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  • Our Faustian Bargain: Catholics Caught Between Parties

    by Fr. Robert Johansen

    In following the presidential contest this year, I have been at times amazed and disgusted at the kabuki theater our political discourse has become. The two major party candidates have presented themselves as both more and less than what they really are—trying to capture voters by simultaneously promising that they will solve our problems and assuring us that their opponents will bring about far worse evils than we already face.

    And, as in elections past, Catholics have aligned themselves on both sides, for all manner of reasons—some good, some trivial, some venal. But what has struck me about Catholic voters is this: Whether Left or Right, Democrat or Republican, Catholics are identifying and aligning themselves with the candidates and parties in question. Catholics look at the parties and candidates, see how they line up with their values and priorities, and then perform a sort of moral calculus, weighing the positive and negative aspects of each candidate’s and party’s positions before deciding, “I’m going to vote Republican,” or, “I’m going to vote Democrat.”

    At first blush, this seems normal enough. After all, what else are we supposed to do? But if we look at how our Faith impinges on our lives in other areas, we’d find that we don’t behave that way outside of the political sphere.

    Take an example: Suppose someone were looking for a job, and he interviewed with a company that offered a promising position. He is excited at the prospect of working there; they make an excellent product and the job has great potential for advancement. Unfortunately he discovers along the way that the company’s business practices and financial procedures are corrupt and dishonest. A person of integrity who possesses a well-formed conscience would not engage in some sort of moral calculus about taking the job. He wouldn’t try to decide if the evil business practices were outweighed by the greatness of the company’s product, and the wonderful personal possibilities the job offered. No, the person of integrity would say, “Sorry, I’m not interested,” and pass up the job.

    But our current method of participating in the political process places us in just such a position: Many of us are volunteering to cooperate with evil, because we see no way out of the dilemma of aligning ourselves with one party or the other. In essence, faithful Catholics are forced to accept whatever bones the major parties and candidates throw us: If we think the Democrats offer more compassionate social policies and the prospect of ending the war in Iraq, we must tolerate their embrace of abortion and same-sex unions. If we think the Republicans offer the best hope of eliminating abortion-on-demand and defending marriage, we have to be willing to tolerate their embrace of “preventive” war and so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. Catholics, it would seem, are being forced to make Faustian bargains every time they enter the voting booth.

    This attitude is perpetuated by our own clergy and bishops. Bishops, both as a body and individually, have said that, since no one party or candidate completely lines up with Catholic teaching, individual Catholics must decide which candidate comes closest to fidelity to the Magisterium according to both the number of issues and their degree of importance.

    And once again, the moral calculus appears. Are we all condemned to be proportionalists in our politics?

     

    The idea that we need to align ourselves with the party or candidate who most closely lines up with Catholic teaching is fine, as far as it goes. The problem is that it does not go far enough: It is hardly the robust, evangelistic, sanctify-the-world posture that our vocation to holiness and call to apostleship requires. In the fourth century, St. Ambrose stood up to and rebuked the Roman emperor Theodosius. Were he transported to our own time, I cannot imagine that he would find this policy sufficient.

    As Deal W. Hudson has recently pointed out, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” has some serious flaws. But it does provide a valuable teaching that addresses our Faustian bargain:

    As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group. When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong [emphasis mine]; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths (14).

    Looking across the Catholic political landscape, it seems that we have far more Catholics who are in danger of being—or have been already—transformed, than we have Catholics who are making any headway in transforming politics.

    So where are the Catholics in politics? The teaching of the Church and of our bishops instructs us to take our faith as our starting point and build our politics around that. Instead, we choose our politics and then see how we can shoehorn it into our faith. We find ourselves having to explain away the conflict between the tenets of the Faith and our political allegiances in order to defend our Faustian bargain.

    If Catholics were really serious about “transforming” our parties and politics, things would look much different than they do today. For example, where is the Congressional Catholic Caucus? There is a Congressional Black Caucus, a Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a Serbian Caucus, and even a Congressional Boating Caucus. So where is the caucus devoted to bringing Catholic representatives and senators together across party lines to promote, defend, and advance Catholic teaching on matters of justice and the common good? Imagine how much could be accomplished by Catholics in Congress who joined together to put the Faith first in shaping their agendas.

    But, of course, there is no Congressional Catholic Caucus, and the reason is simple: Far too many politicians, and those in power in their parties, are more interested in how they can use their Catholic faith for political advantage than they are in applying their faith to their political activities. They use the teachings of the Church as talking points to win votes. Both parties do it: Republicans co-opt pro-lifers every four years; Democrats, play to the peace-and-justice types.

    And when we make our Faustian bargain, we play the game on their terms. As Mark P. Shea has written, Catholics have been acting like the abused wife in relation to the political parties: We need to be good and loyal and support our political leaders, because if we don’t they might not throw us even the scraps they occasionally deign to leave us. Make no mistake, those in power are primarily concerned with consolidating and extending that power. They will be perfectly content to use us to advance their own ends as long as we play according to their rules.

    Catholics are thus at an impasse; we have divided along the lines that the parties give us. We defend the indefensible and engage in tortuous apologetics for advocates of intrinsic evil, and the Kingdom advances not at all—all because we are not truly making the gospel the starting point of our politics.

     

    So what is the solution? First, we need to quit prostituting ourselves to the political power class. We have to stop serving on the advisory boards of parties and candidates who advocate intrinsic evil. Furthermore, we have to be willing to say “Enough! We won’t play along anymore.”

    And then what? Some of my fellow Catholics have decided that the best option is to vote third-party. Steve Skojec explains:

    We’ve heard a lot of talk this election cycle (and the one before it . . . and the one before that . . .) about stopping a great evil by voting for a lesser one. And yet, the only certain outcome of constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is the perpetuation of evil.

    The problem is that third-party candidates have little to no chance of being elected in national races. Those who do vote third-party are frequently accused of “throwing away” their vote.

    But this need not be the case. If sufficient numbers of Catholics decide to opt-out of electoral politics as currently played and organized themselves, wouldn’t they begin to exercise greater political clout? That is how politics works, after all.

    What if Catholic Democrats, tired of having to choose between social policy and defending the right to life, said, “We’re going to withhold our votes until the leadership takes our life-issue concerns seriously. When the national party is ready to countenance a legislative initiative that will meaningfully restrict the abortion license, we’ll give you our support”?

    And what if Catholic Republicans said, “For 30 years you have taken our support for granted on life issues. Unless you seriously reign in foreign adventurism and reject the Guantanamo-and-rendition assaults on human rights, we will withhold our support”? Eventually, political necessity would force them to pay attention (or if they didn’t, we’d at least have our integrity). But as long as we are willing to sell our principles for a mess of political pottage, we will continue to be weak and ineffectual.

    Catholics make up some 25 percent of the population, but we exercise an influence far smaller than our numbers. We have been manipulated and divided by partisan political hacks: Whenever someone raises the point of the primacy of life issues in making political decisions, he is automatically considered by those on the Left to be shilling for Republicans. Whenever someone makes an argument for protecting those who are injured by the rough-and-tumble of the free market, he is automatically dismissed as a tool of the Democrats. Surely we can do better as disciples of Christ.

    Will any Catholics step forward to lead us beyond the constraints of the two-party game? Whether it means a third party, or making our power felt within our existing parties by changing the rules of the game, something must be done. If we are to fulfill our call to sanctify the world, we must engage in politics in light of the gospel, and not by the categories of those more concerned with elections than the Kingdom.

    The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
    Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

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    • Tim Shipe

      Father- I am riding your wave- the Spirit must be moving because I keep encountering kindred souls who are fed up with our Catholic social doctrine reduced/dumbed down to fit in line with party loyalties.

      The solution is for Catholics to get better educated and organized- first we need to share the same playbook or blueprint- I have been advocated for the Holy See’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church- to be that source document for liberals and conservatives. Archbishop Chaput confirmed for me personally that this Compendium was authoritative, and the intro to the Compendium itself spells out it;s importance.

      With this source, along with the Catechism and Holy Scripture, we should begin a series of Conferences- with both already established Catholic politicians, enabling them the opportunity to disprove the adage that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. We need all hands on deck- if someone on the Right or Left doesn’t want to participate they should be hammered for their lack of faithful Catholic response to the call for unity.

      The Conferences should include young and not-so-young political newbies- Lay individuals who are fed up enough to run for office and need contacts and advice- and new blood, a new generation of youthful Catholics who aren’t in the vanguards of the Left/Right ideologies- they are too young to know that some things are impossible, and will try the impossible anyway ( See the film “Amazing Grace”).

      Rather than line up behind a major party or even a third party, we should organize around a worldview, and Catholic social teachings on specific issues of moral concern. An Incarnational/
      Sacramental/Filioque Catholic worldview is a mandatory viewpoint for all the issues that come into play. And there is plenty of guidance offered from Rome and by U.S. Bishops on a whole host of hot button political issue fronts.

      Of course, an Abrahamic sacrifice offering is needed- everyone should come into a Catholic unity conference willing to give up a blind party or ideological loyalty. We have been going in the opposite direction for too long- Kennedy set a really bad example of declaring himself a Catholic politician in name only. We enter and leave this world as Catholics first- so any unity conference will have to require that Republicans and Democrats and Libertarians etc..agree to come in as Catholics seeking unity first, not as evangelizers of their ideology to the Church. Jesus Christ and His Bride cannot be reduced down to a liberal or conservative political worldview- so we had better stop attempting to do just that.

      Tear down the ideological walls brother and sister Catholics- take up your responsibility to renew our temporal order- We will need our wealthier Catholic brethren to underwrite these conferences- I pray some are out there catching the Spirit.

    • T

      Thank you, both Fr. Johansen and Mr. Shipe, for your insightful commentary. From my own perspective, this is exactly what the Second Vatican Council was calling for: encouraging faithful Catholics to live their faith boldly and transform the world, not live in the world and transform their faith.

      So many lay Catholics say that there are no candidates that represent the full Catholic truth. But what about those people who are so concerned? If they hold to the fullness of the faith, why don’t they take the chance and see if God is calling them to run for office? We need more of the faithful to become like Plato’s philosopher-king, who really does not want to rule or seek power, but agrees to do so reluctantly to bring about a greater growth in the Truth.

      Sound realistic? To most people, no. Would such believers get laughed out of races, fight through campaign after campaign with no money and nothing to show for it, and ultimately seem like they are constantly in a losing battle? Probably. But who said living our faith was about success anyway? As that well-worn but true statement goes, “God does not call us to be successful, but faithful.”

    • Zoe Romanowsky

      Fr. Rob,

      Your article is a clarion call to Catholics. If taken seriously, it brings us face to face with this: Catholics’ ties to political parties are just as strong as those held by everyone else. And this for a lot of reasons, including the fact that many Catholics are more cafeteria-like in their faith than they may realize. How many people really think with the mind of the Church? It takes humility and honesty to admit you’re actually not as “fully” Catholic as you’ve always thought you were.

      It is partly the job of clergy like you to teach the laity the fullness of the faith, and to encourage the reading and contemplation of Scripture and Church documents, including the Compendium of Social Doctrine. Sometimes Catholic lay leaders are so busy with their work, they fail to continue to form themselves.

      Let us also remember to read and consider the founding documents of this country, to understand what this nation was intended to be.

    • Loretta

      So many lay Catholics say that there are no candidates that represent the full Catholic truth. But what about those people who are so concerned? If they hold to the fullness of the faith, why don’t they take the chance and see if God is calling them to run for office?

      I took my boys (ages 7 and 9) with me to vote. They got to look over the entire ballot and see how it all works. We live in Massachusetts – and I would say about 80%+ of the local elections were uncontested (there were at least 15 to 20). I told them it was not a good sign – that democracy does not work its best when there really are no choices for candidates.
      Because of this, the one name (almost all incumbents) will be (re-)elected, and begin to build up his/her resume. Then, when they begin to run for state/federal elections, they will have “experience” only because there was no one else to choose.

      We must begin/continue to pray today for future government candidates – at ALL levels. When we are just as specific and careful about our local and state “public servants” we will begin to have stronger candidates at the broader levels. Let all who are called to these roles hear the call and answer it.

    • JudithM.

      I don’t disagree with your goals, but I question whether the majority of Catholics can be persuaded to walk away from their party loyalties. I’m not saying that’s right (in fact, I think it’s wrong), but there is already evidence that many Catholics will turn their back on teachings of the Church in order to stick with their political party of choice. The fact is, if Catholics were willing to put the Church teachings over party politics, the Democratic party would not have a pro-abortion platform, and the Republican party would not dare suggest that torture is “okay.”

    • LeeAnn

      But I sincerely doubt that forming a third party will ever be the way to go. I like the idea of a Catholics in Congress sort of caucus, because I think it’s necessary to acknowledge that there will always be Catholic politicians on both sides of the aisle. Even if we could get all Catholics in America to agree on the life issues (praise God, let it be so!), there are still legitimate differences in how individual Catholics view the role of government. Ardent pro-lifers can be either pro welfare state or pro total free market capitalism. But it would be great to see that kind of bipartisan cooperation.

    • nobody

      Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

      Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer! Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.

    • NHCatholic

      Dear Fr. Johansen,

      I must admit, you’re article presents an option that it tremendously attractive – but I’m afraid it simply wouldn’t work. We Catholics who are not completely comfortable with either party’s platform may feel less “sullied” when we put party politics behind us, but it may also happen that the Catholic perspective is lost to national politics. That must not happen.

      As you mention Father, there seems to be a common thread among those voices that identify themselves as Catholic

    • nobody

      This dream of a utopian government ideology is a dream for what never was or will be.

      Rev. Robert Johansen, name one perfected parish.

      Your so-called Faustian Bargain is in EVERY aspect of our fallen nature here in this life.

    • gramps

      I think it might be good to start with gaining some agreement within the Catholic Church on exactly what we do believe before starting out to try and lead anyone anywhere. How long have we continued to battle away on those who desire to follow the church teaching and those who want to rewrite it with the spirit. For your suggestion to work, it would take the bishops coming together to provide clear leadership, remove those who do not want to follow church teaching, remove those who cover up for child abuse and other themes, and then having some firm teaching and leadership, your plan could work. The problem is clearly seen in the document released this year on faithful citizenship.

      Maybe it will be a priest who can come forward to create the change. Theresa of Avila and Francis amoung others seems to have had impact on church leadership.

    • Rob

      A Congressional Catholic Caucus sounds excellent but sadly there are not enough memebers with guts to join and to have so-called “Catholics” like Kennedy, Biden, and Pelosi as members would be a mockery of our faith. Look, you can rationalize all you want about which way to go but, Republican and Democrat is the way it is. You cannot take your ball and go home. You must engage and on every issue, the Democratic Party stands at odds against the teachings of the church.

      Only the Republicans stand for the Life issues that Catholics are supposed to treasure; only Republicans stand against the mockery of same-sex disordered lunacy.

      Look, you can rail on about war and torture but we must defend ourselves against the radical muslims and the other forces that want to kill us, forces I might add that if they could, would certainly be voting for Barack Obama.

      Remembe this quote, ” If what you say you want is contradicted by what you do, you are lying to yourself and all you have said it to.” I maintain that one can be an Obama supporter or one can be a Catholic. You CANNOT be both. You protest? See previous quote.

    • nobody

      By accepting the Democrat party line

    • Clayton

      Getting Catholics to engage with the political sphere in a coherent, unified way will be very difficult. Relativism and individualism have affected Catholics just as much as others in the modern world.

      We cannot even agree on what it means to have a well-formed conscience. And after so many years without catechesis and without regular examination of conscience/participation in the sacrament of reconciliation, our conscience is the flabbiest part of our humanity. Muscles we don’t use get flabby. This is a serious problem.

      As CS Lewis once wrote in the Abolition of Man:
      “All the time… we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible…. In a ghastly sort of simplicity, we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

      If we don’t know what the good is, don’t desire it, or haven’t established the habit of seeking it out, how will we choose it in our hour of need?

    • Rose

      The silence in my parish was deafening and a hypocritical witness to the Faith in these past weeks leading up to the Election. Lip service sermons & external signs (posters of a baby) glossed over the deceptive black heart common to a majority of the “progressives” of the parish. Eucharistic Ministers climbing into their Obama-laden stickered cars after serving at the Sacrificial Mass.

      Fr. Corapi has stated that as a Nation we have shifted from legalized homocide into genecide, with 48 million murdered innocent children. All Catholics who voted for Obama have participated in genecide; regardless of any desired good intentions. They have also participated in racism, another intrinsic evil. Statistics show that Negro & Hispanic babies are targeted by the billion dollar abortion industry. Obama has vowed to further this industry through legislation.

      The choice between furthering intrinsic evil or lessening it were crystal clear concerning the Presidential candidates & the Parties they represented in this Election. Alliance to one’s political party over God’s Law is idolatry (duplicity) and excludes one from God’s sanctifiying grace & the Eternal Banquet. It not only excludes one from Catholicism, but from Christianity itself. This act of cooperation with evil has re-crucified the suffering Christ.

      Choose Life & blessings or death & cursings. God’s mercy will not be mocked and this nation will most assuredly be chastised. Through free will many have shown God, the Creator, Lover & Sustainer of Life, that they are truly His enemy and thus he will bring this Nation to its knees one way or another.

      The Catholic Church is divided in mind & heart; polarized along the lines of obedience to Church teaching (the wheat) and disobedience & dissent from it (the tares)each with its own destiny. Which are you? Do you want to enter your physical death in such a spiritual condition??
      Repent, Believe & Follow; working out your salvation with fear & trembling as you go. There is no room for disagreement with God (& those who speak on His behalf–the orthodox Bishops).

    • DM

      It’s not just a matter of obedience and disobedient.

      Pick at random ten American Catholics, ALL of whom are devout, obedient and orthodox, or at least try in good conscience to be according to the best of their knowledge and ability.

      Ask them each what the Catholic Church teaches about economics, war, diplomacy, health care, welfare, immigration, guns, education, crime and energy; and how those teachings ought to be applied in a contemporary American political context.

      If you can get ten sets of answers that are similar enough to formulate a political agenda, you would have reason to believe that this will work.

      However… you can’t. So you don’t. And it won’t.

    • Jordanes

      Somebody above posted a passage from “Common Sense,” in which Paine erroneously asserts: Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil in its worst state an intolerable one.

      The Catholic belief, however, is completely different. Human government is instituted by God, and therefore is good, not a necessary evil. As Pope Leo XIII wrote in Immortale Dei (1885):

      “Man

    • R.C.

      Jordanes:

      Keep in mind the qualification, there.

      Government in a fallen world does not, as it would in Heaven, merely make decisions, make them perfectly, and receive in return acknowledgment from the governed in the form of obedience.

      No. In a fallen world government has a distinctly different character from that intended by God, in that it is granted a monopoly on the use of force to achieve its ends. Government initiates violence to ensure obedience.

      Now I’m no anarchist: I’m not saying it shouldn’t do that. It must. It must, because the world, and our race, are fallen.

      But to say that God wants it that way, and is happy that it is that way, is false. The use or threat of force to compel compliance, even to just laws (setting aside the unjust ones!), is a “necessary evil,” not an intrinsic good.

      When the Church teaches that government is ordained by God and that we must respect authorities, she teaches correctly.

      But when a person calls government a necessary evil, that person is in nearly every case reflecting on the compulsory nature of government, not the existence or idea of authority per se.

      We use “government is a necessary evil” as a shorthand. Indeed, it’s a logical shorthand, since government is the only organization in society to which we grant authority to use force to achieve its ends. In a fallen world, that trait uniquely identifies government, even if it doesn’t, in all worlds, define it.

      So, make no mistake. You, and the Church, agree with those who call “government” a necessary evil. Those who say it are, at worst, being lax about terms.

    • nobody

      ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII
      ON THE CHRISTIAN CONSTITUTION OF STATES

      The Pope is defending the Church with regards to the state. He

    • nobody

      ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII

    • nobody

      Typical Faustian Bargains in most dioceses across the U.S.:

      Bingo
      Raffles
      Games of chance
      Church picnics, often with casino type games
      Not preaching orthodoxy for fear of

    • Ender

      I totally reject the basic premise of this article. As a conservative there is no Faustian bargain I have to make in order to vote Republican. Clearly there are individual decisions pushed by the current crop of Republicans with which I disagree but the only hope of enacting the policies I do support comes from electing Republicans – and I make no moral sacrifice in doing so.

      There is a very short list of issues on which the Church has taken a position and on every one (except torture) the Democrat’s support ranges from quiet (euthanasia) to rabid (abortion). However lukewarm Republican opposition may be on these issues the fact remains that all of the political opposition that exists comes solely from Republicans.

      With regard to torture, neither party is pushing for it although Democrats are clearly more opposed to aggressive interrogation techniques – whether or not they are torturous. Given that McCain publicly condemned the use of waterboarding it is dishonest to casually assert that Republicans are the party of torture.

      I have no interest in a “Catholic” party. The Church has no specific position on immigration, health care, taxation, or any of the other prudential issues that separate the two major parties today. Do what you will but don’t imply that we are in the same boat. I had no difficulty opposing someone who supports infanticide.

    • Monica

      thank you for this article, Fr. Johansen!!

    • Augustine

      We got we deserve and the sorry state of the Church looms on myself as a parent and on our shepherds, from deacons to the Holy Father. We’ll be judged for selling our souls to Mammon.

      May Our Lady of Victory pray for us.

    • Joe H

      We have to take the reality into account that this is no longer an equal contest between parties. In my view it is absolutely foolish to trust the GOP with life issues. A party that wages preemptive war, fails to rescue a major American city, expands the police powers of the states, sanctions torture, supports policies which damage the environment and at all turns prioritizes profits over people is NOT pro-life.

      Even if you think the GOP is a-ok and none of these issues bother you (or you don’t think they’re issues), the reality is that the majority of Americans disagree with you and are simply done with your party for the forseeable future. This party, even if it were truly pro-life, and it isn’t, will no longer be in a position to affect this issue. The future is with the Democratic Party. It is time to accept defeat.

      I think we need to get more pro-life Dems on the ballots and running in the future elections. People seem to be scoffing at this notion, but then, they’re usually GOP kool-aid drinkers who think torture and preemptive warfare are “prudential matters”.

      A pro-life Catholic Democrat would probably get 90% of the Hispanic vote and we would hope 90% of the Catholic vote. My hunch is that if his or her platform at all includes sufficient social and economic justice planks, even a majority of women could support it. It may mean supporting an economic program you don’t like – one that the Church does not, however, condemn and would probably enthusiastically support – but it will mean great strides against abortion.

      Hispanics will decide elections in the 21st century, they will most likely make Texas a blue state within a decade. Catholic, pro-life Hispanics who will most likely never vote GOP, but who would support pro-life Dems over pro-choice Dems by blowout margins.

      They’ve done it in Latin America. Leftist governments have not caved in on life issues there, whether it is Daniel Ortega or Evo Morales. Even Hugo Chavez has yet to legalize abortion!

      The Latin Americans have shown us that progressive economics can be combined with a respect for life. In America we wouldn’t even need programs half as radical (programs 1/4 as radical would probably look like super-communism to the American right). That’s the difference between Latin America and Europe, and Latin America and the United States. That is why I have always believed they are the last best hope of humanity.

    • BenK

      Unless the RC Church can purify their own house, get it in order, and get the conservative separated brethren to join up, they won’t make any impact on their own. They can wander off into the wilderness and stop having any real influence, like the evangelicals did for several decades before the religious right rose to become a force for good, but then each time they open the newspaper, deal with a cop, go to the hospital or go to school, they will be faced with a society that ignores their morals and forces them into immorality more and more regularly.

      If the RC Church does purify itself and in some areas stop its idolatry of ‘life’ – instead recognizing how God embraced death as a waystation to judgment (just war, executions for certain crimes) – it should have no problem drawing in many millions of potential allies who have for reasons good, habitual, traditional, and venial otherwise not wanted to have anything to do with it. Once there are close ties between these new converts and the RC Church, as well as the communities they left and their own families, we would start to see the RC Church have a serious independent impact. People would align themselves with it, rather than asking catholics to align themselves with the parties.

      But nobody will do this while there is all this confusion about lay leaders, womanpriests, communion for pro-abort politicans, gays in the seminaries, protection for molesters, protection for illegal immigrants; not to mention too few priests, etc. The Church itself must be strong internally and disciplined before it will draw others to itself.

    • Nobody
    • Mark Shea

      With Catholics as docile to the Magisterium as BenK, Fr. Johansen has his work cut out for him.

    • JohnR

      This idea that the Republican party pays lip service to pro-lifers is absurd. Look at the facts of the past eight years under President Bush:

      This is a partial list from Priests For Life. If you would like to read more go to http://www.priestsforlife.org/…uences.htm

      1) Appointed Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. The appointments resulted in the upholding of the federal partial-birth abortion ban by a 5-4 decision.

      2) Reinstituted the Mexico City Policy, begun by the Reagan Administration and reversed by the Clinton Administration (when Congress tried to reinstitute the policy, Clinton vetoed the bill), that bars foreign aid funding to groups that perform or advocate for abortions. In 2003, the Bush Administration expanded the Mexico City Policy to include not just funds dispensed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), but also the State Department.

      3) Discouraged advancement of pro-abortion legislation by announcing early in his administration that he would veto legislation that threatened pro-life policy.

      4) Signed the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, which made it a federal crime not to treat babies who survive abortion.

      5) Signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban of 2003.

      6) Signed Unborn Victims of Violence Act, recognizing the unborn child as a separate crime victim if injured or killed during an assault.

      7) Cut off all federal funds to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for its involvement in China

    • Rob H

      A party that wages preemptive war, fails to rescue a major American city, expands the police powers of the states, sanctions torture, supports policies which damage the environment and at all turns prioritizes profits over people is NOT pro-life.

      Well said, Joe. Unfortunately, both the Republicrats and the Democans are guilty on all counts. Had our elected officials from both parties honored their oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution, none of the injustices you cite would have occurred.

    • Bob Hunt

      The sad truth is that Father Johansen is fundamentally wrong is his assessment of the problem. The problem is NOT that Catholics fail to exert their influence on the nation on issues such as abortion. Rather, Catholics DO exert their influence on matters such as abortion — in keeping abortion legal with few restrictions. This is, after all, where most Catholics stand on the issue.

      I have to wonder how many Catholics would refuse the job offered in Father’s fictitious example (an example that is probably played out all too often in reality).

      Until the Church is able to effectively evangelize her own, we will never be effective in transforming society according to the values of the gospel.

    • Paul in the GNW

      I think we need to get more pro-life Dems on the ballots and running in the future elections. People seem to be scoffing at this notion…

      You must admit that is a heck of a big order. Of the 7 democrats in the primaries for President, all 7 were pro-abort and all 7 courted NARAL and planned parenthood, and the most extreme of them all won! Of democrats in the Senate Bob Casey is the only pro-lifer. In the house there might be a few, but not more than a handful of pro-life democrats, and all of them will come from very conservative (rural?) districts.

      In the state houses you will find more pro-life democrats, but if they want to go any higher they have up until now been forced to change their position on abortion. Even among governors there are very few pro-life democrats, if any.

      Essentially, up until this time at any level above the very local the democratic party has effectively weeded out the pro-life position.

      Call it scoffing if you will, but I don’t believe it’s going to take anything less than an overthrough of the leadership of the democratic party to make pro-life positions even tolerated in the DNC at the national level.


      A pro-life Catholic Democrat would probably get 90% of the Hispanic vote and we would hope 90% of the Catholic vote. My hunch is that if his or her platform at all includes sufficient social and economic justice planks, even a majority of women could support it.

      Absolutely yes, but the extremists who dominate primaries in the big states won’t ever let it happen, and the party leadership is beholden to NARAL and PP.

      Right now the GOP is in the most disarray. The better choice is to try to convert or hi-jack the GOP.

      Peace

      Paul in the GNW

    • Adriana

      Very shrewd analysis of the quandary the Church is putting itself into – letting its pro-life position push it into being an adjunct of the Republican Party.

      This is to be feared always, since it leads back to a well-known historial evil: the STate Church, or Church as an instrument of government – a Church that exists to fulfill secular ends, not its own.

      Unfortunately

      a) The majority of the population is not Catholic.
      b) The civic religion of the country is Democracy, which means rule by the majority – which is dangerous since it implies that questions of right and wrong can be settled according by how many people agree with an answer.

      So, while Catholic doctrine and democracy are not by nature inimical, there *are* areas of friction, and an acknowledgement must be made that the two are not the same.

      That while Catholics may participate in politics, they must also hold mental reservations about the nature of the endeavor,and avoid making the Church a hostage to *any* political party.

    • Joe H

      I hear you, but I think the old guard in the Democratic Party is no match for the demographic explosion that is altering the base of the party.

      Hispanics will decide the outcome of elections in the 21st century. This overwhelmingly Catholic group which is to the left on economic issues and to the right on social issues will continue to support the Democratic Party. It is projected that they will make Texas a blue state, more than likely Arizona too, by the time we vote again in eight years.

      Everything in my gut tells me that if we could field our own Democratic pro-life (and pro-family) candidates, they would sweep the Southwest and pick up almost the whole Hispanic vote.

      When abortion was legalized in 1972, in the midst of the sexual revolution, there was no massive electoral bloc of Hispanic voters. It was the white middle class seeking what they believed to be their “fundamental right” and a Supreme Court that decided to grant it. Today’s Democratic voter is a different species.

      If the Church and enough serious Catholics got behind a viable pro-life Democrat for Congress or the Senate or governorship, they could overwhelm the state party. Get enough of them in and they could challenge the national party as the true representatives of this nations Catholic and Latino population.

      This is all very doable but it requires effort.

    • nobody

      adjunct of the Republican Party

      making the Church a hostage to *any* political party

      Your faux analysis would be laughable if it weren

    • nobody

      Catholics Caught Between Parties is a false premise; our country is being over run by

    • Stephen M. O’Brien

      Catholic laypeople in the United States should break away from the fraudulent

    • DanteInferno

      Here’s a Faustian bargian offered to every priest as he prepare’s his Homily….”You can profess the true teachings of The Church,and risk upsetting half of your parish…OR, you can speak in platitudes, and ambiguity which will insure the baskets are full of dollars!”

      It’s time Catholics demand real leadership. I believe one of the core tenants of our faith is COURAGE. Church hierarchy needs to practice it. Stop worrying about offending people and speak the TRUTH, or there will be a day The State will force The Church to accept “Bob & Ted’s” application for Pre Cana training.

      We are like Peter. We keep denying our relationship with Jesus (and what it means) so as not to offend our enemies. There are two types of Catholics. One goes up to the alter to receive the Body & Blood of Jesus Christ…the other goes their for some bread and wine. Is their money worth our souls.

    • meg

      Getting Catholics to engage with the political sphere in a coherent, unified way will be very difficult. Relativism and individualism have affected Catholics just as much as others in the modern world.

      We cannot even agree on what it means to have a well-formed conscience. And after so many years without catechesis and without regular examination of conscience/participation in the sacrament of reconciliation, our conscience is the flabbiest part of our humanity. Muscles we don’t use get flabby. This is a serious problem.

      This hits the nail on the head. Today’s CCD programs/most Catholic schools have fallen victim to moral relativism – don’t depend on them to be your children’s only exposure to the Faith. And if you were taught the Faith after 1970, you must re-catechize yourselves! Buy the Baltimore catechism and the Lives of the Saints, read them aloud, and learn along with your children. I had terrible instruction in Catholicism as a kid, so we are learning together, and it is AWESOME. And go to confession, not once a year, but at least once a month. And start praying the rosary as a family – if you never have, start a little at a time, pretty soon you won’t feel right without it! There are all sorts of sweet little books and things to help. Children love it.

      I think it might be good to start with gaining some agreement within the Catholic Church on exactly what we do believe before starting out to try and lead anyone anywhere. How long have we continued to battle away on those who desire to follow the church teaching and those who want to rewrite it with the spirit. For your suggestion to work, it would take the bishops coming together to provide clear leadership, remove those who do not want to follow church teaching, remove those who cover up for child abuse and other themes, and then having some firm teaching and leadership, your plan could work. The problem is clearly seen in the document released this year on faithful citizenship.

      Maybe it will be a priest who can come forward to create the change. Theresa of Avila and Francis amoung others seems to have had impact on church leadership.

      Wonderful! We have never needed a saint in our midst more than now.

      Abortion needs to be fought not only in the courts, but also in the home. It is not enough to tell your children that it is evil, they must be properly instructed in all aspects of Catholic teaching on human sexuality – on premarital sex, contraception, they must not participate in sex-ed instruction, must understand the evils of gay rights, etc. etc. All aspects of human sexuality are intertwined and will perpetuate abortion if the instruction is poor. Remember, we are fighting against a monstrous prevailing culture.

      If children are taught AT HOME clearly and definitively that sex is the most beautiful and private gift God gives to a man and woman who marry, they will be less likely to absorb what our prevailing culture is telling them – we all know that message, I can’t even go there.

    • helenm

      I would add, Rev. Johansen, that you might substitute the word Christians for Catholics, the number and influence increase tremendously. Let me introduce you to AIP, America’s Independent Party, http://www.aipnews.com. Alan Keyes was our nominee in this Presidential Election. Of course, Catholics and Christians turned their back on him instead making the Faustian bargains you describe.

      AIP is :

      A new political party

    • R.C.

      Ben:

      Unless the RC Church can purify their own house…If the RC Church does purify itself…Once there are close ties between these new converts and the RC Church, as well as the communities they left and their own families, we would start to see the RC Church have a serious independent impact.

      I sincerely appreciate the vote of confidence. But, really, I really wasn’t trying to start my own church. I was just, you know, expressing my opinions and hoping they’d be persuasive.

      *cough*

      Sincerely,

      R.C.

    • meg

      You are funny!

      And congrats on the baby boy! (yes, I know, I’ve spent too much time on this site recently)

    • Scott

      I disagree with your faith in the moral choices of people. No one would argue that greed, corruption and selfishness created our current financial fiasco. In fact if what you said is true regarding morality that most people take to work then the masses that participated in the fraud from the Fed and Alan Greenspan to the Executive Branch for barring investigations and Congress for removing the last controls keeping Investment Banks, National Banks, and Insurance Companies from playing in the same back yard. This fiasco was a breakdown at all levels throughout the entire country. It encompasses people of all Race, Creed and Color. Where was the morality here? Why didn

    • St. Finn Barr

      The inherent contradiction between the fullness of Catholic teaching and the founding documents of the US?

    • Robert

      Stephen, you are absolutely right. It is time that Catholics take a more active role rather than choosing the lesser evil between the Republicans and Democrats. In the first place, it is not morally right to choose a lesser evil as it is still an evil. As history has shown, both parties are evil.

      That Catholic party you are mentioning must carry all the values of what the Catholic Church teaches. Anti-abortion, anti-unjust war, preferential option for the poor, anti-death penalty, anti-violence, so forth and so on.

      Helenm, I am not familiar with that aip. I hope it does not attract extremist fringe Christians who have many anti-Catholic beliefs.

    • Michael C Hebert

      Thank you, Father, for pointing out the difficulties many of us Catholics are having. This party choice dilemma was especially painful in this last election.

      One problem, though. Most of the prescriptions here involve political activism, and not all of us want to be politically active. I have important work to do in my own family and in my career, and don’t feel I have the time, at least at this moment, to start a political movement. Voting and the occasional letter to the editor and letter to my congressman is about all I can do, or want to do.

      So I guess I’m stuck with voting third party. Unfortunately, I read up on the third parties, and most of the ones on the presidential ballot this year were just as divisive as the big two parties. The Green party favors free abortions to anyone, anytime. The Constitutionalist party is anti-abortion, but I find some of their stances on civil liberties unpalatable. The Libertarian party more or less wants to do away with Medicare.

      These issues aren’t going to get much easier any time soon. Maybe we Catholics can comfort one another as we ride out this dark storm.

    • Robert F.

      (1) Most issues that members of Congress deliberate and vote upon are matters of prudential judgment. Should the highest income tax rate be 33% or 34%? Should the authorized strength of the active duty Marine Corps be 190,000 or 200,000? Should the Chief Justice of the United States be paid $200,000 or $225,000? There is no Christian or Catholic position on these issues any more than there is a Jewish or Islamic position.

      (2) Anytime you put the name “Catholic” on a secular entity you are practically inviting bishops to presume to dictate what positions the entity can and can not take and still call itself “Catholic”. Who needs that? Certainly not the devout Catholic congressman, who gets enough pressure as it is from various interest groups with political agendas. And certainly not the devout bishop, who is tempted enough already to get too directly involved in temporal affairs.

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