A point I frequently try to make, around here, is that Catholicism is too large, too wide, too nuanced, too small-c-catholic to permit ideological purity. Catholic politicians or ideologues who manage such “purity” have always had to betray a tenet of Catholicism to get to that place.
And that, to my way of thinking, is actually one of the best arguments for Catholicism, and Catholic Orthodoxy, in the world. It brings reasonable resistance against sophist trends and the sentimentalist’s means of movement. It discourages lock-stepped conformity to any ideology by forcing us to actually apply a well-reasoned understanding of faith and the world, the dignity of the human person and our humility before the God whose ways are not our ways and whose thoughts are not our thoughts. Catholics certainly may become ideologues — and for that matter, some may even become partisan hacks — but the only way they can get there is by being willing to abandon Catholic thought, and Catholic teaching, for the non-thinking of what Flip Wilson used to call “The Church of What’s Happening Now”.
And lots of us fall into that trap at one time or another.
Ed Morrissey does a good job, today, in attempting to explain to his readers the subtleties of Catholic thought that allow so many Catholics to identify as Democrats (as I used to) and particularly as it pertains to the notion of “social justice.”
Thanks to Glenn Beck, there are some out there who think “social justice” is code for “commie plots and socialism” but in truth, our notion of social justice is well defined by our mission as we have demonstrated it in the world — feed the hungry, clothe the naked, treat the sick, comfort the stricken, companion the abandoned, rescue the captive. Our economic ideas — as Ed touches on — have less to do with socialism (which we will endlessly argue only works when it is undertaken voluntarily, as in monasticism) and more to do with subsidiarity — the notion that the best people to serve the public, create jobs and stimulate an economy are the people nearest to those in need, as opposed to some depersonalized, central governing body who — well-intentioned as it might be — can only apply one-size-fits-all solutions to sometimes very unique situations.
Catholic conservatives sometimes feel as though we are sometimes scorned for our approach, though, because Republicans and conservatives rarely offer a coherent philosophy on how best to deal with the very real social problems in our communities, other than insisting that more government won’t solve them. I was glad to see Paul Ryan discussing subsidiarity in his defense of his budget proposal, as many conservative Catholics see the overwhelming entitlement growth as a threat to personal and institutional action — perhaps less so than the HHS mandate, but the mandate itself springs from that accumulation of power to entitlement-program bureaucracies that conservatives within and outside of the faith see as dangerous. Few conservatives in American politics offer that kind of coherent approach, though, and to Catholics who rightly see the pain and suffering of the poor and infirm as a priority, that makes the Democratic Party look legitimately like a better option.
Read Ed’s whole piece. I think you’ll like it! And I’m really glad to see the very level-headed, non-emoting Mr. Morrissey broach this subject. I am too often accused of working with a knife between my teeth. No one has ever felt compelled to utter such a thought about Ed!