Shortly after the recent elections, America published on its Web site (11/15) an article titled “The Center Did Not Hold,” by Steve Schneck, which originally appeared on the site of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. The article’s thesis was that the church’s efforts to support public policies reflecting its moral vision were dealt a blow by the elections. Here are a few samples of the strong reader responses.
Lost Common Good
Indulge me please, while I ride my hobby horse. At their November meeting the bishops might ponder prayerfully the consequences of too many of them having urged what amounted to single-issue votes in the past several election cycles. After practically demanding that their constituents vote Republican, they have strengthened just the kind of legislators, at state and federal levels, who oppose the common good in nearly all its manifestations.
Here in Arizona we have a governor and legislature who seem almost ready to secede from the Union. Didn’t we decide that was not permissible in 1865? To win the fight against abortion at the cost of losing America to know-nothings who wouldn’t recognize the common good if it hit them in the face is a pretty high price to pay for what is, after all, a matter of conscience more than it can ever be a question of law.
What Do Bishops Know?
Steve Schneck suggests that bishops might take up the question of ideological polarization in their next meeting. I suggest that the bishops stay out of politics completely. Let us turn the argument slightly. If a Muslim represents constituents in Congress, should he have the right to impose Muslim law on the rest of society? In the health care debate, some bishops were so angry because women religious supported the bill that they later took measures against them in their dioceses, despite the fact that hospital sisters know more about health matters than bishops. If bishops felt obliged to oppose health care because they felt abortion was not sufficiently prohibited, why did they not also demand that Catholic members of Congress refuse to support the unjust war in Iraq, a war that John Paul II begged President Bush not to start?
Catholics in Bad Company
I am convinced that the next two years will be legislatively unproductive. There is no doubt the result of the mid-term election will be a more liberal Democratic Party and a more conservative Republican Party. But we have more to fear from the right than from the left. The irony is that Catholics, in our commitment to ending abortion, have aligned ourselves with the evangelical conservative branch of Christianity over a single issue, aiding the emergence of a politically potent Republican base that is staunchly anti-Catholic doctrinally and socially. This segment regards the church as the anti-Christ and Catholic teachings on social justice as socialism, and thinks that wealth is the reward of righteousness, and the poor have only themselves to blame. It opposes religious, ethnic and cultural diversity and endorses a crude kind of American exceptionalism in foreign affairs. And it is suspicious of science and intellectuals in general. If Catholics want allies, the new Republican Party is the last place to look.
Winter Park, Fla.
From Maritain to Thompson
I find it amazing that readers of America fall so easily into the facile rhetoric of cable news and the muddled thinking of political candidates. I am old enough to have been brought up on Jacques Maritain’s Man and the State, but I have been told by people here in Houston that the old French conservative was a pink fellow traveler.
The Catholic Church finds its mission in the Incarnation, the kingship of Jesus and eternal life more than in condemning mortal sins like abortion. “Father forgive them” transcends both politics and the stoning of adulterers. Our moral lives are our personal immediate concern. The consciences of the pregnant woman, the physician, the drug addict, the alcoholic, the homosexual, the morally compromised politician and the lecherous cleric are to be reformed by example rather than law. “We have a law and, according to that law, he must die, because..."
We will find the common good when, with the homeless poet Francis Thompson, we see the shining traffic of “Jacob’s ladder/ Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross./.../ And lo, Christ walking on the water,/ Not of Genesareth, but Thames,” the Hudson and the San Jacinto.
Maurice J. Dufilho III