Thursday, October 07, 2010

Can a Catholic swill that kind of tea?

Think Jesus Christ was a tea-party patriot?

Think again. And think about how much of Jesus' teaching you have to toss in the circular file in order to become a smaller-government, individual liberty above all and f*** the poor kind of political activist.

Unfortunately, lots of Catholics aren't thinking much at all. Many probably are even buying into Glenn Beck's raging phobia about social justice, this while claiming membership in a church centered on our oneness in the Body of Christ and a command -- not a suggestion -- that we exhibit a "preferential option for the poor."

To be succinct, polls indicate that bunches of Catholics are buying into the notion that everything they are obligated to believe -- and to put into practice -- is the kind of "socialism" that's bringing our country to ruin. Ironically, many of these conservative Catholics are just the sort of folk quick to condemn their liberal coreligionists as "cafeteria Catholics."

WELL, who's in the serving line now? Our Sunday Visitor shines some light on this:
Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America, said that Catholic voters have been known for their propensity to switch party allegiance, but their strong show of support for the tea party comes as a surprise.

“What strikes me is that even though Catholics are attracted to this movement, there really is a pretty sharp tension between some of the basic teachings of the Church in regards to politics, the role of government and what we owe to the poor, and what these tea party advocates are promoting,” Schneck told Our Sunday Visitor.

Church teaching, he explained, has an inseparable link between rights and responsibilities for both the citizen and the government, with both having an eye toward promoting the common good. The tea parties, however, have argued for rights based on liberty, not responsibility.

“From that perspective it’s all about getting the government out of our lives and about citizens being free from the demands and needs of the country as a whole,” Schneck said. “Much as we might like otherwise, the Catholic argument is that government and citizen are equally expected to be our brother’s keeper.”

While the U.S. bishops have supported the idea of universal health care, tea party activists have commonly called for the repeal of Congress’ health care legislation. And positions argued by tea party activists on issues such as immigration, Social Security and the government’s regulation of racial discrimination by businesses don’t fit within the principles of Catholic social teaching, Schneck said.

“That kind of thinking is at odds with Catholic thinking about solidarity, about the common good and about the role that the political order should be playing in regards to the dignity of the human person,” he said. “So there’s actually quite a distance between what the tea party is advocating and the Church’s general understanding of how politics and governance should work.”
OF COURSE, there is dissent on the right.
According to Father Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, the radical extremists in the tea party represent only a small percentage on the fringes of the movement. At its heart, Father Sirico said, the tea party and its view of government are very close to the Church’s social teaching on the principle of subsidiarity, which favors doing things on a simplified level rather than leaving them to a more complex, centralized organization.

“I think the majority of the people who are involved in the tea party movement prefer things to be done at the most local level possible,” Father Sirico told OSV. “They are not against government in principle, they are against the excessiveness of government that we see, and that’s expressed in the principle of subsidiarity.”
AND WHILE Sirico allows that the tea party movement could learn something from Catholic teaching, he starts to sound like what Catholics on the right are so quick to condemn when it comes from the left. You've heard it before, as have I -- "How can a Catholic be a Democrat?"

It's a big cafeteria, people. Funny how tea-party "Catholics" could miss being right in the middle of it.

Please make sure you put away your tray when you're finished.

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