It is contemptible and sad when people (particularly Catholics) “hijack” Catholic Social Teaching for their own ends, typically political. Sometimes this is done in a cold and calculating way. Other times it is because they confuse the ideology of their political party with true Catholic teaching (or worse, place it above the teaching of Christ’s true Church). Sometimes it is just ignorance.
“Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence” is often attributed to Napoleon. Heinlein’s Razor updates that to “never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice.” It is unclear which quote fits better in this case, but I note that the parties involved are a hodgepodge of professors.
Recently a group of Catholic university professors wrote an “open letter” to Speaker (US House of Representatives) John Boehner, a (Republican) Catholic. The thrust of their letter was to enlighten him that any reductions in federal government programs that aid the poor would be contrary to Catholic Social Teaching. Of course, the “open” letter was not for him at all but to American Catholics with the subtext that Republicans act contrary to Catholic values – a very partisan agenda promoted at the expense of true Catholic teaching.
Yes, Republicans sometimes act in opposition to CST. Their support of the death penalty immediately comes to mind (an unjust death about once per week). On the other hand, Democrats give unwavering support to the murder of innocent unborn children (which we hold to be an intrinsic evil, resulting in an unjust death every 20 to 30 seconds). Neither political party lines up perfectly with Catholic teaching.
The issue at hand is – can a self-appointed “liberal magisterium” convince Catholics, for their own partisan purposes, that any reduction in federal programs is contrary to Catholic teaching? I sure hope not and that we see this for the corruption of Church teaching that it is.
The real Magisterium, the one instituted by Jesus and protected by the Holy Spirit, reminds us of our obligation to love each other. In that, we each have a PERSONAL obligation to the poor and vulnerable in what we call the “preferential option for the poor.” We are to share the gifts of time, talent and treasure loaned to us by God with others in need. Catholic charities have always had this focus and do more in this regard than any other charity on the planet.
The “liberal magisterium” views a large, central government (and through it the forced redistribution of wealth as determined by others – particularly them) as the solution. We could split hairs all day on semantics, but that is socialism and it is condemned by the true Magisterium. In the very least, it is liberation theology which our Holy Father and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have also condemned (see this, for example) for the same reasons. Not only is it outside of CST, it is contrary to it – raising issues of free will, worker rights to their wages, subsidiarity and more.
John Kennedy noted that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” Ronald Reagan was more direct – “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
Let’s consider the credibility of the letter organizers. They presumably have done this out of deep concern for the reflection of Catholic values in governmental policy. How many in this group wrote letters to Nancy Pelosi (Democrat Catholic) when she led the House? Did they ever take issue with her rock-solid support, expansion and promotion of abortion? Did they raise a peep at any point in the continual attack on the family posed by supporters of immoral unions? Unlike the bogus issue the professors are raising that will mislead Catholics ahead of the next election, these serious issues are very real (supported by one political party in particular).
Maybe, we should just expect this once again in preparation for the upcoming presidential election. Last time, a half-dozen fake Catholic groups suddenly appeared (with websites and promotion) to give cover to politicians and mislead Catholics. Immediately after the election they disappeared but were very effective. Would it surprise you to learn that this deception was all tied to one party? This could just be more of the same – and as offensive and immoral as the last round.
Some excellent analysis of this issue has been published. In particular, I recommend that you take a look at the the following:
- Father Robert Sirico’s Boehner’s Catholic Critics Rush to Protect Welfare State and his follow-up Not Whether to Help the Poor, But How
- Stephen Krason’s Boehner’s Critics Misrepresent Catholic Social Teaching
- Father Micahel Orsi’s A Flat Tax Is Better for the Soul