Saturday, February 22, 2020

Catholic Teaching Must Come First

The primaries continue, and Catholics remain divided on who to support. As they argue on social media, many of them argue either that their candidate is morally superior or at least not as morally bad as the opposing party.

But because both major political parties in America promote things that the Catholic Church must condemn, we’re left with the tragedy of Catholics justifying themselves as paragons of virtue and condemning the other side as diabolical—when they are actually both guilty of what they denounce in others.

And God help the bishops when they teach Catholic moral obligations that a Catholic’s political party runs afoul of. They suddenly get labeled partisans for the other side. If somebody relied solely on the combined opinions of critics, the USCCB would be the first example of “right wing leftists” or vice versa.

The problem with this mindset is Catholics are putting their party first and the Church teaching second. That doesn’t mean that the individual Catholic openly rejects the Church teaching of course. Often it means that they think the issues their party is wrong about matters less than the matters they care about. Thus Catholic Democrats§ come up with excuses why we must set aside our concerns about abortion because of the evils Republicans support while Catholic Republicans argue that issues like social justice must be ignored because of the evils Democrats support.

Settling aside judging whether those Catholics maliciously support those evils they say are “less important” (that would involve violating Matthew 7:1), Catholics of both sides are overlooking the fact that we’re supposed to be opposing evils and striving to overcome them. They overlook this by dualistic thinking: as long as the other party supports Evil X, I have to endure the Evil Y supported by my party.

But our opposition to evil is not limited to those whose name is followed by a -D or an -R, and it’s not limited to the election cycle. Why don’t we see Catholic Democrats opposing their party stance on abortion in off years? Why don’t we see Catholic Republicans opposing their party on unjust immigration policies? Unfortunately, one of the answers is, Catholics don’t vote as a bloc. There’s very little difference between the Catholic vote and the national vote. So people who look at the “Catholic vote” to predict how the election goes is only a view of the country in miniature.

It shouldn’t be that way. I believe that, even if we—as Catholics—think we must vote for party X over party Y to oppose a greater evil, we have an obligation to oppose the evils within our party and try to change it. Maybe we’ll succeed. Maybe we’ll end up moving on to a minor party. But we can’t be silent because we’re afraid we’ll “hurt our party’s chances.”

Our task is to bring the world to Christ, and that includes converting our own political associations. If we want to do this, we must put the Church teaching first.


(§) To avoid accusations of partisanship, I will post the dichotomies of Democrat:Republican, left:right, and conservative:liberal in alphabetical order.

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