While I have emphasized from the start that I want this blog to be a forum for the kind of civil discourse so absent in today’s public square, I did not intend for that to mean an absence of strongly stated convictions. My point was and is simply that we can argue forcefully for what we believe—and against that which we consider harmful—while still respecting those with whom we disagree.
My intention is to examine critical issues from a Catholic perspective—that is, from within the context of Catholic moral and social teachings. Of course, what I will be offering on many of these issues are my own prudential judgments—informed, I hope, by those Catholic teachings, but not the only or exclusive conclusions that Catholics may in good conscience reach on such issues.
I won’t, in other words, succumb to the temptation (paraphrasing an old Rush Limbaugh line) to declare that “the views expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of all Catholics—but they oughtta be!”
Rather, I’ll try to keep in mind the teaching I have cited previously from Gaudium et spes, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: that while one person’s “Christian vision will suggest a certain solution in some given situation,” it “happens rather frequently, and legitimately so, that some of the faithful, with no less sincerity, will see the problem quite differently”; and that “in those cases no one is permitted to identify the authority of the Church exclusively with his own opinion.”
So, for example, those who favor massive federal programs as the solution to poverty should not assume that all who disagree are necessarily uncaring toward the poor. Some might instead see free market policies, designed to stimulate economic growth and the creation of jobs, as the real answers to alleviating poverty.
Regarding criminal justice, those rightly concerned about preserving law and order should not dismiss those promoting “restorative justice” as being “soft on crime”; conversely, proponents of restorative justice need to be sensitive to the suffering of crime victims, and supportive of efforts to protect the innocent. Supporters of law and order, in turn, must recognize that protecting the innocent also means securing justice for those wrongly accused or wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit.
On immigration, those on both sides should stop demonizing their opponents. While there is an element of bigotry among some immigration opponents (going all the way back to Margaret Sanger, who targeted certain “undesirable” groups for immigration restrictions as well as birth control), that hardly characterizes all who have legitimate concerns about border security. On the other hand, while there are legitimate concerns about a criminal element among illegal immigrants (a concern particularly felt in immigrant communities, on whom that criminal element primarily preys), it is grossly unjust to stereotype all undocumented immigrants as dangerous criminals. Regardless of one’s feelings about the need for border security, I have always been at a loss to understand the vitriol directed at people who come here, often at great peril, simply to try to do better for their families.
On these and so many other issues of life and justice, as Gaudium et spes instructs, we are not justified in asserting that our policy position—even if it comports with Catholic moral and social teaching—is the only policy judgment consistent with that teaching.
Instead, we should thoughtfully—and prayerfully—examine each such issue in light of the Church’s teachings; try to reach our best prudential judgments as to how to apply those teachings in ways that best serve the common good; then share our conclusions while respectfully considering differing prudential judgments, reached no less sincerely, by others equally committed to applying Catholic moral and social teaching to the issue at hand.
In short, let us, as Gaudium et spes encourages, “try to guide each other by sincere dialogue in a spirit of mutual charity and with anxious interest above all in the common good.”