Catholic Firsters, Unite!

Monsignor Charles Pope posts a terrific article to the blog at the Archdiocese of Washington’s site. Titled “To What Political Party Does the Catholic Church Belong?”, the piece neatly summarizes the views of some of us here at Vox Nova (or “Vomitus Nova,” as we were recently called by a partisan bomb thrower commenting at Catholic and Enjoying It).

Some of Msgr. Pope’s choicest observations:

What political party is the Catholic Church?  Neither of course. But depending on what is in the news you can count on labels being applied. If the issue is abortion, embryonic stem cell research, or homosexual “marriage” detractors will say the Church and bishops are “in bed” with the Republicans. But if the issue is immigration reform, capital punishment, concerns about war, or care for the poor, then they’re all “just a bunch of Democrats …”

The fact is that the real goal for the Church is to be Catholic, across the board: vigorously pro-life and clear on the sexual and life issues, working to strengthen marriage and the family,  vigorously advocating for the poor and immigrants, aware of and advocating all the social teachings, fully embracing subsidiarity, solidarity and justice, standing four-square against the violence that so permeates our culture, generous, merciful and forgiving; and willing to work in communion with those who authentically advocate these Catholic Principles, even if they focus on  some of them in particular. Pro-life Catholics should rejoice that others work for and advocate for the poor, and advocates for the poor should rejoice that some fight for life and to end abortion. Together we can cover all the bases …

Is the Catholic Church Republican? Democrat? And what are you? As for me:

  1. I’m against abortion, and they call me a Republican
  2. I want greater justice for immigrants, and they call me a Democrat
  3. I stand against “Gay” “Marriage,” and they call me a Republican
  4. I work for affordable housing, and stand with unemployed in DC, and they call me a Democrat
  5. I talk of subsidiarity and they say: “Republican, for sure.”
  6. I mention the common good, and solidarity and they say, “Not only a Democrat, but a Socialist for sure.”
  7. Embryonic Stem cell research should end, “See, he’s Republican!”
  8. Not a supporter of the death penalty, standing with the Bishops and the Popes against it…”Ah, told you! He’s really a Democrat!… dyed in the wool and Yellow Dog to boot!”

Hmm, and all this time I just thought I was trying to be a Catholic Christian. I just don’t seem to fit in. And, frankly, no Catholic should. We cannot be encompassed by any Party as currently defined …

In the end we are called to be those who are “simply Catholic.” Every other party affiliation, membership, alliance, or connection must yield to the Faith and be judged by it. No worldly thought should ever trump the Faith which God has revealed through the Church. And, even in some matters (e.g. how best to care for the poor) that are prudential in nature, our alliance to the Church founded by Jesus Christ ought to win the day when it comes giving the benefit of any doubt.  And while staying in a dialogue with our Bishops, we must also accept their leadership and respect their insights as those designated to teach, govern and sanctify. In the end we should be simply, plainly and essentially Catholic.

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  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Mark,

    I agree with the background assumptions of this post; but I quibble about the facts. The principle is, or the ideal is, that in society we can all live in relative harmony by each allowing the other the right to believe what they want. And that to the extent that such belief is only used to advance their interests in society, it should NEVER be an issue of condemnation or opprobrium. But society belongs to no group, it belongs to us all. That is why trying to co-opt it on any side is objectionable. Therefore a certain neutrality is rationally needed, sometimes even conflicting with ones beliefs or desires. It is easy to conceive of a way this could be realized without creating the feeling of negation for one group or other. But all groups must agree not to try to control society. Nice try, huh?

    In fact our rather corrupt society now is basically about one group trying to control it for a while, and get what they can get done, done for their side while controlling it. Still, when you construe the matter as “being Catholic”, which is certainly an ideal in a sense, it must mean something. If we take the actual published documents of the RC Church as guide it should mean a number of things. The description you provide from the Monsignor is adroit in the sense that shows — again as an ideal — the cross party realities of the organization. One almost hesitates to mention issues of violence and war which the documents have addressed as well, which somehow are left out of the picture.

    Yet this contradiction is paltry compared to the much larger one based on a more more sociological analysis of the RC church’s position, which has a more “Ockham’s Razor” force to it. Namely, that in fact the two types of positions outlined are not what they are laid out to be vis-a-vis political party. In fact the two positions — conservative social/sexual positions & liberal on immigration — are in fact quite consistent with one part of the Republican party, Namely, the very very rich owners of businesses who need cheap immigrant labor to keep their rather oligarchical position going. In that sense the position now taken by the Bishops Conference is utterly in line with the desires of the super-rich, but not the so-called Republican Tea party.

    I do NOT posit some conspiracy of the super rich to use the Bishops conference. Rather I posit the more ho-hum matter of using money and influence to buys and support a network of very dedicated people — priests and nuns– whose mission has nothing to do with the super-rich Yet it is oh-so convenient that the the ultimate super-rich oligarchs have an institution whose present desiderata COINCIDES with the super-rich Republican interests. And the moneybags fellas know a good thing when they see it. Imagine, they get to benefit from lots of cheap labor, and they don’t even have to pick up the costs for it. For there exists a religious organization filled with dedicated and often poorly paid people who themselves will take care of the poor immigrants, and thus facilitate the ability of the super-rich to argue that they can be used very cheaply at no real cost to the over-all society. Truth, as it often is, is stranger than fiction. And the truth is that rich people will make money with any bizarre and contradicted arrangement they can find!

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Mark,

    I agree with the background assumptions of this post; but I quibble about the facts. The principle is, or the ideal is, that in society we can all live in relative harmony by each allowing the other the right to believe what they want. And that to the extent that such belief is only used to advance their interests in society, it should NEVER be an issue of condemnation or opprobrium. But society belongs to no group, it belongs to us all. That is why trying to co-opt it on any side is objectionable. Therefore a certain neutrality is rationally needed, sometimes even conflicting with ones beliefs or desires. It is easy to conceive of a way this could be realized without creating the feeling of negation for one group or other. But all groups must agree not to try to control society. Nice try, huh?

    In fact our rather corrupt society now is basically about one group trying to control it for a while, and get what they can get done, done for their side while controlling it. Still, when you construe the matter as “being Catholic”, which is certainly an ideal in a sense, it must mean something. If we take the actual published documents of the RC Church as guide it should mean a number of things. The description you provide from the Monsignor is adroit in the sense that shows — again as an ideal — the cross party realities of the organization. One almost hesitates to mention issues of violence and war which the documents have addressed as well, which somehow are left out of the picture.

    Yet this contradiction is paltry compared to the much larger one based on a more more sociological analysis of the RC church’s position, which has a more “Ockham’s Razor” force to it. Namely, that in fact the two types of positions outlined are not what they are laid out to be vis-a-vis political party. In fact the two positions — conservative social/sexual positions & liberal on immigration — are in fact quite consistent with one part of the Republican party, Namely, the very very rich owners of businesses who need cheap immigrant labor to keep their rather oligarchical position going. In that sense the position now taken by the Bishops Conference is utterly in line with the desires of the super-rich, but not the so-called Republican Tea party.

    I do NOT posit some conspiracy of the super rich to use the Bishops conference. Rather I posit the more ho-hum matter of using money and influence to buys and support a network of very dedicated people — priests and nuns– whose mission has nothing to do with the super-rich Yet it is oh-so convenient that the the ultimate super-rich oligarchs have an institution whose present desiderata COINCIDES with the super-rich Republican interests. And the moneybags fellas know a good thing when they see it. Imagine, they get to benefit from lots of cheap labor, and they don’t even have to pick up the costs for it. For there exists a religious organization filled with dedicated and often poorly paid people who themselves will take care of the poor immigrants, and thus facilitate the ability of the super-rich to argue that they can be used very cheaply at no real cost to the over-all society. Truth, as it often is, is stranger than fiction. And the truth is that rich people will make money with any bizarre and contradicted arrangement they can find!

    • JL Liedl

      “One almost hesitates to mention issues of violence and war which the documents have addressed as well, which somehow are left out of the picture.”

      Msgr. Pope talks about opposition to war, capital punishment, and abortion. I’m not sure how violence is “left out of the picture.”

      “In that sense the position now taken by the Bishops Conference is utterly in line with the desires of the super-rich, but not the so-called Republican Tea party.”

      This is an extremely bizarre claim. I don’t know many super-rich who talk about the right to unionize or the need for wealth to be distributed equitably.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        JL Liedl,

        I don’t blame you one bit for coming back with that riposte and it is fair. But then again, not, because if we focus on what the Church in this country and actually in the world actually spends its political cred and clout on , it is NOT
        taking an unswerving stance against violence nor for workers’ rights like unions. Whereas they stir up vast amounts of money to fight on social issues, and to militate for immigrants. Indeed, many of the positions they have taken are brave and noble in word, but not quite in deed. As I have pointed out, if they actually did stem the tide of violence by using the numerousness of their adherents and the long-term gravitas of their historical institution, they would become heroic. But they always seem too busy mollycoddling people like Captain Chirckenhawk Weigel and his bellicose arm-chair General friends.

        So indeed, I agree that the documents sound good. I was in the church at one time, and I know how many smart and good people there are in it. But, you know, they are probably not as smart, or more precisely, more clever than the super-rich who know how to game any existing set of circumstances. Indeed, you couldn’t have a better indication of this than Romney ghastly but surely true statement that he is not “interested in very poor people.” And why….why JL, ask thyself! Well, because, as he said as if on cue for this sort of analysis, there are non-governmental “social safety nets” as well as the usual ones. Who pray tell is providing those “nets”. Well the Catholic Church that’s who. And thus facilitating by bizarre alchemy the admitted very bed-fellows of an organization who takes a “preferential option for the poor” and those zillionaires who have much more heartless preferences. (Like buying that new island in Abu Dhabi for their families so they can escape when the world really goes to…..)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/ Sofia Loves Wisdom

    YES! He articulates exactly where I am at. I probably won’t vote. There is absolutely no one that I can support. The Republican options are absolutely NO WAY for me. And Obama? He has deported and broken up more immigrant families than ANY other president in US History, and his assault on Catholics right now is an absolute deal breaker. No way no how!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/ Sofia Loves Wisdom

    YES! He articulates exactly where I am at. I probably won’t vote. There is absolutely no one that I can support. The Republican options are absolutely NO WAY for me. And Obama? He has deported and broken up more immigrant families than ANY other president in US History, and his assault on Catholics right now is an absolute deal breaker. No way no how!

  • Ronald King

    Thank you Vomitus for this post. I can now see that since you are neither party or a member of both parties. You must be a borderline Vomitus.

    • Brian Martin

      Sometime I think that we Catholics forget the “odor of the stable” which makes us unpalatable to many in society as a whole. If we are Catholic, if we are Christian, we are by definition “outsiders” in the world, when did we start expecting things to line up nicely our way?

  • Ronald King

    Thank you Vomitus for this post. I can now see that since you are neither party or a member of both parties. You must be a borderline Vomitus.

  • Kurt

    Solid article. I can only add that for the lay faithful, we too have a call to evangelize. And a Catholic presence in both political parties witnessing to Catholic values is a very good thing.

  • M.Z.

    I think this kind of stuff tends to be besides the point. Choices are made in the contingent. Whatever one’s feeling about kicking puppies, one of four outcomes is possible and is not always known in advance:
    1) The welfare of puppies will improve regardless of the particular choice.
    2) The particular choice will improve the welfare of puppies.
    3) The particular choice will worsen the welfare of puppies.
    4) The welfare of puppies will worsen regardless of the particular choice.

    The current generation, particularly that portion in power, is grossly idealistic — expressed in variants of optimism and cynicism. They abstract themselves from society and act as if their particular and idiosyncratic beliefs are significant or make a difference. They obsess over things things they have no control over and decisions they will never have to make. All the while they neglect the actual people around them, because they have been made impotent by facing choices where even the good is often accompanied by bad.

    • http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/kylecupp/ Kyle R. Cupp

      Whoa. I actually agree with M.Z. 😉

  • Anne

    “And Obama? He has deported and broken up more immigrant families than ANY other president in US History, and his assault on Catholics right now is an absolute deal breaker. ”

    Obama can be blamed for a lot of things with which Catholics object, but I don’t think it’s fair to pin him with what states such as Georgia have been doing on the immigration front. Obama’s attorney general has filed suit to try to stop the states from doing what you’re talking about.

    • Mark Gordon
      • http://roadgoeseveron.wordpress.com Henry Karlson

        Yes, the Obama administration continues with the cultural error on immigration and, as usual with him, he heightens what was given to him (it is an issue of quantity not kind, though the drastic increase in quantity is a major concern). He failed here. As with many other areas as we on VN have outlined. The problem is that those areas he has failed are often the same areas his GOP-critics think he is not good enough at! Which means, we are all messed up in this nation.

  • Anne

    It’s very true that the Church’s moral and social teachings fall somewhere outside, certainly not neatly within, Republican and Democratic party lines. That’s been fairly clear for many years. Unfortunately, Catholic Republicans, including some with influence inside the Church, have decided their party line not only meshes with the Church on many issues, but holds the only moral high ground to the extent that voting for Democrats is a mortal sin. Somebody in authority needs to call them out on this — in no uncertain terms — before the next election.

    • http://bullpasturechronicles.blogspot.com BullPasture

      I am a Catholic convert from protestant evangelicalism. Politically I am unaffiliated now but have a Republican background. I don’t think the labels are helpful. There are pro-life democrats and pro-abortion republicans. To me that is the litmus – I cannot support a pro-abortion candidate. During my conversion process I struggled with the fact that the most heavily catholic states were also the most liberal states. It took me a while to realize that, both the conservative republican’s I knew, and the liberal catholics I had come to know through pro-life activities, wanted to help the poor. They just chose to do it in different ways. The conservatives believed in charity and personal involvement. The liberals tended more towards political solutions and personal involvement. Both sides fell into the trap of demonizing the other as heartless republicans or liberals who wanted to reward sloth.

      I do believe it is sinful to vote for a pro-abortion candidate. Beyond that I don’t think it is proper for the bishops to get involved in politics. The magisterium doesn’t address policy. I believe that voting to take care of the poor via taxes and welfare rather than charity is a mistake. It introduces the element of government force and the threat of violence to enforce compliance. It strengthens government and diminishes the influence of the Church. Ultimately it has always lead to attacks upon the Church such as we are seeing now with HHS. But that is just an opinion and certainly good Catholics can disagree.

  • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

    Reblogged this on Catholibertarian and commented:
    This is an excellent post by Mark Gordon. Catholics are for Catholic principles. We are not boxed into either being a Democrat or Republican even though we may favor one or the other. We are simply proud to take up the cause of Catholicism, spreading the Gospel of Christ. God Bless.

  • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

    Excellent Post! Reblogged.

    I am pro legal immigration. I am pro immigrant but just wish that they would respect our laws and America’s sovereignty. Some come here and purposely separate themselves from their families. I understand that other countries have a rougher time than the U.S. but if their basic needs are met in their country of citizenship there is no legitimate reason to break the law to enter the U.S. But, if immigrants basic needs are unable to be met then immigrants have every right to cross the border into the United States.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=756600456 Ron Chandonia

    Thanks for the heads-up on a very worthwhile piece! I just wish Catholics would realize that truly FAITHFUL citizenship does not end with voting for one of the two less-than-ideal choices we are given. We need to follow up on those who supported and remind them that some of their policy preferences are ought of line with our values. Will they listen? If enough people remind them, they will listen.

  • Anne

    For the record, on the immigration issue, what I wrote and what that article Mark sent with regard to the number of deportations that have occurred during the Obama administration don’t really conflict. The administration’s Homeland Security department reviewed enforcement policy in June and redirected prosecutions to illegal immigrants with criminal records only. However, the Department of Justice has also gone after tstates that have enacted laws that led to blanket deportations and other anti-worker practices. Federal suits were filed against Alabama, South Carolina, Arizona, and Utah. Last I read, the DOJ was conducting “talks” with Georgia and Indiana. In other words, as with so many other matters, Obama didn’t try nearly hard enough early enough but he’s moving in the right direction, which is a far cry from what the other party would do if it followed what most of its leaders claim is their position on the issue.

  • Anne

    “I do believe it is sinful to vote for a pro-abortion candidate.”

    I’d say that’s only true if the election is a referendum on abortion; otherwise, this is another one of those issues many take a stand on for the sole purpose of gaining votes (and Democrats actually gain votes when they add “pro-choice” to their credentials). Most politicians can do little to nothing on that particular issue. In any case, this really screws up the American tradition of rule by two major political parties. Until this sort of ideological litmus test came into being, American political parties functioned as broad coalitions made up of many smaller interest groups, some of which barely coalesced; they certainly weren’t made up solely of people who thought exactly alike on every issue. Demanding ideological (or to the perceiver, moral) purity has led to a state of all-out war between the two parties and the kind of ideological obstructionism we’ve seen in Congress for the past few years. Not good.

    • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

      While politicians aren’t able to do a whole lot on the issue of abortion on the federal level, with the exception of confirming judicial nominees, the President plays a big role in who gets nominated to the court so if you support a pro-choice president the chances of Roe v. Wade being overturned is nil. I contend that if Catholics had voted for the Right To Life for the unborn over the past 20-25 years the probability that Roe v. Wade would have been overturned is pretty high or very likely. To me abortion is the most crucial issue because the Church has issued doctrine on the issue of abortion, it is an intrinsic evil, it involves the taking of a human life, and should be set apart in importance because it isn’t a prudential matter. Abortion is murder, the purposeful killing of a human life. So to lump all the issues together and think they are all of equal importance is wrongheaded IMO.

      • http://bullpasturechronicles.blogspot.com BullPasture

        Well stated.

      • Mark Gordon

        Teresa, here is where the Church disagrees with you about isolating from and/or elevating abortion above other intrinsically and gravely evil acts:

        Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature “incapable of being ordered” to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church’s moral tradition, have been termed “intrinsically evil” (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that “there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object”. The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: “Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator”.(Gaudium et Spes) – Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor (#80)

        Now, I don’t intend to vote for either Barack Obama or the likely Republican nominee, but it seems to me that we have a special obligation to call Catholic politicians to account when their policy positions directly violate the teaching of the Church. As you know it happens all the time to Catholic politicians who are pro-choice on abortion. AS IT SHOULD. But pro-life Catholic candidates who hold policy positions that violate Church teaching on other matters are usually given a pass, even when those other matters include grave evils like torture or pre-emptive warmaking.

        In this cycle we have two Catholics running for president: Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Both have defended the torture regime erected under George W. Bush, and both have promised to reinstate it under their Administrations. In effect, both are promising to directly commit acts which are instrisically evil, and to do it on our behalf. Both have also promised to go to war with Iran, not in response to an Iranian attack, but pre-emptively, as the aggressor. And again, they have promised to personally commit this act, which would violate Church teaching on war and peace (CCC #2307-2330).

        So here’s the difference between a politician who is pro-choice on abortion, like Barack Obama, and Rick Santorum (or Newt). The former advocates for the preservation of an existing legal structure in which pregnant women and doctors are free to decide whether to commit instrinsically evil acts. The pro-choice politician is not promising to commit those acts himself, nor is he necessarily advocating that others commit them. If elected, at worst he would be guilty of passive material cooperation with evil.

        Rick Santorum, on the other hand, promises to personally commit or direct others to commit evil acts: the deliberate torture of human beings and unprovoked armed aggression. If he was elected and carried out those acts, Santorum would be guilty of active formal cooperation with evil, which would put him – and those who voted for him – in a far more grave moral situation than the pro-choice politician.

        It is not too much to ask that Catholic politicians adopt positions that reflect Catholic teaching in all respects. After all, it’s not too much to ask that Catholics generally live their personal lives in accordance with Catholic teaching. The principles of Catholic Social Teaching – the dignity of the person, the primacy of family and community, balancing rights with responsibilities, the preferential option for the poor, the dignity of work and the rights of workers, solidarity, and the care for God’s creation – are a seamless whole.

        • http://bullpasturechronicles.blogspot.com BullPasture

          Mark,

          Your quote from John Paul II is thought provoking but I think your reasoning is fundamentally flawed. John Paul II acknowledged that “circumstances and intentions” influence the morality of acts which are intrinsically wrong.

          Torture is, like pornography, something that is ill defined. The Bush administration has been accused of conducting torture because of its use of water boarding. We subject our own military to water boarding. What constitutes torture is not clearly defined. Additionally, there are conceivable circumstances under which torture, while still evil, might be the least evil choice available. Do I torture the man who knows where the nuke is hidden or do I let a million people be incinerated?

          War can likewise be complicated. What constitutes aggressive war? If I am cornered in an alley with two men with baseball bats is it wrong to throw a punch before they swing? Must I wait to be attacked when doing so would be fatal?

          By all means Catholic politicians should be held to account for their fidelity to Church teaching but let’s not make invalid comparisons. A politician who supports abortion is always choosing to facilitate an intrinsically evil act for which no circumstances mitigate the morality of their choice. They are always choosing more killing over less. A politician who supports what you consider torture, or what you consider aggressive war, may be forced into circumstances where each choice available is intrinsically evil and their intentions may mitigate the morality of their choice. They may be choosing less killing over more.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        Well said, Mark. I was actually coming here to make a similar comment, but you have said all I wanted to and more.

      • Thales

        So here’s the difference between a politician who is pro-choice on abortion, like Barack Obama, and Rick Santorum (or Newt). The former advocates for the preservation of an existing legal structure in which pregnant women and doctors are free to decide whether to commit instrinsically evil acts. The pro-choice politician is not promising to commit those acts himself, nor is he necessarily advocating that others commit them. If elected, at worst he would be guilty of passive material cooperation with evil.

        I’m not dismissing what you’re saying about politicians who advocate torture and unlawful armed aggression — those are serious concerns that a voter needs to think about. But with this contraception mandate fiasco, I think it becomes impossible to say that “The former advocates for the preservation of an existing legal structure in which pregnant women and doctors are free to decide whether to commit instrinsically evil acts.” Personally, I have no confidence that Pres. Obama respects conscience rights and religious freedom on the life issues. And that attack on the Church is a deal-breaker for me more than any flaws of the GOP candidates.

        It was interesting to see the recent post over on Mark Shea’s blog. He’s no fan of the GOP and doesn’t vote for the GOP. But he’s pondering whether he’ll be forced to because of the newly-revealed stance of Pres. Obama.

      • Mark Gordon

        @BullPasture. You wrote that you are a convert from Evangelicalism. I am, too. Welcome home. I’m not sure how long you’ve been Catholic or what was involved in your formation, but your comments here give evidence of some significant gaps in your understanding of our faith.

        First, the quote from John Paul II wasn’t merely “thought provoking.” It included a citation from Guadium et Spec the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which commands the intellectual assent of Catholics.

        Second, the reference to circumstance and intentions doesn’t in any way mitigate the evil of the acts JPII refers to as intrinsece malum, intrinsically evil. His reference instead preserves the teaching that individual culpability may be mitigated by circumstances (lack of freedom) or intentions (lack of knowledge), but that the acts themselves are always and everywhere evil in and of themselves, and can never be approved.

        Third, the definition of “torture” is not open, except for those who wish for political reasons to explain away or justify its recent use. As for waterboarding, it has always been considered torture. We prosecuted and hanged Japanese soldiers after World War II for waterboarding American prisoners. The US Army field manuals for interrogation have always identified waterboarding as a form of torture. As for waterboarding American soldiers, as a former US Army officer I was waterboarded as part of my SERE (survival, evasion, resistance & escape) training. It was conducted in a controlled setting by friendly NCO’s, lasted no longer than 10 seconds and was for training purposes only, as a way of preparing us for torture by an enemy. Moreover, the quote from Guadium et Spes identifies violations of the “integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit …” That includes all forms of torture, including waterboarding, which induces severe mental distress.

        Fourth, you clearly have no idea that the Church has always condemned consequentialism, an approach to moral reasoning that is neatly summed up in these words of yours: “…there are conceivable circumstances under which torture, while still evil, might be the least evil choice available. Do I torture the man who knows where the nuke is hidden or do I let a million people be incinerated?” In a word, according to the Church, no. You do not torture that man because in the Catholic moral tradition ends do not justify means. It is never permissible to do evil that good may come of it. Sorry. You may not have understood that when you came into the Church, but you do now.

        Finally, on war, the Church lays out very strict conditions (CCC #2307-2317) for military defense. There is no provision whatsoever for pre-emptive war, that is war undertaken in the absence of aggression. In fact, in the absence of aggression the one who acts pre-emptively is in fact the aggressor (which is why the Church declared the American invasion of Iraq to be morally indefensible). You use the analogy of two men with baseball bats cornering you in an alley. Obviously, that analogy fails completely when one considers the military power of the United States, which spends more on “defense” than the rest of the world combined. Again, sorry, but you cannot justify the contemporary American penchant for military aggression using Catholic moral reasoning.

        • Ronald King

          I cannot help myself. This is a prime example of why Vox Nova is the best Catholic blog.

      • Mark Gordon

        It was interesting to see the recent post over on Mark Shea’s blog. He’s no fan of the GOP and doesn’t vote for the GOP. But he’s pondering whether he’ll be forced to because of the newly-revealed stance of Pres. Obama.

        Thales, you may be surprised to learn that Mark Shea is a declared supporter of Ron Paul, and that Ron Paul is still a Republican. Last I knew, anyway.

      • Thales

        Mark,
        Okay, but that doesn’t change my point that Mark S. didn’t vote GOP and wasn’t going to vote GOP because he finds that the GOP is generally objectionable on the war issues.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        Mark,

        Now seriously: as to “intrinsece malum” I would finally like to get an answer to a quandary I have proposed several times on all sort of Catholic blogs, apropos this very subject. Pope Julius II was fond of excommunicating whole communities. In those days an judgment of excommunication meant that the person could be killed and his/her property taken away without moral taint. Julius excommunicated the whole city of Venice….men, women and children. This meant he was authorizing the (at least potentially) the destruction of every innocent child in the city of Venice at the time, who in fact had absolutely nothing to do with the incredibly petty (by our standards) contretemps between the Papacy and the the Doge. Now how can you or anyone say that the RC Church has never assented or promoted an “intrinsece malum”?? For Julius II is universally recognized to have been magnificently corrupt, and such judgments were utterly pernicious surely. If there is a huge question on that, how can anyone claim a less than questionable status for other Papal procnoucements. Seriously!??

    • Thales

      Just my $.02. I classify the current contraception mandate controversy in with other abortion issues, and obviously, the choice of politician affects the issue.

  • http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/kylecupp/ Kyle R. Cupp

    I agree that the church shouldn’t belong to any party, but not so much because the issues of importance do not line up. The parties are not the friend of the church. To them, the church serves as an instrument of rallying and garnering votes. They use the church, not so much the other way around. What matters, at dawn and dusk, is power.

    • Brian Martin

      Kyle is clearly a student of history…..politician, political parties and rulers have always tried to use and or co-opt religion as a way of controlling or influencing people. One wonders what would have happened to Martin Luther had the socio-political atmosphere in Europe not been what it was.

    • Mark Gordon

      Agree completely.

  • Robert Klingle

    But if the issue is ….. or care for the poor, then they’re all “just a bunch of Democrats

    Is this the reason the Church is against P.L. 111-148?

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    I can’t help feeling confirmed in my essential analysis by the article in the NY times today about the Catholic Bishops having “pre”-planned the whole contraception controversy from the start. This sheds a light on the authentic desire to find a meaning outside two-party politics for their beliefs. No one should denigrate that desire, as it shows a desire to get to something deeper than the maelstrom of our oligarchical “democracy”. Yet, at the same time, we all have to grow up sometime and accept that only children can judge their actions by simple intents: “I didn’t mean to….” Rather in a responsible and adult world we must accept what the consequences of our actions is and make judgments thence.

    What the NY Times piece shows is that in the very designs of the Bishops’ conference there is a resultant set of actions that just happens to serve the very monied Republican interests. I agree how an organization, which is indisputably serving the poor in many good ways, has been embroiled in the pursuit of its own deep convictions, to serve a very different master is simply amazing. One good thing about living in a town like DC is that you quickly learn there are a lot of people a lot more clever and wily than you are. I have watched those Bishops’ conferences on EWTN, and well, these guys do not seem the brightest bulbs by a long shot. It is hardly inconceivable that they have been snookered to use their own commitments –from contraception to charitable endeavors — to be a perhaps unknowing flack for some very wealthy captains of industry.

    At any rate, with today’s article I don’t think the argument that the RC Church is somehow outside of political machination can be entertained seriously, and thus the Monsignor’s nicely-done article is simply moot. The Times article shows that shills like Weigel and bottom-feeders like the former Kramerbooks maven, were just itching to enter into this little “pre”-planned attacks. J’Accuse ya’ll of being toadies.

    • Kurt

      J’Accuse.

      Not the first time the J’Accuse has been thrown at the Catholic Right. :)

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        Let me say with tongue in cheek, that if we could somehow round them all up and put them on Devil’s Island to spend their time scrupulously avoiding having gay sex with one another, that would be something!

  • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

    @Mark

    I consider an innocent life to have more weight or a right to a higher level of human dignity than a terrorist or a criminal. The Church has not defined or declared that enhanced interrogation techniques are torture. Now, you can rely on some Leftist human rights organization’s definition of torture and their declaration that enhanced interrogation techniques are “torture” but until the Church specifically makes a declaratory statement of doctrine which denounces those techniques then they have left wiggle room to prudentially support those techniques or to not support those techniques. I don’t think that the techniques are good. They may be evil. They may not be evil. Even St. Thomas Aquinas justified what he called “torture” in some circumstances. I definitely don’t see them as being considered intrinsically evil. But I do think that in the rare instances (in comparison to the number of innocents lost due to abortion — over 54 million abortions since Roe v. Wade) they have used these methods of interrogation in the past and may be used in the future that it is a necessity for our nation’s national security which the president takes an oath to protect and defend. I do not agree with the seamless garment. That has done irreparable harm to the pro-life movement with relation to the unborn. That gave pro-choice Democrats the ammo they needed to rationalize their position to promote the “choice” to murder innocents. I will even admit that the Bush administration may have authorized unnecessary enhanced interrogations. But after 9/11 Bush took his duties as president more seriously than ever, especially to protect citizens from harm.

    Moving on to the Iranian threats and Santorum’s position on the matter. That is a prudential matter. The Catechism as a whole is not an infallible document. It has elements in it that are indeed infallible but the section on whether or not a country has the right to declare war preemptively or not is not infallible and not included under faith and morals. The matters related to war have not been declared to be either infallible, definitive or irreformable. But abortion is on the list of definitive teachings. That is a huge difference between supporting Obama versus Santorum. When you support someone like Obama you are supporting an intrinsic evil which has been declared as a definitive teaching by the Church and when someone votes for Santorum or Gingrich they are not disobeying a definitive teaching because their has been no definitive teaching on war, but a matter of prudential judgement.

    • Ronald King

      Wouldn’t it be best to address the causes of abortion?

    • Mark Gordon

      This is just too funny not to respond. The “Leftist human rights organization” I invoked was the U.S. Army (and by the way, I served. Did you?). Waterboarding is and always was considered torture in this country until the Bush administration decided to deploy it (and other forms of torture) and invent a new euphemism, “enhanced interrogation techniques.” That’s tortured language, if nothing else, but the “enhanced” part of that Orwellian phrase means “torture.” Now, you may approve of torture, and you clearly do. Just have the balls and the integrity to say it. Instead, you demand that the Holy See publish an index of prohibited practices before you will relent and stop promoting something YOU KNOW to be immoral. But, in fact the Holy See already did that, in Guadium et Spes, when the Fathers wrote “whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit.” There is no one, NO ONE, who denies that waterboarding is at the very minimum a form of mental torture … Except you, John Woo, and George W. Bush.

      On Iran, I think it’s a kick that you start off by discounting the value of the Catechism for forming your conscience. Great way to start for a Catholic. That’s the kind of logic I would expect (and very often hear) from pro-choicers, but of course you are pro-choice on war and torture … Pre-emptive war against Iran is not a prudential matter, just as Iraq wasn’t a prudential matter, which is why our invasion earned the condemnation of the Holy See (while the invasion of Afghanistan, undertaken in response to unjust aggression, did not).

  • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

    “We prosecuted and hanged Japanese soldiers after World War II for waterboarding American prisoners.”

    Waterboarding wasn’t necessarily the *reason* why we prosecuted the Japanese during WWII. That may have been one component but it wasn’t *the* reason. The Japanese didn’t just practice waterboarding but also practiced a severe version called the “water cure”.

    Prove your’re for liberty and post my comment in moderation, Mark. Just to let you know I have it saved for my blog if for some reason you don’t post my comment.

    I covered the issue of torture here. There is no clear cut definition of torture. http://catholibertarian.com/2012/01/03/the-tortured-definition-of-torture/

    • Mark Gordon

      Teresa, believe me, posting your comments does more to detract from your arguments than withholding them. I find it odd that you reposted “Catholic Firsters, Unite!” by the way. You are Exhibit A (Nancy Pelosi would be Exhibit B) of Catholics who are willing to think with the mind of the Church only if the Church doesn’t contradict their political parties or favored candidates. Pelosi and those like her will never be Catholic Firsters as long as they insist on being Democrat and Liberal Firsters. And you, Teresa, will never be a Catholic Firster so long as you insist on being a Republican and Conservative Firster.

  • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

    YOU WILL ALWAYS BE A DEMOCRAT PROGRESSIVE FIRST SO YOUR POST IS DISINGENUOUS!!! YOU ARE A COMPLETE FAKE!!! YOU BELIEVE IN BIG GOVERNMENT OVER THE CHURCH. I BELIEVE IN THE CHURCH FIRST and FOREMOST.

    • Mark Gordon

      As a matter of fact, I am a registered independent in the State of Rhode Island. Go ahead, you can look it up. And until 2010 I had been a registered Republican my entire adult life. I was even Republican town chairman until 2008. But I’ve decided to be a Catholic Firster and stand with the Church against the violations of her teaching in both parties. You, on the other hand, are full of endless justifications for those violations committed by your party.

      Be a Catholic first, Teresa.

    • Kurt

      Teresa, leaving the issue of contraception aside, clearly some Catholics are not getting needed pharmaceuticals from their health plan. God bless you.

  • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

    YOU are against national security and innocent civilians who have the right to live. You are a moral coward who would condemn thousands to die all in the name of moral superiority. You are the epitome of an immoral Catholic, just like Pelosi. You worship at the altar of Obama. You worship at the altar of Big Government. You have no critical thinking skills. You just follow the progressive way like a clueless robot. I prefer to worship at the altar of Jesus.

    THIS IS PROGRESSIVE CATHOLYC BLOG, NOT SIMPLY A CATHOLIC BLOG!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Mark Gordon

      Once again, Teresa, I actually served in uniform. And my son is a decorated combat veteran of the Iraq War. How about you? You’re a big patriot. Did you serve?

  • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

    I AM A CATHOLIC FIRST!!!! JUST DELETED MY REBLOG YOUR POST!! YOUR CATHOLIC SNOBBERY IS NOT WORTHY OF MY BLOG. GO LEARN HOW TO BE A GOOD CATHOLIC. YOUR MISTREATMENT OF A FELLOW CATHOLIC SUCH AS MYSELF SHOWS HOW MUCH OF AN IMMORAL SCHMUCK YOU ARE. PRAYING FOR YOUR SOUL BECAUSE IT SURE NEEDS IT WAY MORE THAN I DO AS EVIDENCED BY YOUR COMMENTS.

    • Mark Gordon

      Everyone should note how absolutely unhinged Teresa has become. One can only imagine that her anger is a deep-seated response to having all her pretty little lies exposed.

      • http://bullpasturechronicles.blogspot.com BullPasture

        Mark,

        In my earlier comment below I responded to you regarding your quote from Guadium et Spes. I don’t know how it got out of synch with the thread. If you have time I would appreciate a response. I do not like that there are factions within the Church. I have no delusions about eliminating factions but I can try not to contribute to them by giving respectful consideration to the rationale of those I find myself in initial disagreement with.

  • http://bullpasturechronicles.blogspot.com BullPasture

    Mark, thanks for the welcome. I am always open to a better understanding of the faith as well as the opportunity to more clearly make my point.

    I am fully aware that Guadium et Spec commands intellectual assent. In referring to the quote as thought provoking I didn’t meant to imply that the teaching is t a mere suggestion. What I meant to convey was that it seemed self-evident to me that support for abortion was such a distinct moral evil that I didn’t understand how a Catholic could justify supporting a pro-abortion candidate. With that reference I now understand the position even though I still disagree.

    We are in agreement that Guadium et Spec teaches that the acts in question are always intrinsically evil and that circumstances and individual capability may mitigate individual culpability. I believe you err when you contend that the teaching doesn’t allow for isolating or elevating abortion in comparison to waterboarding or aggressive war.

    There is some room for isolating/elevating abortion vis a vis waterboarding/aggressive war within the text itself. Guadium classifies abortion among those things which are “hostile to life” and torture as something which “violates the integrity of the human person.” A distinction is made in the text – there must be a reason. Severity of the disorder seems to be the most fitting explanation.

    We agree that circumstances and intentions don’t change the act from one which is evil into one which is not buy they can affect the degree of guilt of the transgressor. I cannot conceive of circumstances and intentions which mitigate the guilt of a politician who votes to make abortion easier to obtain. I can imagine circumstances, which I suggested previously, where a president could be forced to choose between two evils. This does not mean that I am attempting to justify either torture (conceding for this discussion that waterboarding qualifies) or preemptive war.

    The issue at hand was not whether torture or aggressive war is justifiable under Catholic teaching. We are in agreement that they are not. The issue is whether there is a moral difference between voting for a pro-abortion candidate versus voting for a candidate who supports waterboarding or preemptive war in circumstances. You have portrayed it as a choice between one who “advocates for …an existing legal structure in which pregnant women and doctors are free to decide whether to commit instrinsically evil acts…” and one who “promises to personally commit or direct others to commit evil acts: the deliberate torture of human beings and unprovoked armed aggression.” I suggest this formulation is unfairly tilted.

    We agree that all three acts are evil according to Church doctrine. The next question to ask ourselves would be if there are circumstances or intentions which mitigate the culpability of the candidate who would choose an evil act. If there is no option to choose a candidate who doesn’t support any evil acts (which seems so often to be the case) then it would seem proper to choose the candidate who can point to circumstances and or intentions related to their choice that would mitigate their culpability. I can think of no circumstances which mitigate the choice to support abortion. I have given you examples where it may be diminished with regard to torture and war.

    I have tried to understand your line of reasoning and think I have treated it fairly. I would appreciate the same consideration. My analogy of the men with the baseball bats had nothing to do with the relative strength of the combatants. It had everything to do with pointing out that aggression is not defined by who throws the first punch. That was obvious and your dismissal of the analogy wasn’t substantive. Likewise you presume incorrectly that I am attempting to justify the American penchant for military aggression. I agree with the Church that both Iraq wars were unjustified. I believe the war in Afghanistan was justifiable but that justification ended in December of 2001. I think the likely attack on Iran will also be without justification. I think we spend far too much on our military.

    I am simply contending that if the choice is between a candidate who chooses an evil with no mitigating factors and one who chooses evil with potentially mitigating factors (that is the best we can hope for this election), then the latter is the lessor evil.

  • dudley sharp

    To be clear, good Christian Catholics can support the death penalty.

    • brettsalkeld

      To be clear, good Christian Catholics can only support the death penalty in very specific circumstances – circumstances which virtually never obtain in the US.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    “And until 2010 I had been a registered Republican my entire adult life. I was even Republican town chairman until 2008.”

    Q.E.D., or

    “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

  • grega

    Teresa it is so sad to see you so full of rage and hate towards your fellow Catholics.
    Perhaps try to take a step back – relax – live by giving an example – do not expect that
    everybody follows your example – if you must feel very good about your splendor but please
    try to keep a corner in your heart open to the idea that folks who might not look eye to eye with you on a good number of issues perhaps are still very fine Catholics.
    You can be assured that out of a Billion + Catholics only a rather small orthodox American subtribe of $10 million (?) can even understand what you are all excited about –
    most of your fellow very conservative Catholics around the globe can not afford your Tribes
    posturing and politics – you feel all high and mighty yet in the global context you are a speck.

    • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

      Grega – Please open your eyes and see how the comments devolved into an accusatory and hostile manner. I may have ended it out of frustration from having been mistreated, mischaracterized, character assassinated by Mark but he is the person who started it.

      If you think this is a rant you ain’t seen nothing yet. My real venting was done on my political blog Teresamerica. That’s where the fireworks appeared.

      Have a good night and God Bless.

  • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

    Mark is the person who claimed the bully pulpit and first made an accusation that I was a Republican first, and a Catholic second. Then he continued to falsely accuse me of many things. And, he outright made nonfactual statements with regards to various aspects of Catholicism. Mark acted just like other progressives and provoked. Well, the claws came out in defense of my honor and Catholic integrity. I get much better treatment from conservatives than I have on on this blog. So, if you consider your treatment of me to be Catholic, welcoming, and having a civil discussion I feel sorry for you Mark, because you are the one who departed from being nice into nastiness after I as a fellow Catholic, even though we disagree on some issues, reposted your post.

    If you consider me saying I am praying for him to be hostile I’m puzzled. It don’t make sense.

    You are in my prayers.

    Until you say I’m sorry to me Mark for your hostile treatment of me, BYE.

  • brian martin

    Wow. Sanctimonious accusations of “YOU AREN’T A TRUE CATHOLIC…BUT I AM” and all in LARGE CAPS…The blogging equivalent of screaming. Wow…..I’m …almost speechless and that almost never happens. I cringe at the self appointed spokespersons of Catholicism on the web. Modern day Pharisees, all wrapped up in self righteous indignation if someone disagrees with their politics or their interpretation of Church Teaching…which seems to be picked and chosen in ways that best support their nationalistic and political leanings. As Mark Shea calls it…Tribalism

    • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

      No, Brian Martin Mark became the spokesman for Catholicism when he said this:

      “Teresa, believe me, posting your comments does more to detract from your arguments than withholding them. I find it odd that you reposted “Catholic Firsters, Unite!” by the way. You are Exhibit A (Nancy Pelosi would be Exhibit B) of Catholics who are willing to think with the mind of the Church only if the Church doesn’t contradict their political parties or favored candidates. Pelosi and those like her will never be Catholic Firsters as long as they insist on being Democrat and Liberal Firsters. And you, Teresa, will never be a Catholic Firster so long as you insist on being a Republican and Conservative Firster.”

      See I originally displayed Catholic unity and cordiality until this….

      Mark, I dare to post this since you refused to post my last two responses. What a coward and anti-liberty person you are. So hypocritical of Lefties like yourself to proclaim the mantle of liberty while not practicing what you preach.

      • Brian Martin

        and in the face of that you resort to the internet equivalent of shrieking.
        nmae calling by anyone….Cheap
        Destroying Your own credibility…priceless

  • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

    @Brian Didn’t know I was yelling internet style. Sorry about the yelling internet style out of frustration.

    So your okay with Mark’s attacking my Catholicity? First, at that?

    You are all in my prayers.

    • Ronald King

      Teresa, Playing psychotherapist from my couch I respectfully suggest that you tell Mark that his remarks had hurt you deeply. God Bless.

      • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

        I will take your advice. Thank you for caring. God Bless.

        Mark, your accusatory comments hurt me deeply (actually still hurts) and that is why I responded in kind. I felt like this statement is apropos because this is how I felt “no good deed goes unpunished”. That is how I felt after having reblogged this post and afterward having my Catholicity questioned or my character assassinated. My reaction was an overreaction and for that I am sorry.

        • Mark Gordon

          And I apologize for hurting your feelings. Your continued prayers are appreciated and you can be assured of mine. Thank you Ronald for brokering this engagement.

          • Ronald King

            Teresa and Mark, I love humility. I have very little, but when I see others express it, I AM OVERJOYED:) God Bless you two.

      • http://frank.muennemann.com Frank M.

        I also am grateful to see patience and backing down from anger without backing away from strong beliefs. This is a fine example and a good day at VN.

  • Brian Martin

    I’m tired of angry voices all around from people who are Christian and/or Catholic.

    My own included :)

    That’s why I generally like it here. Because for the most part, disagreement is relatively civil, even when people pointedly disagree.
    At least in compared to many other spots on the web.
    I suspect that most of us fall short in the area of Catholic First…as our natural inclination is to fit things into our worldview.

    • Ronald King

      Me too:)

  • Rodak

    Does the slogan “Catholic First” really mean anything? By which I’m asking, by the time one has moved on to whatever comes “second” and thence to whatever comes “third,” is one still “Catholic,” having accommodated oneself to those next steps? I don’t think so. At least I don’t think so if one is meant to define “Catholic” as being synonymous with “Disciple of Christ.” I think all organized religion to which I’ve been exposed is a nearly total failure as anything more than a psychological “feel good” program; a way to mentally survive, and even be moderately happy, while daily piling up the guilt incurred by one’s involvement in that which is aptly called “the rat race.”

    • Mark Gordon

      Catholic first means putting your Catholic identity ahead of other allegiances such as party, ideology, even country. I’m sure that’s a difficult concept for a non-Catholic to grasp, but you have already documented your belief that Catholicism is just another manifestation of “organized religion.” I guess if you didn’t believe that you’d be one of us.

      • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

        @ Mark —

        What were the “seconds” and “thirds” that Christ had in mind when He commanded us to be “perfect like [our] Father in Heaven”?

        You don’t really address my point, I think. If one is anything but only Catholic, then one’s Catholicism is adulterated by whatever else one is. And whatever else the adulterating agents may be, they are certainly less than, and usually even antagonistic to, Catholicism.

        Christ wanted saints, not fans.

        • Mark Gordon

          Okay. I was on the road when I answered you last time, and my phone often deprives me of context and therefore full understanding.

          You wrote: Does the slogan “Catholic First” really mean anything? By which I’m asking, by the time one has moved on to whatever comes “second” and thence to whatever comes “third,” is one still “Catholic,” having accommodated oneself to those next steps? I don’t think so. At least I don’t think so if one is meant to define “Catholic” as being synonymous with “Disciple of Christ.” I think all organized religion to which I’ve been exposed is a nearly total failure as anything more than a psychological “feel good” program; a way to mentally survive, and even be moderately happy, while daily piling up the guilt incurred by one’s involvement in that which is aptly called “the rat race.”

          It’s not a question of steps. It’s a recognition that we all have multiple, concurrent, and hopefully complementary identities. For instance, I am a father, husband, son, brother and friend. I’m also a business owner, community activist, and citizen of my state and nation. And most importantly, I’m a Christian. It is that identity that must come first, both in my personal life, as well as my business, community, and political life. Those other identities are inescapable because I live in a social context; indeed, we are called to live in and can really only know ourselves in the context of the various societies we inhabit: the family, community, friendships, political parties, etc. Being a Christian in the world isn’t a question of shedding those identities, but of arranging them in their proper order. And you’re right, being a disciple of Christ should have preeminence, and that’s what I strive for.

          I use the term “Catholic Firster” because Catholics believe that the normative way to be a disciple of Christ is as a member of the visible Church founded by Christ, which we hold to be the Catholic Church. It isn’t a question of Christian being 1A and Catholic being 1B. For us, the terms Catholic and Christian are practically interchangeable. This is how we are disciples of Christ, and this is how we hope to become saints.

      • Julia Smucker

        When you put it this way, Mark, it further clarifies for me the Mennonite influence that leads me to share this position as a Catholic. Mennonites have always retained, to one degree or another, something of a “Christ against culture” bent (to use H. Richard Niebuhr’s terminology), particularly in terms of Christian identity coming before all other allegiances.

    • http://bullpasturechronicles.blogspot.com BullPasture

      Perhaps you haven’t become acquainted with the Catholic faith.

  • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

    @ Mark —

    “Those other identities are inescapable because I live in a social context…”

    As do we all, and that is precisely the point at which I raise my question. Jesus did not live in a social context. His twelve disciples (and presumably many others of whom we know very little) did not either. They dropped their nets, or whatever, left their homes and families, and followed Him. I don’t know that “the social context” is compatible with discipleship. Obviously, I’m asking nothing new here. Fewer and fewer people seem to be asking this question, apparently having decided that it’s already been answered. It troubles me, since I can’t make “the social context” fit into the Beatitudes. I’m not rich, by American middle-class standards, but I still feel like that camel, getting closer and closer to the needle’s eye and thinking, “No effing way…”

    • Ronald King

      Rodak, I think I know what you mean. For the last 5 years I have had this thought about what it means to give up everything to follow Him. It troubles me deeply at times because I do know what it means, at least to me. Do you remember the Terry Fox story?

      • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

        I remember that there was a Terry Fox story. But I don’t remember the specifics of it. You’d need to refresh my memory.

        As for my comment, not only do I not see the possibility of living as a disciple of Christ while operating daily in “a social context,” but I have not, in my experience, even met anybody who was making a real, good faith effort, to move in that direction in any fundamental way. I have seen people who work in soup kitchens, visit hospitals, and give what they feel to be large amounts of money to charity organizations; of course I have. And those are all good things. But those things are all add-ons to the daily lives of the persons I’ve seen engaged in them. The rest of the time, they are busy pursuing careers that are very much “of the world,” not merely “in the world.” They are supportive of the societal expression of various kinds of hate, often without being conscious that they are doing so. I don’t think I need to elaborate any more on this to support my point. I think that we all know that it’s true: we don’t run into any saints in our normal daily lives. We are pretty certain that there are such individuals out there, but we don’t know them, or have any personal dealings with them. But, perhaps most importantly, we have no desire to be like them. We drop a coin in their cup and get on with it–whatever “it” is…

        • Ronald King

          If you have time google Terry Fox. He had a leg amputated because of cancer and began running across Canada to raise money and awareness for research and treatment of cancer. This took place, I think, in 1978 or ’79. He is an example of a disciple in my opinion.

    • Andrew

      Rodak, I understand this slogan of “Catholic First” differently than you do. I don’t personally think that it means that you necessarily have to drop everything like the original disciples, although it CAN mean that, depending on your situation.

      How I understand “Catholic First” in general is as a call not to refuse a “social context”, but to infuse one’s faith into every part of one’s social context instead. For instance, I have a job currently that provides me a salary. There is nothing particularly Catholic about doing that. However, I can challenge myself everyday to try to “think like a Catholic” in the context of doing my job. Does the job provide a loving societal benefit that has a wider implication than just profit for the company? To what extent can I steer the activities of the company in that direction? Are there co-workers I come across everyday who are hurting spiritually and emotionally? Can I do anything practical to help them? Are there small loving acts that I can perform in my daily interactions with co-workers, bosses, customers — even little things like pointing out that the headlights on their car are still on, or where they can find a place to recharge their cell phone? And do I at least mention that I am Catholic, at least as a conversation piece, so that when people see me (hopefully) performing these small acts out of love, can they perceive where the desire to do these acts comes from?

      To the extent I am able to do these things, I don’t see my Catholicism as being adulterated by whatever else I am in life, so much as seeing everything else being adulterated by my Catholicism. To me, being “Catholic First” means that my faith is the main thing that is doing the adulterating to the rest of my life.

      To some people, this might be a total cop-out. But I see it as a way of understanding “Catholic First” that is attainable, and that one could reasonably attempt to strive for every day.

      • Rodak

        @ Andrew —

        No, it isn’t a “total cop-out” and I don’t think that any decent person would see it that way. On the other hand, all of the things you mention are routinely done by professed atheists who are also nice, ethical people. There are many non-religious ‘leftists’ who obsess with doing what they can for the disadvantaged, sometimes at considerable personal sacrifice. I have no doubt that this pleases God. On the other hand, there were thoroughly decent individuals in the world long before the earthly ministry of Jesus. It doesn’t seem to me that He came to teach us how to be model citizens and thoughtful co-workers. In fact, He said explicitly that you don’t get any brownie points for doing what society expects of you, especially to you family and friends.

      • Ronald King

        Andrew, did you ever play the game “Risk”? It is a board game of armies battling each other to conquer the world. When on has many armies spread out defending many fronts then one is vulnerable to being overpowered by an army that is more consolidated. This is the way I see Christianity at work in the world in which there are many fronts in which Christianity is defending or attacking. We think that we are doing God’s work through our own individual efforts. However, Christ did say to give up everything to follow Him. I think we are living in denial or rationalization about the true meaning of giving up everything. We look at our immediate environment and do not have a global picture of what is needed to have a unified Christian movement. We get caught up in the intricacies of the small picture. It may happen that when we look at the big picture we react with a sense of being overwhelmed and powerless. This sense of powerlessness is learned helplessness operating. We also consciously or unconsciously model the behavior of our leaders and if their view is myopic then the general view of the followers will be myopic. Chirst expects us to give up everything. Our faith is fragmented because our leaders are defending and attacking many fronts all of which creates a fragmented faith. We then settle for less than what Christ expects of us.

      • Andrew

        @ Rodak

        I agree that we are called to be more than just nice people, as you say. That was not really what I was trying to convey. What I am suggesting is that Christianity *at its best* inculcates an attitude of universal love for all humanity which can be valid as such even when practiced locally. I don’t think one needs to be Christian in order to have this love, but I am of the opinion that it comes rather natually from a Christian worldview that we are all brothers and sisters in the care of a loving God. It may be conceit on my part, but I am of the opinion that such a worldview can sometimes lead to different “model behavior” that just what society expects, even when done in the course of performing ordinary societal tasks.

        Here is an example of what I mean. The other day I was at Costco, buying toilet paper because my family had run out. It was the end of the day, I was tired, and rather stressed because I had to get through the Costco line quickly so I wouldn’t be late picking up my children from school. In line behind me was a woman who also had toilet paper, and various other household products. Spontaneously, she started talking to me about how she had run out of several products all at once, how her family never told her that supplies were low, how she meant to go to Costco at lunchtime but didn’t manage to make it then, etc.

        I’m pretty sure that societal demands would have expected that I do no more than nod politely, and then suddenly find something interesting in my shopping cart to remove myself from the conversation. However, I found myself realizing that what this woman really wanted was some validation for her situation as an overworked, caring mother who was doing her best to look after her household. So I made the decision to really try to take interest in what she had to say and what her situation was. Our interchange maybe lasted only thirty seconds, but it was my hope that she felt that someone was really interested and cared for those thirty seconds. I don’t think my motivation for doing this was societal politeness, or because I wanted something from her, or because she was a fellow American or anything like that. It was simply an expression of love for someone else, a stranger, for no other reason than that she was another child of God.

        This was a very little little thing, and really amounts to nothing in the grand scheme of things, but I do feel that I turned my shopping trip into an opportunity to spread God’s love. Not to be a model citizen — to spread love. For that moment, I was a “Catholic First” and a Costco shopper second, and it is the former that adulterated the latter, not the other way around.

        I don’t doubt that there are atheists who are good people — quite likely some are better than I am. To me, that just proves that God’s love works through many avenues. In my own personal case, I can see that it is my faith that leads me to whatever goodness I am capable of, and the phrase “Catholic First” expresses that idea that I can infuse such goodness into all the things that I do everyday in my daily life.

      • Andrew

        @ Ronald

        I have played Risk; I’m terrible at it. Amongst other things, I am a terrible dice roller. :)

        I agree with you that the kind of myopia you describe is something to be fought against. But I also believe that it is worthwhile to spread God’s love AS ONE CAN, even if acknowledging that one is operating under the limitations of said myopia.

        One of the things I like about Catholicism is that (in my view at least) it promotes an idea that we are each an important part of a worldwide community that at its best is corporately able to overcome the myopia of its individual members. The fragmentation that you describe, although indeed troubling in certain aspects, can also be seen as a sign that the corporate Church is trying to spread God’s love in a multitude of avenues. It is the Church that celebrates the sainthood of such diverse figures as St. Francis and Joan of Arc. And hopefully, we are communally able to mitigate the effects of our personal myopia.

  • Rodak

    @ Ronald King —

    Yes, I had already looked Terry Fox up on Wikipedia. He certainly did pick up his cross and (literally) run with it.

  • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

    Ronald,

    In my opinion, Tony Melendez is another example of a disciple. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shK0DZHd81E

    • Ronald King

      Teresa, You’re killing me here. Man tears starting to form, head spinning with the reality that I am not worthy. Thank you and God Bless. Ron

    • Andrew

      That was beautiful. Thanks for sharing, Teresa.

  • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

    We all come from different backgrounds, different experiences that have happened in our lives and this affects how we view the world, which helps to form our different viewpoints in relation to various subjects such as politics, philosophy, morality et al. We are all called to be like Jesus. Jesus is perfection. We are sinners so to hold a view that we have to live up to a Jesus-standard of perfection in order to be considered a Catholic Firster is asking the impossible IMO. We all try to be Catholic Firsters but as sinners we fail at times. As long as we incorporate our Catholic faith into our everyday lives and try to put our faith first to the best of our abilities I believe that qualifies each of us as being Catholic Firsters. God Bless.

    • Mark Gordon

      God bless you.

      • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

        I will share something personal. Very personal. One reason I put more emphasis on sexual or social issues is because I have been sexually assaulted twice in my life. I blamed myself for the second one. That is one reason why it took me so long to heal after it. I will never forget one priest saying to me hindsight is 20/20. Plus, the second time it was extremely complicated due to the circumstances afterward. It is only by the grace of God that I am still Catholic. http://catholibertarian.com/2012/02/10/my-divine-providence-story/

        God Bless.

        • Mark Gordon

          Teresa, that is heartbreaking. It takes courage to reveal something like that. Since we are sharing, I will take a cue from your courage and share that I was sexually abused as a boy by a male family member. I came into the Church in 1997, but nearly lost my faith when the sex abuse scandal swept the Church in 2003. I was working for the Church at the time. I knew Cardinal Law and other bishops. I knew priests who were rightly accused. But the Lord preserved me and my trust in the Holy Spirit working in the Church only deepened. I credit Our Lady and the Holy Eucharist for that. So, we are two pilgrims struggling in our sinfulness to think with the mind of Christ.

        • Ronald King

          Teresa and Mark, You two are a perfect example of the strength of God’s Love in our Faith. God Bless.

  • Rodak

    @ Ronald King —

    As for Terry Fox having been a disciple, I don’t know… There is no mention on the website of the Foundation that bears his name, or in the biographical sketch there, of spiritual values being among his motivations. Certainly he was a hero. He was an athlete and a competitor with a very strong will to live and a desire to help others–all admirable traits. But I don’t know that a hero and a disciple are quite the same thing.

  • Brian Martin

    Teresa,
    My comment of Feb 13 11:00am was unduely sarcastic, and I appoligize. as I said, i am tired of angry voices…my own included. As I have noted elsewhere, we may be the body of Christ, but sometimes the best I am is the arse.

    • Ronald King

      Brian, you’re an arse(self-described) with Humility:)

    • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

      Apology accepted. I apologize for getting too heated and overreacting.

  • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

    Mark, I am so sorry. That is horrendous. Thank you for sharing. That took great courage. Because of the power that was used to shut me up at this Catholic university I could believe that the sex abuse among priests did happen when the sex abuse scandal became public. All I ever wanted to do was to prevent this guy from hurting other women and because the professor I rented from had introduced me to the guy who assaulted me the college wanted to keep it hush hush so they scapegoated me. God works in mysterious ways, though. I met my husband after this, as I was in the process of returning to the university. I jumped through a bunch of hoops until the college realized they had no justification to refuse to let me return to the university. I propped up priests and those in powerful positions at the college and put them up on a pedestal and trusted them way too much so when they didn’t walk the walk or didn’t do the right thing it hurt me tremendously. Let’s just say I learned a lesson from the whole situation.

    • Mark Gordon

      Yes, our trust is in God, not men (or women). My mother, an Evangelical, once asked me how I could trust the pope since he’s a sinful man like the rest of us. I told her I don’t trust the pope any farther than I can throw him. I trust the Holy Spirit working in the pope. Thank God you were able to learn your lesson but still see the Holy Spirit working in and through the Church and its sinful members. And you were given a great consolation in your suffering, your husband!

  • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

    I didn’t mean to give the impression that the catechism doesn’t matter because I think it does. Even if all that is in the catechism isn’t infallible it is right for us to give assent to the beliefs which are in it. My husband has even looked it up and stated that the catechism isn’t infallible as a whole. I’m not trying to be a pain here but I have always been taught that matters of war, whether the war is just or not, is a matter of prudential judgment, but not anything goes. When Pope John Paul said that the Iraq war was not just ( I looked this up too) I didn’t think that was a declaratory statement but rather his opinion. What I mean is did he write this in a church document? I thought that as Catholics it is right to give assent to his opinion but that we could disagree prudentially. I am open to correction or criticism on this matter. http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/p/Just_War_Theory.htm

    From Pope Benedict XVI as Cardinal Ratzinger: “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    http://www.ratzingerfanclub.com/blog/2006/05/toward-proper-understanding-of.html

    • Ronald King

      I hope you don’t mind me jumping in here for a minute. I agree that aboriton is a great trajedy and evil, however, looking at the psychodynamics of human relationships there is a great complexity that occurs in human development in the sense that when we are not validated as having value as a human being but instead are being formed into something we are not by those who do not know what they are doing, an underlying influence develops which is a combination of learned helplessness and the “basic fault”. These unconscious influences actually are the foundation of many human beings in this culture of consumerism and the pressure to create early independence in our children thus preventing them from having critical developmental attachment needs fulfilled. It leaves them with a sense of emptiness and longing. Now when you impose the culture of competition as a means to gain “self-worth” you will increase one’s anxiety and influence this person to develop even more defenses to portect self from the potential harm inflicted by others in the same competitive environment. Now introduce a violent world and the powerlessness to stop that violence. In my work I have seen this effect women more intensely physically and emotionally than men. I have observed and worked with a constant state of hyperarousal within women due to this undefined sense of everything being out of their control.
      I am attempting to make this short. I will say that it is likely that women get abortions due to being invalidated as women in this world from the earliest age and as a result feeling like an object that is used. In this state of mind how could a pregnant woman see the unborn child as a real human being if she doesn’t see herself as real. Another reason for abortions is the violence that permeates a woman’s unconscious and to defend against this unwanted intrusion she must numb herself in some way. We have transgenerational post traumatic stress influencing our decisions. Everytime there is violence it creates a solidification of those defenses which attempt to numb the person to this anxiety and helplessness.
      The only way to stop abortion is to validate the value of the woman and we men must stop the violence. If we do not stop the violence abortions will never stop. As I think about this it occurs to me that liberty and the liberal use of liberty for the masses is to distract self from the world of violence and feeling helpless to stop it. God Bless.

      • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

        First, I am going to ask when you refer to consumerism are you talking about materialism, or the consumerism which thrives on and promotes materialism?

        “Now when you impose the culture of competition as a means to gain “self-worth” you will increase one’s anxiety and influence this person to develop even more defenses to portect self from the potential harm inflicted by others in the same competitive environment.”

        Second, do you think this has more to do with societal pressures (societal norms) or with the values of the family, or both?

        Since women are more emotional beings – we internalize things – than men we are affected by violence more so than men. I also think that women are easier targets for crimes than men. For the most part, women aren’t able to defend themselves against men as well as men are able to defend themselves.

        Invalidation could be one reason why women choose to have abortions. Another, could be they are being used by men, the pro-choice industry, and society. Invalidation probably goes hand in hand with women being used. Could it be that more is expected of women today? That they are expected to live up to the same standards that men are? Do we need to recognize the differences between men and women instead of trying to push “manhood” on women? I am not saying that women shouldn’t be treated as equals per se, just as people who have different types of potentials to succeed. What’s weird is that I’ve seen women become more violent in the last twenty or thirty years. Could that be due to abuse? Probably.

  • brian martin

    Teresa, your observation about women becoming more violent rings true. I believe that it is traced to the blurring of gender expectations. Instead of celebrating that there are wonderful differences in men and women, or boys and girls, society in many ways either uses those differences to harm and objectify, or to suggest that to succeed, women must be more like men….or the perception of men..that they are not emotional, that they can have sex and not feel, that they can be violent and not feel. Ron, would you agree that the act of separating acts from emotions leads to a desensitization of the acts and even increasing levels of the acts, ie. sex and violence?
    The competative, combative nature of Capitalism, material culture seems to require or at least encourage seperating acts from emotion

  • Ronald King

    Teresa, I agree with everything you have written above. Since women’s brains are constructed somewhat differently from men they are going to react differently. I do not see them as being more emotional but I do see them as expressing their emotions more and differently than men. When I was doing marriage therapy I introduced myself as an interpreter and not a therapist. Men and women speak a different emotional language. A woman’s brain has a larger prefrontal cortex which and it wires itself earlier than a male’s, therefore, she will be more prone to think about consequences of behaviors and prone less to angry reactions than men. She also has a larger corpus collosum, which is the bundle of nerves connecting the right and left sides of the brain which will result in more communication between both halves influencing her to be more observant of the general environment than males. Males will tend to be more focused on one particular aspect rather than the general. This will affect differences in all areas of our lives. A woman’s brain also has more oxytocin receptors and they are located in the area of the brain where attachments are formed. This is what makes them vulnerable in relationships and this is what bonds them to their newborn child.
    As Brian stated above separating acts from emotions leads to desensitization. How does this happen in women? I threorize that this occurs through social conditioning and through the woman’s desire to bond with the male and her desire to be at least equal with the male in this competitive environment. This starts early in her life under the influence of the mirror neuron system which is located in the pre-motor and motor cortex of the brain which sets up behavioral responses to future situations. These neurons are also set up in the areas of the brain responsible for comprehending feelings, intent and language. When you have that working in coordination with identity formation and the strong desire to bond and have meaning, then you have the perfect storm when society changes from repression to expression of the rage which had been hidden by previous generations of women who were fearful of revealing their truth about their relationship with males. This freedom of expression of rage then unites women into a force that pursues “equality” with men but it means that they must fit into the game set up by the males. Consequently, they may use tactics which males use to achieve and also use the males’ desire for their attention as a means to power. This will alter the chemistry and wiring of the brain. I have seen an intense internal conflict in women being able to “have it all”. Women are 8 times more likely to have depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. This has triggered the thought that there continues to be a represseion taking place within women, as in men, with the resultant tragic outcomes of worldwide suffering. It is the repression of the authentic self which is the vulnerable self. When that occurs everything and everyone, including self, are objects to be used to gain what is valued in the culture.
    Did this make sense? Off the top of my head.

    • http://catholibertariandotcom.wordpress.com Teresa Rice

      Yes, it does make sense. I agree with everything you stated above.