Oct 032010

In the history of bad ideas we almost always find that there is always room for another bad idea. This time it is the idea of a “Catholic Tea Party” as promoted by Deal Hudson and others. While I am largely in agreement with the aims of such, I think the name does more harm than good.

I don’t say this because Catholic should not be associated with the political Tea Party movement if they want to, but that the term is another unhelpful politicization of the Church. So many terms adopted from the political sphere become nonsense when applied to Catholic movements. Right, Left, Conservative, Liberal, Progressive, Far Right, Far Left become labels that in the end don’t tell you anything.

I’ve written before about prefix-Catholicism that always narrows the meaning of Catholicism. You don’t need a prefix for universal since any prefix narrows the scope. Ultimately there are only orthodox and heterodox Catholics. But among orthodox Catholics there is also large room for prudential disagreements on how best to live and to apply the Catholic faith.

When you confuse the faith with a political party it makes it easier for someone in the other party to dismiss you.

Fighting against abortion is not a conservative thing, it is a protection of the truth that we are created in the image of God and that the innocent can not be murdered. Doing what we can to help the poor is not a liberal idea, but again the protection of the truth that we are created in the image of God and that we can not limit the scope of the world neighbor.

In the area of prudential application of the faith, these actions often overlap into the political sphere and thus at times we must interact with that sphere. Foremost we need to determine if our prudential actions are indeed motivated by the faith or by a political party. Really everybody believes that we should be good stewards of the environment, to help our neighbor when they are in need, that we have a healthy economy that supports job growth and provides a fair wage. It is such nonsense in politics to accuse others of not having what are really basic agreements. The real disagreements come into place in regards to prudential decisions on how to best achieve these goals. Criticism of policies that don’t meet the goals of course are fair play, but the polemics of people saying the other side hates such and such is useless. These types of polarizations do way too much damage and as Catholics we really should assume good motives of others even if we totally disagree with their means of achieving something.

Some of these disagreements range into the are of the support of things that are intrinsically evil. Where a political party supports an intrinsic evil such as abortion, ESCR, homosexual acts, human cloning, euthanasia, torture, etc they must be totally opposed and every effort made to destroy the support and use of such evils. This should be done without lapsing into the hatred and demonization of those who hold opinions supporting intrinsic evils. Loving our enemies means both that we can have real enemies and that our primary motive must be to seek their repentance.

The identification of the Catholic faith with a specific political party is fraught with danger. In the last century Catholics largely identified with the Democratic Party and when that party started supporting intrinsic evils such as abortion it caused people to diminish this problem. Instead of Catholic Democrats revolting at this corruption, largely excuses were made and the Bishop’s conference decided to go into three monkey mode for decades in regards to this. With so many Catholics making up the Democratic Party then they should have been able to reject this perversion allowed under the corrupting auspices of a false feminism. Moral relativism became the standard in support of this evil and evidence of the trumping of the Catholic faith by political idea. The same thing happened when torture was used by the Bush administration and once again moral relativists decided that an evil could be promoted to bring a greater good. Way to few Catholics who were Republicans spoke against this outrage and mostly when on to advance the same moral relativistic arguments the pro-abortion types advanced.

This confusion between the Catholic faith and the sphere of political parties is a common one and something we must always be aware of. At one time I would have been politically described as a man of the left and now as a man of the right. It is a constant temptation for me to make the error I mentioned and I have to evaluate myself as to whether something I believe is a result of my Catholic faith or a sympathy towards a political party. I do not want to personally make the mistake the Catholic Democrats made when it came to abortion. I might have easily done this in regards to torture when looking for wiggle room in the magisterial documents and finding no such wiggle room. I only pray to continually be intellectually honest enough to not make this mistake in the future. Though it is also seems to me a temptation to say “A pox on both of their houses” since political parties can be useful to advance the common good, just never forget to do what you can on a personal level to do the same.

Now back to the topic of this wordy rant. I certainly think the name “Catholic Tea Party” is a bad idea. I think though the aim of it is mostly correct. The Church is always in need of reform because each of it’s members are always in need of reform. Renewal is always needed, with the caveat that G.K. Chesterton suggested “The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.” I certainly think a general movement of Catholics who are orthodox in their faith is needed and much good can be done by those Catholics who reform themselves and seek to fully know their faith so that true reform can be achieved.

Now if someone had asked this lowly couch critic the name for such a movement I would have offered one much better than the “Catholic Tea Party”, I would suggest the “Catholic Trent Party.” The Council of Trent was a large leap in the right direction of necessary reform after the Protestant revolt. They made necessary clarification in response to the errors of the day and built upon the constant teaching of the Church to clarify and to achieve this. This reform included such saints as Ignatius of Loyola , Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Francis de Sales. Politicization of the Catholic Church did not achieve this reform, but saints and those living their faith.

  19 Responses to “Catholic Tea Party”

  1. Nothing to add, because you are absolutely right.

    Thank you, and God bless!

  2. I groaned when I heard the name as well and will have nothing to do with it precisely because of the name.

  3. Well said.

  4. We should just call it the Drinking Party. 🙂

  5. Oh, and in case anybody asks, I didn’t like the whole Catholic “Social Democrats” thing in Europe, and I don’t want any kind of Catholic “Social Republican” movement, either. Catholics should participate in the party of their choice (or none), but this isn’t the way.

  6. I, myself, am a prefix-free-Catholic.

    Agree with the Drinking Party and Deal Hudson is just the guy to lead it!

  7. I actually like the idea of a Christian center party. Or, at least a center party. I won’t hold my breath for it, though ….

    Having said that, I just recently posted some thoughts about—I hate to put it like this—recapturing the Catholic “brand”. You’re right, “In my father’s house there are many rooms,” and there are quite a few teachings that aren’t beyond refinement. But there are many that are set forever, and eventually that must become clear … even at the cost of public schism.

  8. Could not agree more.

  9. It’s a bad idea—inserting pressure and partisan political methods into the Church. Ours is a Church governed by the successors of the Apostles. We can talk to them, pray for them, do the best to teach ourselves and our children the Catholic Faith (this is the MAIN problem—ignorance of the faith by most Catholics), etc, but we must not organize to pressure them. St. Paul in his letters, eg to the Corinthians and Ephesians is adamant about the need to build up the unity of the Body of Christ. There are more spiritual ways to seek a conversion than political methods. Of course I sympathize with the frustrations of faithful Catholics with the less than clear leadership of our Shepherds in certain times, places and situations. This is a problem that’s been going on now for, oh…., about 20 centuries.

  10. As an active member of Boston’s Catholic movement to start actually doing something other than whinining in comments sections of blogs about the state of affairs, I take great exception to your brash characterization that we are drunks.

    It is beneath contempt.

  11. Thank you. Exactly right.

  12. “…when torture was used by the Bush administration…”

    When was that? Consider ‘torture’ as defined by the magisterium, of course – none of that relativistic, subjective sort of stuff mislabeled torture that soon slips to defining anyone who cries, “Oh no, not the comfy chair!” as a victim of ‘torture.’

    (You may now wish to go look for the wiggle room on ‘calumny’ in the magisterial documents.)

  13. There are major problems with both parties for Catholics. In particular, the secular humanist, social libertine, and servile statism of the Democrats, and the excessive individualism and capitalism of the Republicans. I find Distributism/Distributivism/Distributionism (three variant names) very compelling. It has nothing to do with redistribution of wealth per se, but focuses more on spreading empowerment, promoting family and community, and avoiding concentrations of power like monopolies and the Servile State.

  14. Brilliantly stated. But speaking of “three monkey mode” (cute) didn’t Cardinal George make very disparaging remarks about Republicans, as though one had to sell his faith to support them? I found it deeply disturbing, and revealed his standard old school bias — which is also unbecoming, given his high-profile position. He illustrates the Chigaco version of the Boston mentality of old: the little prayer corner with a picture of the Sacred Heart and JFK.

    It’s very hard to find that narrow path, but you’ve outlined it well.

  15. Where did Deal specifically call for a Catholic Tea Party? Maybe I missed an article, but I read something that seemed to imply that, among three crappy choices, the Tea Part was best; presently I agree with that sentiment. I’m often active in pro-life activities and after over 25 years in the fray I can say there are big things that happened in that movement that I disagreed with. I hated Operation Rescue because I believed it brought odium on an otherwise peaceful and prayerful movement. Tactics have repercussions and it seems Mr Hudson, actively in love with Christ and politics for so many years, is impatient to see good fruit in the arena of politics, an arena he believes Catholics should have more influence within. I’m not sure your characterization of his viewpoint is both accurate and fair; many people who figured I loved Christ did not, when I would not participate in Operation Rescue, figure I loved the unborn. But I do.

  16. Why was my comment edited out? Is it still waiting moderation or something?

  17. deal hudson has been unfaithful to his wife, can he be faithful in other ways?

  18. The growing onslaught of writers, who are attempting to demonstrate why the Tea Party is not Catholic, is merely an attempt to bring politics to the front and center of the Church. These individuals, in an attempt to justify their own beliefs, clearly demonstrate that they do not understand what motivates this grassroots movement, nor do they comprehend the current U.S. President’s ideology. The Tea Party is a loosely organized movement of Americans from all religions, political beliefs, and walks of life who have two main concerns: the massive growing power of the American government and the unprecedented spending of taxpayer money. The President justifies this enhancement of this authority and misuse of funds in the name of “social justice.”
    Catholics, who are in the public square through the Tea Party forum, need to ignore fellow “progressive” Catholics who continually try to cast them in a bad light. The bottom line is that the Constitution of the United States limits the power of the federal government, and the “social justice” of Barack Obama does not equate with Catholic teaching about social justice. Obama’s philosophy is based on the concept of collective salvation and black liberation theology. This is well documented in his books and in his speeches. The bottom line is “WE” must give, so that “WE” can be redeemed. One example of this is his speech to a group of Jewish rabbis in which he said“…certain portions of the African American community are doing as bad, if not worse, and recognizing that my fate remains tied up with their fates, that my individual salvation is not going to come about without a collective salvation for the country. Unfortunately, I think that recognition requires we make sacrifices and this country is not always been willing to make the sacrifices necessary to bring about a new day and a new age.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8RM7Khners)
    The Catholic Church teaches, as Christ did, that salvation is the responsibility of the individual, not the collective group. Catholic “social justice” asks for a just and RESPONSIBLE government. One cannot do evil in order to accomplish good! The most pro-abortion President in the United States is not exhibiting Catholic social justice. He has lifted all holds against abortion in this country and worldwide. U.S. taxpayer dollars were sent to Kenya, where the Catholic Church has its greatest base in Africa, to influence the election of a pro-abortion president. “Social justice” that enslaves Americans to massive debt and disregards the laws of the land by ignoring the U.S. Constitution in nearly every area is not Catholic. It is not Catholic to support healthcare that embraces abortion. Reference Cardinal Raymond Burke’s speech about the growing national crisis in America. (lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/may/09050819.html)

  19. […] Catholic blogger Jeff Miller of the Curt Jester thinks my notion of a Catholic Tea Party is a “bad idea.” It may, in fact, be a bad idea, but if so, not […]

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