A friend sent me a news brief from Catholic News Service. The subject of the article was "’Pro-life, pro-poor’ lawmakers rare but seek them out, activists told". My friend’s favorite line from the article is a quote from John Carr, head of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Social Development and World Peace:
"We are not the Democratic Party of prayer," he said. "We are not the religious caucus of the Republican Party."
This reminds me of a recent post I made on a Yahoo! message board in response to a post titled "Libs and Cons get it wrong".
> What’s worse is that the political intelligencia
> has convinced Americans that there only 2 ways to
> look at things: Repub vs Dem, Lib vs Con, left vs right.
> That’s the true disgrace that squelches debate and reason.
True. That’s the thing that confounded people about Pope John Paul II (the Great) – he was liberal on some things (care for the poor; against the war in Iraq; anti-death penalty) and conservative on other things (against abortion, cloning, embryonic stem cell research; advocated religion and absolutist morality being guideposts for government; for prayer in schools).
He was also able to be against communism and socialism, while also denouncing the excesses of capitalism.
How else to explain this, other than that truth is binocular, and love is symphonic, and the cross is a sign of contradiction to the world?
"The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." 1 Cor 1:18,22-25
The same way that no one person has the market cornered on morality and right judgement, even more the political parties (of any country) are deficient in this regard. This is probably most evident in the myth of "the Catholic vote" – even though both parties heavily courted Catholics in the last few elections (due to a belief that they vote as a bloc), Catholics were split fairly evenly between the candidates (Bush got only a few more percentage points than Kerry).
Liberal Catholics tend to vote more with Democrats, because of social concerns (i.e., the poor). The main reason conservative or orthodox Catholics and Christians tend to vote Republican is because of abortion, euthanasia, and other moral concerns. However, even these generalizations are just that – general. They are not clear-cut, because there are variances within the parties, in spite of what the official party platform might be. A good example of this are the Democrats for Life.
BTW, Catholic Answers has a voter’s guide that can be used as a filter to screen out candidates who absolutely do not follow Catholic principles. After the bad ones have been weeded out (generally more helpful during primaries, when trying to decide among more than 2 candidates), the remaining issues are up to your own opinions of what is most beneficial to society.
I don’t believe that the current divisions squelch debate and reason. In spite of the bickering and arguing (not true debate) of the most prominent politicians, I believe that it engages and fosters discussion by reasonable people, seeking to use the dialectic to come to the truth. "It is not merely true that a creed unites men. Nay, a difference of creed unites men–so long as it is a clear difference. A boundary unites." (G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong With the World)
I think it also highlights something that may very well need to be addressed soon – the above-mentioned split in "the Catholic vote". Catholics are courted, yet split, because different aspects of the Catholic faith are appealed to. If a party were to come along that embraces the values of pro-life, pro-poor, pro-responsibility, pro-freedom, pro-stewardship, and pro-morality there could be a powerful, almost revolutionary, third-party in this country.
I’m not going to hold my breath for several reasons:
- the money behind the current 2 parties would necessitate vast resources to start a viable third-party in this country
- once in power, those candidates would be too tempted to exemplify the adage "power corrupts" more than exemplifying Catholic principles (nobody seriously wants a return to Christendom)
- as with most reform movements, a Catholic third-party might once again prove Chesterton right – "The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right." (from the Illustrated London News, 10/28/1922)
But for the sake of hopeful imagination (and to put aside some cynicism), maybe a unified Catholic voice in politics, even for just a short time, might be a powerful innoculation for our ailing culture and society. Imagine pro-life issues and anti-death penalty issues in one party. Imagine a party with policies toward businesses that fosters family and human welfare first, while also cutting out corruption associated with government handling social services, and returning it to faith-based organizations where it belongs – an end to gov’t sponsored corporate and private welfare. Imagine a government made up of people that are good stewards of the earth’s resources, but are also constantly striving for the next world. Imagine a country that admitted and apologized for its mistakes, while forgiving the past mistakes and debts of others – would such a country of humility and pardon be considered a threat to other countries and faiths?
Maybe, Catholic involvement in politics should be treated more like medicine – an occasional dose to heal and cure, but (like medicine) too much is bad for the patient and weakens the effect of future doses. Maybe the framers of the Constitution got it right in their intentions (but wrong in the implementation) when they desired people to serve their government for a term or two, and then go back home to the family farm. Maybe this is what Catholics need to do: don’t constantly meddle and tweak and micromanage government – rather, get in, make the necessary changes, and get out.