Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What Comes First: Catholicism or the Republican Party?

[This is an email to a parent that was a long time in coming. I thought it might amuse people who have similar parents. I also highly encourage any thoughts/problems people have with my basic argument or approach.

Here is the basic history: a) a preexisting, healthy argument about politic with the parent in question; b) an email sent to me by the parent in question that stated something very un-Catholic; c) my rebuttal, via words from JPII; d) an email back saying, (and this is a real quotation) “interesting but it sounds too much like socialism/Obama - don't you think?”

One of the things that frustrates me about certain Catholic Republicans is their willingness to suspend their Catholicism in order to support their political party – or at least not take a moment to actually see what the Church teaches on a subject. We despise, and rightfully so, the Democrats who suspend their Catholicism in light of their politics – and I do agree that suspending the pro-life stance of the Church is more reprehensible than the other issues most Catholic Republicans suspend. But it is still wrong, and it is still reprehensible.

To these people, if it sounds like socialism or Obama, it’s gotta be bad. I understand that people are Republican because it’s pro-life, but, wow, we need to remain Catholic before Republican. The problem is that people think they ARE being Catholic when they support all Republican ideals. OK, I ramble and rant. Here’s the email:]

Dear Parent –

You cannot reject something because “it sounds like Obama.” That’s not a reason at all. At the least, it’s very bad logic. It’s also very dangerous.

Don’t get me wrong: I disagree with a lot of what Obama stands for, promotes, etc. I’m not saying I want the country to be the kind he is leading us to become. However, that doesn’t mean I’m allowed to reject EVERYTHING he is pushing because of I don’t like a lot of his agenda – and I’m not allowed to jump on the other side of every issue.

Now, this might not make sense to most Americans – but it should make A LOT of sense to Catholic Christians. First and foremost, I am a Son of God: this implies that first and foremost I am a Catholic Christian (CC). All of my moral decisions, political beliefs, and social doctrines should be based on my Christianity and NOTHING else. What this means is that what you believe about capitalism, socialism, healthcare, and taxes should take their primary foundation in your Christianity. Anything short of this is hypocrisy. Anything short of this is relativism.

Most people don’t have a strong religious doctrine (or don’t know it) from which they can base their moral values: they kind of pick and choose. If we do that – i.e.” I like this Christian doctrine, but not this one, since its too close to those Marxist Dems” – then we are slipping into our own relativism. We have a responsibility to learn what the Church teaches about issues, to protect what She teaches, and to instruct others in Her teachings.

Only after being a CC am I American; and only after being American am I Republican or Democrat – and that is, only if I choose to label myself one of those. When we face an issue, we need to begin with the premise that we are CC, and that means finding out what the Church teaches about it; and this will mean sometimes taking what others may view as a “bad stance” or a “Dem stance” or a “liberal stance.” First off, a lot of these labels are created to manipulate people. Second, who cares? I know I do not. I am a CC first and foremost, and no one is going to make me embarrassed because of that.

I think some of what I’m saying may not be taking root; and I think a main reason is because people automatically take arguments and disregard them because of “where they’re coming from,” i.e. “I don’t exactly get what he’s saying, but it must be wrong since it seems to be promoting Obama.” I exhort you to read it as a Catholic Christian. Understand that I’ve put no political issues or views in this email. I’m simply talking about our duty as Catholic Christians. I’m not talking about idealism, liberalism, “free-mindedness,” etc.

And if you want to continue the argument – and I don’t mind that – please respond to what I wrote in bold. Don’t give me examples or other things Obama has done badly. I will probably agree with you on most of it. But where we disagree is in our underlying understanding of how our Catholicism should affect our politics: so let THIS be the center of our argumentation.



  1. you sound like a lib...
    just kidding; I agree with your "I'm a Catholic" approach to politics; My stances on issues comes from the Catholic theology of love. But given that, I can be skeptical of things that sound like not-love, right? Environmentalism is not one of these, but environmental population control is definitely one of these. As are policies which sound materialistic or marxist. Some of them may turn out to have merit, but they obviously demand more scrutiny than your average policy. This kinda reminds me of learning about Shariah law in my Islam in Africa class. Of course I need to evaluate practices based on their own merit, not the fact that they arise out of another religion. However, I look VERY closely at them, because they do not arise out of a love-theology. But perhaps this is not what you were driving at...

  2. As usual, I agree with your response. Of course it is legitimate (and necessary at times) to have "gut feelings" concerning ideals, practices, or policies that seem to us as contrary to Love. But it should not end with these "gut feelings." I'm sure some people, because of their social and cultural background, have "gut feelings" against the pro-life stance, since it may react in their spirits as dehumanizing to a woman's free choice: and I don't think we should discredit these "gut feelings," wrong as they are; they may be as strong as our own "gut feelings" against abortion.

    The point is that we need to judge things in light of the Church, Love, and the Truths handed down to us from both. This means taking an apolitical stance, searching for the facts, and making Christian decisions.

    I'm sure you'd agree with all I said. My major point was that many people (my parent in question being a prime example) assume that Republican ideals about economics, ethics, politics, and such are always closer to the Catholic ideal. Quite frankly, this isn't always the case; and even if it were, this still doesn't mean that we shouldn't take every single issue and first test it against the Truth of the Church, regardless of partisanship.

    Importantly, people can get their "gut feelings" crossed up when they are used to labeling everything that is Democratic and liberal as un-Christian. Since this is often the case with people I know, I/we/they need to look beyond these "gut feelings."

  3. are or were?

    interesting but it sounds too much like socialism/Obama - don't you think? where/how do you draw the line when someone wants to (or the gov't dictates) to use what you've worked for and they chose not to?

    lower socio-economic classes (in general, of course) are Dems since Dems do provide more "programs" or in some cases entitlements. Welfare is a good example of the poor getting funds from the gov't; however it disincetifies one/many from working - why should I work if I can get as much (or almost as much) w/o working.

    Of course I believe and I hope, I practice charity and certainly would be willing to share/give what I have for those in need; but not based on the gov'ts dictates. Beware of the Dems - I believe there is an agenda there - from socialism to Marxism. Read about Obama's past.