"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Questions for Liberal Catholics


by Carson Holloway

For some time now, the Democratic Party has understood itself and presented itself as a political party that is in favor of legal abortion and very protective of the supposed right to abortion. Put in less neutral — but certainly Catholic — language, the Democratic Party is reliably hostile to the right to life of unborn human beings and to any legal protection for that right. More recently, we have received news that the Democratic Party, following the lead of President Obama, is going to use its 2012 platform to declare itself formally in favor of same-sex marriage. Again, from the standpoint of Catholicism this means declaring the Democratic Party opposed to the traditional understanding of marriage that the Church defends as both true and essential to society. In addition, the present-day Democratic Party, again following the lead of the current president, supports an understanding of religious liberty that is compatible with requiring Catholic institutions to provide health insurance coverage for contraception and sterilization, despite the fact that Catholic teaching regards such things as sinful.

Put simply, the Democratic Party of 2012 is, on matters of fundamental importance, more anti-Catholic than any major political party in the history of the United States.

Nevertheless, many American Catholics (perhaps not a majority but at least a considerable minority) will continue to support the Democratic Party anyway. They will publicly praise it over the next several weeks and cap off their performance by trooping dutifully to the polls to vote for its candidates. If the Democratic Party has a successful year in 2012, and thus is empowered to press further these policies that are contrary to what the Church teaches, and perhaps emboldened to press for other policies even more hostile to the Church, it will be in part because of the support of such Catholics.

All of this leads to a question: Why? Why, liberal Catholics, do you continue to support the Democratic Party, despite its persistent opposition to Catholic teaching, even on matters of fundamental moral importance?

Is it because you reject the Church’s teaching on these questions? If so, why remain Catholics? The Church presents itself as an institution — no, the institution — that can be relied upon to teach the truth, not in relation to everything, of course, but at least in relation to the most important questions we confront as human beings, including questions about the moral principles by which we are to live. If you think the Church is capable of being wrong — and, at that, persistently and even obstinately wrong — about such questions, then you seem to reject the Catholic Church’s own understanding of itself. If so, why lend support to an institution that is so self-deluded and that misleads so many?

Do you think that it is fine to identify yourselves as Catholics, even as you reject teachings that the Church itself insists are fundamentally important? Are you authorized to accept some teaching and repudiate others, all the while claiming that the collection of opinions that remains to you is just as “Catholic” as what the Church teaches officially? If so, isn’t that kind of like making up your own religion? And if so, how could such a religion made up by human beings be of any use to anybody as a religion?

Or do you accept that the Church is right in its defense of human life, marriage, and religious liberty, but think that there are other issues that make it justifiable to support a political party that is hostile to the Church’s teaching in those areas? But what other issues could compensate for these deficiencies? What is more important to get right than the sanctity of innocent life, the preservation of the correct definition of marriage (one that is affirmed even in Scripture), and the protection of religious liberty?

Is it that you think the Democratic Party is “better” in relation to the issue of caring for the poor? Do you think that only the Democratic Party cares about helping the poor, so that it would be wrong to abstain from supporting it, since that would tend to benefit the Republicans? But is it really sensible, to say nothing of charitable, to think that Republicans don’t care about the poor? Isn’t the issue between Republicans and Democrats in this field really a dispute about how most effectively to help the poor, about which institutions can be relied upon to do it most effectively? If so, why does the Republicans’ error about the proper means to a good end justify supporting the Democrats even when they support bad ends?

Or do you agree with the Church’s teaching on matters such as life and marriage but think that they should not be matters of political dispute because it is improper for Catholics to impose their values on others? But if that is your position, why, then, is it permissible for secular liberals to impose their values on Catholics by requiring them to pay for other people’s contraception and sterilization? In fact, if you can support this, then in what sense are you really even a “liberal,” in the sense of someone who defends the liberty of all on principle, let alone a “Catholic”?

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