But is there really a "crunch con" phenomenon set to explode -- or even expand -- across the American landscape? A handful of Kirkean (and Burkean) conservatives emphatically recoil from crass materialism. Alright. Don't most of us recognize and register our opposition to this crassness, albeit perhaps less emphatically and sans granola, by catechizing our children? ("Pushing back against the culture" -- to use Flannery O'Connor's phrase -- and all that.)This idea of the "right" Catholic political position has had me in mind of Deus Caritas Est, in which Pope Benedict points out that the Church should not direct its work toward political or social ends, but spiritual ends.
I do hope that there isn't some sort of predictable policy agenda associated with "crunchy conservatism." Otherwise, it runs the risk of being a Catholic variation of the elusive "third way." For example, a year or two ago, a Catholic civil war erupted over the subject of Texas' CHIP, a state assistance program designed to provide healthcare to the working poor. It was more or less taken for granted that the "right" Catholic position was support for the program. Anyone who dared oppose it or pointed out its flaws was heckled as "putting his party before his faith" or "wedded to a hoary ideology."
An example: both Christopher Hitchens and Penn Jillette have denounced Mother Teresa as a phony because her mission was to the dying. Not the sick, not the poor, but the dying. Jillette goes so far as to say that "She had the f---king coin and pissed it away on nunneries." These secular critics have a deeper understanding of Mother Teresa's work than most Catholics do. Mother Teresa comforted the dying -- not to alleviate their suffering (though as far as they were able, she and her sisters did so), not to cure them, but ease their passage to Christ. This is a spiritual work that is beyond comprehension of someone like Hitchens or Jillette, but it is the sort of work that the Church has always done and must continue to do. She may have been savaged for not pushing a political agenda or using her clout to make vast social changes in the fabric of Calcutta, but she was true to the higher spiritual needs of those she served. Her work was "folly to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Gentiles" -- and more Catholics would do well to emulate her.
In this sense, those who see Mother Tesesa as having had a medical ministry to the poor fundamentally misunderstand her mission. And yet, in these modern times where people see much more prospect for successfully healing the sick than people every could have imagined in the Middle Ages when many of the great mendicant orders first came into being, people often confuse success in the goal of attaining a positive medical outcome with the traditional mendicant goals of comforting the sick and helping them prepare to meet God.