Mark Shea has written a guest post over at American Catholic, entitled Opposition to Abortion Does Not Take Away the Sins of the World. He has made an important point about the current political tendencies of conservatives. Just this past Saturday I listened to a local radio show where the host and a guest suggested that the social conservatives shut up and help the Tea Party advance fiscal conservatism. That is, they’re willingly to take my vote, but social issues such as abortion (and gay “marriage” and the HHS contraceptive mandate) aren’t important to them. This is nothing new. I’ve been arguing with fiscal conservatives over the priority of issues for more than a decade. But there’s something new in my relationship with fiscal conservatives, and that’s the sense that they’re embarrassed to have social conservatives hanging around. And if a social conservative is also a fiscal conservative (such as I am, as well as many other social conservatives), it’s not enough to erase the weirdness felt by the more socially moderate fiscal conservatives. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that the fiscal conservative will welcome our vote this November and will promise us something, but after November they will still want us to shut up,
So I agree with Mark that conservative Catholics shouldn’t sell their souls or their faith to such a party or ideology. But I do part with Mark, not with what he actually said, but with the implication of what he said. Mark correctly said that our faith does not end with abortion, and that our politicians (that is, politicians of our particular tribe) should also be concerned with the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy. Good stuff. However, even though Mark did not say that he endorsed the federal government’s take over of the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy, one could easily walk away with the impression that he favors some sort of government involvement. As for me, I’m a big proponent of the idea of subsidiarity.
Over at The Catholic Thing, Peter Brown has a thoughtful essay, “The Limits of Subsidiarity.” Go over and read it, but please come back. Brown sees a battle between Solidarists and Subsidiarists. It’s interesting stuff. He claims that although subsidiarity has worked well in the past, modernity has changed things. He writes, “Subsidiarists have not yet come up with a modern model that better manages risk.” For my reply, I’d like to borrow Josey Wale’s line as he concludes a personal peace treaty with Chief Ten Bears in the movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales, “That’s true. I ain’t promising you nothing extra.”
In a world full of ideologies, it’s tempting to claim that you too have got the magic key that unlocks all solutions. But proper conservative, one who knows and understands conservative principles would be more inclined to say and repeat often, “conservatism is the negation of ideology.” The Catholic Solidarist is likely to be a liberal who thinks that the magic key is Washington whereupon all solutions emanate. The U.S. bishops, if they have not learned from the bloody noses given to Catholic Charities and other Catholic programs for failing to acknowledge the heavenly sweetness of the homosexual lifestyle and for failing to introduce Abortion as the eight sacrament, are inclined toward a power sharing arrangement with Washington, something akin to Church and State happily progressing forward to a better future. Sadly, under Obama, the federal government doesn’t seem to understand this friendly little arrangement. There are no magic keys, unless we talk about Christ and his Church.
Frankly, I’m a little bit jealous of the government hiding away and hoarding all the social problems to itself. I don’t feel comfortable in being forced (through taxes) to have someone else take care of them. It de-personalizes the love I’m supposed to have for the poor, the sick and the hungry. Indeed, it seems that the government is jealous of his prerogatives, since the news regularly comes up with charities forced to fold for failing to come up with the fees or necessary paperwork. Only BIG charities can survive, and if it turns out that you’ve left-over and untouched food from a wedding (or some other celebration), don’t you dare hand it over to a charity for the poor and hungry. These acts might offend a government bureaucrat who has a job to keep.
I do believe in subsidiarity and solidarity. I do want to embrace both. It can’t possibly be that the only solidarity is through proper bureaucratic channels or as a hired social worker. One of Lord Acton’s famous quotes is “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.” We ought to resurrect the ought. The libertarian idea of a collection of individuals should sent to the firing line, shot multiple times and buried, encased in ten feet of concrete and lead. But so also the socialist/Catholic idea that we can “love” the poor. the sick, and the hungry through our votes for our party which will take someone-else’s money and have someone else “take care” of the problem for us. I’m kind of hoping that Christ’s words will be prophetic, that the poor will always be with us, not because I wish for an increase in suffering, but because I hope for an increase in love. Of course, this all depends on a government that allows religious expression beyond the confines of our skulls.
Quo Vadis, Peter?