A few weeks ago, I argued that the baseline litmus tests for orthodoxy ought to be attitudes towards contraception and liturgy. Many “liberal Catholics” will claim to be pro-life on abortion, or claim theological orthodoxy on some point or other. But those who are not overtly pro-contraception will run and hide when the issue is raised, or they cheer Barack Obama with his “abortion reduction” (through contraception).
Similarly, they treat the Traditional Latin Mass like Kryptonite.
Well, what of the “orthodoxy” professed by sites/groups like Vox Nova and Catholics United?
Well, as for the latter, one gets the impression that they believe there *is* no minimum standard for orthodoxy. They take, rather, the opinion typical of liberal Catholics that merely being baptized makes one a “Catholic.” Juridically, yes, it does. But it does not make one a “Catholic in good standing.” Thus, a person can be baptized, but never go to Mass, and express opinions as “a Catholic.”
But it occurs to me that there is a litmus test for what many liberals and self-proclaimed “moderates” consider orthodoxy: pacifism.
This is one area where the JPII generation are not much help, since they adopt their beloved Pope’s very extreme views on the subject of war.
And I say this as someone who leans only slightly right of John Paul on war issues. But John Paul’s opinions were colored by the horrors of World War II, horrors which lead to one or the other opposite reaction: adopting a “cold war” mentality or adopting a pacifist mentality.
The Church’s teaching on war is complicated, and I have mixed feelings about the relatively recent addition of “exhuassting all peaceful means.” If “exhausting all peaceful means” means acting like Neville Chamberlain, I think it’s a grave error. But if “exhausting all peaceful means” *really* means “practicing spiritiual warfare first,” I’m all for it.
Heck, John Paul II toppled more dictators than anyone: just by showing up in their countries. Both Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro recognized that pattern: dictatorships visited by JPII had a strange tendency of collapsing within 3 years of his visit. The only exception was Cuba, and that was the exception that proved why the rule worked: the attention paid to JPII in Cuba was cut off by the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Every other time, the Pope’s visit got a lot of press, and inspired the people to rise up.
Anyway, it strikes me that that is the baseline used by the Catholic Left.
Which gets to two perspectives on what it means to be “pro-life.” Part of the legitimate idea behind “seamless garment” is something that John Paul has definitely said, and which I have also expressed various times, including numerous posts on this blog: while it may be *just* to kill people for certain reasons, when we do so, we get in the habit of justifying killing.
For example, most cultures sgree it’s wrong to kill innocents. Muslim apologists argue that terrorists are wrong because the Quran forbids killing “innocents.” But the deception of “liberal Muslims” in this regard (which may very well be a self-deception), and where the terrorists were right, is that the victims of terrorism are not “innocents”: they are guilty of various crimes against Islam, including being infidels, but also such crimes as immodesty, sexual profligancy, etc. To the minds of al-Qaeda, the people in the World Trade Center, those airplanes, and the Pentagon were *not* inncoents. They were horrible sinners who needed to be killed.
That is why modern Church leaders lean towards saying that even the “just” usage of war and capital punishment do great damage ot human society.
Nevertheless, neither is an absolute teaching of the Church, and cannot be used as a “litmus test” the way abortion or contraception should. Even the infamous letter from Cardinal Ratzinger to Cardinal McCarrick said that war and the death penalty cannot be equated to abortion. That is not a matter of Republican Catholics engaging in self-justification or “cafeteria Catholicism”. It is the teaching of the Church.