My friend and mentor Ivan Kauffman has finally published this long-simmering and very timely article in America. I encourage everyone (every Catholic in America, if I had my druthers) to read the whole thing; it’s right up there with Bishop Richard Pates’ article which I quoted extensively this past August. Here’s a section that gets to the heart of it:
There are three options open to us, not just two—left, right and Catholic. The options offered by both the left and the right are based on ideology. The Catholic option is based on realism—the careful and patient discovery of facts and the search for policies based on both facts and on the Catholic imperative to preserve and enhance the common good. Catholic and centrist are not the same; we do not achieve the common good by splitting the difference between competing ideologies. We achieve the common good by finding and advocating solutions to the real problems of real people living in the real world.
Despite a widely expressed desire to end the partisan gridlock that now paralyzes American politics, it stubbornly continues and grows. And despite the U.S. Catholic bishops’ regular pleas for a new politics based on human rights and the common good, Catholics have been unable to offer a national alternative to the political warfare now taking place. Instead, we have contributed to it….Rather than becoming a moderating force in the civil war of ideas now taking place, we have allowed the secular political establishment to set the agenda for political debate within the Catholic Church itself. One does not have to be a theologian to see the defects in that development, nor a political expert to see where it will lead. What is the alternative? What are politically active Catholics to do when our real choice is between reality and ideology, not between conservative and liberal?
After a lifetime of struggling with these issues, I am convinced the greatest contribution U.S. Catholics can make is to organize coalitions of citizens—both Catholic and non-Catholic, conservative and liberal—to develop nonideological solutions to our major political problems and then to advocate them effectively.
Amen. May we rise to the occasion.