Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Catholics to the Left of Me, Catholics to the Right

After writing about the abomination that is Obama's mandate that every employer in America be forced to provide free contraception services I decided to see what others were saying.  As  convert to Catholicism with an evangelical conservative background I was especially interested to see what more left leaning Catholics were saying. I recommend the experience to all.

I spent some time engaging the discussion at a blog called Vox Nova. If you haven't visited it I recommend that you do. There are sentiments there that I find ignorant and offensive as well as sentiments that are insightful and commendable. If you visit do so with an open mind.

With regard to the HHS mandate there seemed to be two predominant strains of thought.  One seemed to be expressed by people who, while not directly denying the Church's teaching on contraception, really have no use for it and are twisting themselves into pretzels in an attempt to minimize the offensiveness of the mandate. The other was from people that I developed a respect for.  These were Catholics on the left who assent fully to the Church's teaching on contraception, indeed all the Church's teaching. Where this second group supported the bishops in speaking out against the mandate they invariably wouldn't discuss the issue in isolation. Invariably these people brought in other social issues such as nationalized health care and angry denunciations of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Interacting with these folks was an experience. My differing opinions were permitted but, usually, not engaged. Whenever I expressed an"unorthodox" opinion the response was almost always derogatory.  I had blinders on and a commitment to conservatism over and above my commitment to the Catholic Church. When I raised a point which they could not address with consistency the discussion was terminated or shifted.

At one point, in response to my suggestion that the government get out of health care, a writer responded that the government got into health care, and created Medicare, because people "routinely died in the streets" because the couldn't afford treatment. I questioned the assertion and, in response, was sent a link to a Washington Post "Fact Check" column about Ron Paul's claim that things weren't so bad before Medicare. That column basically said that they couldn't refute Paul's claim but that things were more expensive now and so we needed Medicare. In other words, the writers "proof" was nothing of the sort.
He admitted as much, told me to do my own research, and then dropped the conversation.

This writer had an emotional commitment to a particular position and wasn't about to let facts change his thinking. My experience at this left leaning site was exactly the experience that the Left experiences when venturing into the territory if the Right.

Many on the Right have an emotional commitment to things like the death penalty and the military and aren't about to let facts change their thinking. Many on the Right dismiss the arguments of the Left with disparaging comments about commies and criminal lovers that do not address the argument.  It is easier to put down someone who disagrees with you than it is to entertain the idea that you might be wrong.

In the Catholic Church the Left and the Right should shut up and listen to the Church. It is indisputable that the Church teaches that there almost no circumstances that justify the imposition of the death penalty in civilized nations. It is indisputable that both Iraq wars were not justified according to Church teaching on just war. These are not comfortable truths to those Catholics on the Right.  Likewise, those on the Left who argue for expanded government services such as national health and welfare are misapplying Church teaching.  The great encyclical Rerum Novarum provides the foundation for the Church's teaching on social justice. The Left misuses this and twists the call for providing for the poor  into a support for government services.  They miss the important point that " It is a duty, not of justice (save in extreme cases), but of Christian charity - a duty not enforced by human law."

All of who adopt the Catholic label need to recall what we say we believe. The Church is a divine institution guided by the Holy Spirit. Where we find ourselves in disagreement with what the Church teaches it is we, not the Church, which needs to conform. When we find ourselves in disagreement with fellow Catholics we need to consider that it is our brother speaking and accord them proper respect. They might be correct. We need to listen to the Church - not the politicians and interest groups of the left and the right.   

If I have Catholics to the let of me, and Catholics to the right, I just might be standing with the Church.

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