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.
- Establish a firm commitment to civility in America's national discourse.
- Build up the fabric of American society through a fraternal solidarity based on personal works of charity.
- Build a consistent commitment to Catholic Social Teaching among Catholic voters in America.
- 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.