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.