George Weigel writes a timely article about the application of Catholic social teaching to government policy – a genuine must-read. Why, you ask? Because there is a pride of place for Catholic voters in 2012 – in large measure, how Catholics vote will decide who will be elected in 2012. The unbelievers are largely in the Democrat camp. Evangelicals are pretty solid for the Republicans. Catholics can go either way…and in 2004 when we swung heavily for President Bush he won, in 2008 Catholics awarded a majority of their votes to Obama, and he won (and, yes, as a Catholic I apologize for that – especially given Obama’s record on life issues, no properly instructed Catholic could in good conscience vote for him). So it will be in 2012, and thus Catholic social teaching is something everyone should be familiar with.
Obama and the Democrats will do everything in their power to keep their 2008 Catholic votes. As we saw in the liberal Catholic’s letter to Speaker Boehner last month, the chosen instrument is to claim that Catholic social teaching essentially requires Big Government liberalism. To nutshell it, if you don’t support large amounts of spending on Medicare, welfare and other socialist policies, then you aren’t being a good Catholic. In the weird world of the left, the desire is to make devoutly Catholic Boehner less acceptable than oddly Protestant Obama.
The problem with our liberals, Catholic or otherwise, is the usual problem – they keep getting it wrong. Weigel neatly explodes the core, liberal critique of Catholics like Boehner:
The Church’s concern for the poor does not imply a “preferential option” for Big Government. The social doctrine teaches that the problem of poverty is best addressed by empowerment: enabling poor people to enter the circle of productivity and exchange in society. The responsibility for that empowerment falls on everyone: individuals, through charitable giving and service work; voluntary organizations, including the Church; businesses and trade unions. Government at all levels can play a role in this process of empowerment, but it is a serious distortion of the social doctrine to suggest that government has exclusive responsibility here. On the contrary: In the 1991 social encyclical Centesimus Annus, Blessed John Paul II condemned the “Social Assistance State” because it saps welfare recipients of their dignity and their creativity while making them wards of the government.
Catholic social teaching does go on and on about our duty to the poor – and make no mistake about it, we have a moral obligation to help the poor, even if they are poor because they made lousy choices in life. But also make no mistake about it, the “cure” for poverty isn’t to be found in a Big Government bureaucracy passing out welfare checks. It is to be found in gearing our lives, our work and our government towards rewards for hard work – and protecting the private property which accrues from hard work. We are to help the poor – by helping him to enter in to the economy and teaching him to work, live frugally and build up sufficient wealth to care for himself. Only those who are completely helpless (a very tiny percentage of the poor) can claim unending support from us without any requirement to reciprocate. God gave the world to Man for our sustenance and enjoyment – but we are required to work to ensure the world produces what we need. If we don’t work, we die; it is immoral to sit idle and expect others to provide for you if you can in any way provide for yourself.
What is really amazing about this is how the liberals are going to try and conscript a Catholicism they despise in order re-elect Obama. But, a win is a win, right? Doesn’t matter how you do it, does it? Not for liberals. So, be on your guard in 2012…don’t fall for it. And this goes for my fellow Catholics as well as everyone else. It is easy to feel the tug of charity, and it is normally a good thing…but don’t allow a sense of charity to blind you to the facts: and the fact is that charity to the poor is only one part of Catholic social teaching, and that none of it works unless all of it is applied…including that tedious bit about having to work and protecting private property.
It should, though, be all good in the end. While this attempt by liberals to put on the garb of a Franciscan is annoying, it does show the level of desperation on the left. They can’t run on what they are, so they have to pretend to be something else. In this case, they will pretend to be more Catholic than the Pope…until the subject of gay marriage, women ordination or abortion comes up. Liars are by lies undone, and so it will be in 2012…