Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Confession of a Young Catholic on a Super Tuesday

Confession of a Young Catholic on a Super Tuesday:
A Young Catholic Thinks About American Politics

I am left. I am right. I have a home but am not at home in it. I am liberating and conserving. I’m too broad to be narrow and too narrow to be broad. I am a round square and a square circle. I am Aquinas, and I am Francis. I am Joan, and I am Edith. I am a contradiction. I am an anomaly. I am a Catholic.

Christ said that “the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Matt 8:20, NAB). Yet, too often Catholics, who call Christ their leader, their founder, their example, take up residence and rest their head in a party that is neither Catholic nor Christian – they rest their head in an assembly not founded by Christ, in Christ, or on Christ.

Torn apart by a political system that is less than universal, Catholics in America are forced to choose a side setting itself not only against the other side but possibly against the Catholic Church and possibly against truth and right reason. Without a doubt, it would be the case that if American Catholics were honest with themselves and aligned themselves with the Church of the faith they claim to professes, they would find that they are too broad and sweeping to be boxed and slotted into terms like liberal or conservative, and like Christ, they too would have nowhere to rest their head and that the only place that a Catholic might find rest is in Christ’s yoke.

In what political ideology or party can a person maintain that life is sacred and important at all stages and still in the same breath express the need to save the environment, live healthy and promote small business? In what place can a person hold that immigrants deserve a chance for a better life in America, capitalism is questionable, democracy seems to work when done properly, and there is nothing wrong with a hierarchy? In what party can a person believe that science, religion, and spirituality are important and often complementary; that it is the whole person that must be developed; that the poor must be helped; that war is always an issue to contend with; and economics must continually be addressed? Where can freedom be held as a good in union with obedience and seen as not being contrary with each other, or where can the need for being an individual be promoted along side the need for a connectedness with the larger community? In what house can the idea be encouraged that the government needs religion, that religion needs the government, and that the separation of the two does not necessarily mean a naked public square or a naked church? In a word, there is no political ideology or party that can claim to promote or profess the need for all the above. There is only one place that holds the above as being important and that place is found in the Catholic Church.

What I’m trying to say is that a real Catholic is not a conservative. In fact, I have no idea what conservatives are trying to conserve, nor am I sure what or who they are serving and with what they serve. A real Catholic is not a liberal. Personally, I don’t find liberals very liberating. I don’t even know what or whom the liberals are freeing, or from what they are freeing whomever it is that needs freeing.

My conservative friends find parts of the Catholic faith too liberal, while my liberal friends find parts of the Catholic faith too conservative. If that is the case, others might assume that Catholicism is a moderate position, but I assure you: Catholicism is no moderate position. Catholicism and her real Catholics love the world, and moderation has no place in love (Don’t believe me? Try telling your spouse you love him or her moderately and see how they respond.).

Real Catholics cannot possibly be a Neo anything: a neo-con or neo-lib a catholic is not. As mentioned earlier Catholicism and her Catholics would have to first be a liberal or conservative in order to predicate a “neo” anything to it. Catholics are certainly not crunchy-cons but are certainly welcome to crunch things like cans or leaves. In fact, they are not a “con” in any sense of the prefix. Real Catholics cannot call themselves independent because if they did that would be a lie, and lying has no place in a real Catholic’s life. Truly, Catholics are not independent. It seems to be the case that Catholics are much more interdependent.

Real Catholics are people and not just a vote or a number. Red and blue are just colors and if brought together make purple. Green too is a color. Donkeys and elephants are animals I’ve seen in the zoo. A speaker is something people use when listening to music. A line is dot that goes someplace and is at home in a drawing and something necessary to morality but contains all the power in politics and is a fearful thing to cross.

Incumbency sounds cumbersome. Pundits seem to be lacking in puniness. Caucuses are often overly cocky. Third parties are the second place losers.

In short, I don’t know where Catholicism fits into the American political system. I guess my problem comes in the fact that I am Catholic and none of the political ideologies seem to fit into my thought influenced and formed by Catholic teaching. How do I rectify my Catholicism with the American political machine? Am I an American Catholic, or am I a Catholic who is American? I’m not sure, and I am never able to determine which term should modify which. I often wish that I did not have to vote in political elections, but I know that is not possible less I be a bad American citizen. What I do know – though that be not much – is that Catholics must vote, that governments are, as G. K. Chesterton said, “an ugly necessity”, and that Catholics must despise America’s ugliness enough to want change and love America enough to want to make her beautiful.


Martha said...

This is an awesome post, I agree with everything you said. Thanks for putting it so eloquently.


Liberator_Rev said...

Paul, you are a profound and sincere thinker who will someday follow the path that I have trod out of the Roman Catholic Church. You say "Catholics must despise America’s ugliness enough to want change and love America enough to want to make her beautiful." but might also say that Catholics "must despise their Catholic church’s ugliness enough to want change and love their church enough to want to make her beautiful".
To give you just ONE example, when American Democrats were leading the fight against Nazi fascists, a great many of those leading the fascists were Roman Catholics who were never threatened with excommunication, or otherwise punished "Holy Mother the Church".
I've documented the complicity of your church at great length at http://CatholicArrogance.Org/RCscandal and have answers for all the so called exculpatory explanations offered by Catholic apologists.

P.S. I left the Catholic priesthood and a seminary professor position (during the great exodus of the 1970's) when I came to the conclusion that the higher one went in that hierarchy (and the further from the pew) the more corrupt one had to become.

Liberator_Rev said...

Hello again, Paul.
You say "A real Catholic is not a liberal." Actually, every Catholic's definition of "A real Catholic" is "someone who believes what I believe".
To be honest, since Catholics belong to a dogmatic authoritarian institution, they don't get any say whatsoever as to what the true faith is - unless they are elected to the papacy (or damn close to it)!-

Now, Paul, I find the following statement of yours incredible:
"Personally, I don’t find liberals very liberating. I don’t even know what or whom the liberals are freeing, or from what they are freeing whomever it is that needs freeing."
Don't you know any African Americans? Try to find one and ask them if they would like going back to the time before LIBERALS fought to liberate them. In very Catholic Louisiana, some of the owners of the largest numbers of slaves were Catholic orders like the Ursuline Sisters and Capuchins, if I remember correctly.
Don't you know any WOMEN old enough to know what a long struggle it was to get some amount of equality, and the right to vote?
Don't you know any MEN old enough to know how hard a fight it was for LIBERALS to win decent wages, decent working conditions, the right to form unions, etc.,etc.?
Surely you know GAY people for whom LIBERALS are fighting for equality. Maybe you are siding with your Catholic Church's leadership in this fight, but you have to admit that we LIBERALS are fighting to liberate GLBT people, as we speak.

I have written tons more about all of this on my web site http://LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/ .

Anonymous said...

This is an amazing post. amazing. Thanks for writing it. I love your blog! My husband is a domer too; he graduated from the law school in 2008.

As for Liberator Rev: Be anathema. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful article. You said so many things that I could not articulate before.

I am no longer an active Catholic because I find the more I learn about the church the less it is the church I learned about when I was growing up. (I also tend to disagree on one or two key ideas- I'm pro-life but not pro-passing anti-abortion legislation. I don't think the government has the right to tell me what to do with my female body any more than a male body, which is really what a lot of anti-abortion legislation has to do with. And gay rights- everyone should be free to love anyone else- hell, Jesus was followed around by a bunch of dudes all the time, I'm betting he felt the same way.)

I know my moral backbone is from the church, my ability to distinguish between right and wrong, my faith that everything has a purpose, all of it. However, I feel like so often Catholics around me spout ideas about what they feel is right, and its not what I believe.

I am neither Conservative nor Liberal (although for a while, I thought I was, and most people would probably still label me that way). I suppose I should really just embrace my Catholicism for me, and not give a hoot whether other people identify their behavior with what the church says is right.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled on this post quite late, I realize. Three years. But it really touched on many similar thoughts I've been having as we approach a new election season. Working for a major hard-right conservative publishing company, I can tell you I'm NOT fully conservative; I love my fellow man too much (a love ingrained in me by my Faith). But I'm also not liberal; I love truth too much. I'm a Catholic American. And I have, as you so aptly expressed it, "nowhere to rest my head."

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