Does your Party Teach You, or Do You Teach Your Party?

Today, I was in a FB discussion with a blogger who was asking, apropros to Libertarians, Rand Paul, etc., what people thought the motives of the North were in the Civil War.

I made the point that the motives of the North in waging war against the South were not the same thing as the motives of the Republican party at the time, the motives of the people, etc.

Anyway, my friend said something to the effect of “That’s not what the Republican Party teaches,” and I replied, “What Magisterial authority does the Republican Party have?”

It struck me that this particular discussion hit at a common crux of debates I have with other conservative Catholics, and a problem many Catholics have when dealing with their faith in public life.

C. S. Lewis talks of Christianity “And”–where the cause becomes just as important as the Christianity, and then eventually Christianity becomes a tool to the cause. Indeed, certain movements that were notoriously condemned by the Church were condemned for this reason. Action Francaise was not condemned by the Church for its monarchist position–that was endorsed by the Church. The Church condemned Action Francaise in the early 20th Century because its leadership at the time (which was, oddly enough, atheist) claimed that the Church was a tool of monarchy, rather than the opposite.

Well, that kind of thing happens whenever a Catholic becomes too embroiled in any political movement. That Catholic may be perfectly orthodox, or 99% right. But there comes a point at which some people stop saying “The Church teaches X . .. “and saying they support the Party because the Church teaches X, and switch to saying, “The Party teaches X. . . .” And it isn’t long before it changes from
“I support the Party because the Church teaches X, and that position is in the party platform”
“I support the Church because the Party teaches it, and that position is in the Catechism.

As Catholics, we are called to deal with one another charitably in matters where the Church gives us freedom to decide for ourselves. As John Paul II explains in _Veritatis Splendor_, there is a difference between negative moral laws–which are always absolute prohibitions–and positive moral laws, which give some freedom to the individual to interpret *how much* he or she will implement those laws.

When the Church gives us freedom to discern, we can discuss with one another *what* the Church teaches, and *whether* we think a particular application is appropriate.

I am not bothered by other Catholics who take positions different than mine, so long as they are honestly taking the Church’s teachings into account. It is when I see those teachings intentionally obfuscated, or else subjugated to the State or (worse) the Party, I have a problem.

So when “just war” becomes “moral war,” or even “Just war doesn’t apply to this situation,” I take issue. When I am being judged on the basis of whether I conform to “Republican Party teaching,” I take issue.

Christ and His Church always come first.

2 responses to “Does your Party Teach You, or Do You Teach Your Party?

  1. Theodore Seeber

    What I’m bothered by is the apparent ease that Americans have for taking absolutes- like Just War Theory or Abortion- and making them relative, just as we take things that should be relative, like speed limits, and use technology like photo radar vans to make them absolutes.

    We Americans have a really hard time admitting that somebody else might be an authority at all- and that is the central portion of the heresy of Americanism- that the individual is the only thing that is important.

  2. Well, just war theory is not quite so absolute as abortion–even Cardinal Ratzinger said that–but it’s still important to apply the *standards*. Most of the recent arguments are variants of saying that Just War theory itself is wrong, and we need to change the standards.

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