life and committing ourselves wholly not only to its preservation but also to its enhancement, perhaps we will find ourselves crossing the proverbial aisle and embracing one another not as enemies but as sister and brother. 

3 comments:

naturgesetz said...

Not only os Mr. Anderson's advice wise, it is also encouraging that it comes from the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. I hope that the message is one that will be enthusiastically embraced by all Knights. That in itself would be a fine beginning to putting it into practice. Ultimately, of course, elections will come down to trying to discern which candidate is better for our country, but Mr. Anderson's recommendations offer a way of moving politics in a direction which will give better candidates all around.

J. R. P. said...

"Establish a firm commitment to civility in America's national discourse."

One can't, of course, object to civility. But, "nice" is not a Catholic virtue.

"Build up the fabric of American society through a fraternal solidarity based on personal works of charity."

How about a fraternity based upon shared commitment to the Truth, which Jesus said He was? Truth first, so you know what is the Good to do (to paraphrase Aristotle and Aquinas).

"Build a consistent commitment to Catholic Social Teaching among Catholic voters in America."

Actual Catholic Social Teaching is great. Big fan. E-ticket. First, few people know what it actually is over-against the deconstructive marxism they get in academia and Hollywood. But, by itself, IT DOES NOT SAVE SOULS. This is our first priority, in and out of the public square.

How about, instead, "Build a consistent commitment to teaching the Faith in its fullness among Catholics, which includes Catholic Social Teaching as a relatively minor point in a much more important moral theology"? If we can't do that, then what makes you think we can do other things?

"Based upon a commitment to Catholic Social Teaching, we will be able to transcend partisanship."

Nonsense. The partisanship is built into the system - not just our particular form of government with two-party rule, but in modern philosophy. Until we reject the evils of modernism and the evils of 'modern thought', we cannot transcend worldly division.

There _is_ a licit range of opinions about the right order of things in the world. People will often align themselves with one 'side' or another. But, in the absence of a shared truth, the lines of division end up far beyond the legitimate scope, as they are today.

naturgesetz said...

@ J.R.P. — "How about, instead, 'Build a consistent commitment to teaching the Faith in its fullness among Catholics, which includes Catholic Social Teaching as a relatively minor point in a much more important moral theology'?" I can't see how you can possibly call Catholic Social Teaching, as defined in the document which Mr. Duns listed, "relatively minor." The sacredness if human life is minor? Marriage and family are minor? Love of neighbor is minor?

Beyond your obvious misunderstanding of what is meant by Catholic Social Teaching in the context of this post, I'd take issue with your implication that we, the Church, can't do two or more things at once. Even taking social teaching by your narrow view of it, there is no reason that we would have to abandon proclaiming the Faith — in your narrow view of it — in order to engage society on matters of social teaching.