On Republicans, Democrats and Catholics

With some news reports suggesting even progressive Christians are losing faith in President Obama, and at least one prominent Democrat leaving the party because of her Catholic faith, Catholic blogger Ed Morrissey looks at how complicated and contradictory it can be to be a Catholic and adhere to any political party:

Some of our readers express surprise that faithful Catholics can ever be Democrats in the first place.  Conservatives — especially pro-life conservatives — focus on Democratic Party support for abortion and declare the party anathema, and I have a lot of sympathy for that position, quite obviously.  The heart of the Catholic mission is the dignity and sacredness of human life as a reflection of our creator God, a dignity and sacredness that begins at conception, a consistent teaching of the Catholic Church for two thousand years.  It’s the very basis of our teachings on social justice; without that acknowledgment of dignity granted by God, social justice becomes a hobby rather than a calling, and humanity is reduced to utilitarianism.  Why bother spending public and private money on the poor and infirm if they could have been discarded with no consequences at the earliest stages of their lives?

However, while Republicans and conservatives embrace the pro-life part of the equation, they tend to run away from the social-justice mission that must necessarily follow from that pro-life embrace.  In fact, the very term social justice inevitably creates hostility, in part because some confuse it with liberation theology, a philosophy that the Catholic Church has rejected, including our present Pope Benedict XVI, who decried much of it as a “Marxist myth” while still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.  Social justice is nothing more or less than the mission to which Jesus Christ called his church — the care of the poor, the infirm, the imprisoned, and the hopeless.  It is a call to Christians of all denominations to ensure that we share our blessings with those less fortunate and find ways to lift them out of their misery, as brothers and sisters under God, conceived in the same dignity and sacredness as were we all.

There is a great deal of debate on how best to achieve these goals, and Catholics are given no set plan as doctrine on these matters.  Each of us has a personal call to participate in the mission, as does the Church itself.  That is why we (and our brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations and other faiths) open hospitals, charities, and schools in service to our mission and to the world.  Incidentally, that’s why the HHS mandate is so absurd in its arrogance and ignorance; these are not just businesses, but an expression of our core religious practice and mission.  The center of our religious practice is the Liturgy and Eucharist, but our mission is outside of the four walls of the church, not within it.

However, even while we do our best on a personal and institutional level within the church, our community, state, and nation have an impact on the scope and depth of the societal and human ills we hope to alleviate.   Some Catholics feel that significant involvement of representative government represents the best and most direct way to achieve our mission, and support the political party that more closely aligns itself with that philosophy and agenda — Democrats.  Others feel that the mission is best directed at a personal and institutional level and oppose significant government involvement as wasteful, impractical, and counterproductive, and those Catholics are more likely to be Republicans.

As such, these fellow Catholic liberals (many of whom do oppose abortion) do not deserve our scorn or a condescending attitude; they come to these positions honestly and faithfully.  We may disagree on the best approach to the mission at hand, but we are at least united on the mission itself.

There’s much more, and it’s worth reading and pondering.