Illiberals or Ill Liberals?

Feisty John Zmirak has some fellow Catholics in his sights. In this piece he criticizes a kind of conservative American Catholic who is critical of, well just about everything.

In the months since Aleteia was kind enough to publish “Illiberal Catholicism” and re-publish “The Shame of the Catholic Subculture,” the phenomenon of Illiberal Catholicism has been recognized in many other venues—and a number of figures have seen fit to align themselves with the movement, ranging from pseudonymous bloggers to a professor at Notre Dame—who went so far as to argue that Hobby Lobby deserves to lose its religious freedom case against the Feds because it is part of the corrupt, capitalist order.

I have to admit, having lived in the UK for twenty five years where Catholic pretty much roll over and play dead when it comes to politics, it is interesting to me to find so many of my fellow American Catholics so involved in the political-economical debates, and maybe it is the Amish in me, but my own view is that I’m not that interested. However. I know I should be.

It seems to me, is that the Catholic answer is actually pretty clearly defined in the social teaching of the church and in principle it is not that difficult. The problem is not in any particular economic or political system, but in the lack of personal virtue. Capitalism (a system based in the right for individuals to own property) would work just fine if individuals were responsible first for themselves and then for their families, and then for their employees and then for their neighbors.

If everyone valued hard work, honesty, fair play and desired to live a modest life caring for one another and sharing their resources there would be no problem with capitalism.

Arguing about economics, being deliberately distributist or a stuck up socialist misses the point. I’m with Zmirak in his criticism of snooty conservatives who pick and choose which bits of the church’s teachings they like or dislike and dismiss the rest. They’re just as hypocritical as the liberals they so despise. These are the ones John calls “illiberal” Catholics. I call them “ill liberals” inasmuch as they are not even healthy enough liberals to be liberals.

Anyhow, enough name calling. Life’s too short.

The answer is to simply be better Catholics–embracing the fullness of the whole teaching of the church, to work hard, be honest, be generous, live simply and be happy.


About Fr. Dwight Longenecker