Democrats and Catholicism
September 18, 2012 Leave a comment
Read this Op-Ed this weekend about how liberal Catholics needs to make their voices heard more loudly from a distinctly Catholic-Christian perspective. Here’s the conclusion:
If the Democratic Party is not listening to liberal Catholics, it is partly because they are not in a position to speak very loudly. They are dodging the sights of a Roman hierarchy more preoccupied with smoking out left-leaning nuns than nurturing critical thinking. “Is liberal Catholicism dead?” Time wondered a few years back. The answer is no: in some regards, liberal Catholic intellectuals are flourishing. They are writing and teaching, running social justice initiatives at the church’s great universities, ensconced in professorships around the Ivy League. Yet a cozy academic subculture can be as isolating as it is empowering. The handful of nationally known Catholic political thinkers who might be called progressive, or at least compassionate and cosmopolitan — like the journalist-scholars Garry Wills and E. J. Dionne Jr., blogmeister Andrew Sullivan, or the feminist nun and blogger Sister Joan Chittister — are far outnumbered by the ranks of prominent Catholic conservatives in the trenches of activism and policy making.
Progressive Catholicism may not lend itself to punditry or mobilization. Reconciling religious tradition with modernity is a more nuanced endeavor than defending orthodoxy from any murmur of compromise, and allying with the poor is not a recipe for easy fund-raising. But if liberal Catholic ideas are not great fodder for culture-war sloganeering, they do offer a path to secular Democrats who, at the moment, are failing to address the basic questions of the human predicament.
Earlier in the piece, there’s this, which I just don’t buy:
Allowing Republicans to claim the mantle of Catholicism might cost the Democrats the election. As commentators have noted, Catholics may be the nation’s most numerous swing voters. Over the past few decades, Democratic leaders have alienated voters in one of the party’s historically strong constituencies. Through a series of ideological moves and cultural misjudgments, they have also cut themselves off from a rich tradition of liberal Catholic thought at a time when American culture requires politicians to articulate a mission that inspires religious and secular voters alike.
Republicans are claiming the mantle of Catholicism because that’s what the damn Church hierarchy is doing. To wit, this NRO interview with Archbishop Charles Chaput:
Do you believe a Catholic in good faith can vote for Obama?
I can only speak in terms of my own personal views. I certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion.
I’m not a Republican and I’m not a Democrat. I’m registered as an independent, because I don’t think the church should be identified with one party or another. As an individual and voter I have deep personal concerns about any party that supports changing the definition of marriage, supports abortion in all circumstances, wants to restrict the traditional understanding of religious freedom. Those kinds of issues cause me a great deal of uneasiness.
But he’s “independent.” Riiiiight. And, on the Ryan budget:
What about the wing of the church that says a party that supports the Ryan budget also ought to cause concern?
Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell. Period. There’s just no doubt about it. That has to be a foundational concern of Catholics and of all Christians. But Jesus didn’t say the government has to take care of them, or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. Those are prudential judgments. Anybody who would condemn someone because of their position on taxes is making a leap that I can’t make as a Catholic
To turn this around (all too easily), how about Democrats don’t say women have to have abortions or that gays have to marry each other, etc., just that the secular state government should allow these things. Or how about given the fact that we live in a community known as the United States of America, how do you justify arguing that this community should not do what it can economically to support the poor, hungry, etc. That’s a leap I cannot take as a Catholic.