Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What Makes Those "Conservative Catholics" Tick?

Every so often, a "seamless garment" Catholic demand to know why conservative Catholics do not adopt a position of de facto pacifism, oppose capital punishment just as much as abortion, and clap like a seal at the idea of a supranational world political authority as described in the recent Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace note and in Caritas in Veritate. I hope that this helpful outline will clear a bit of this up and explain why we conservative Catholics tend to act the way that we do.

Generally speaking, conservative Catholics have strong feelings about adherence to basic moral issues and doctrines as they have been constantly presented over a long period of time — with the one key distinction (being American, after all) that they’ll tend to be more sympathetic towards democracy and religious freedom than the official Church position 60+ years ago was.

As such, “right-wing” Catholics get upset about:

- condoning various sins relating to the modern culture of sexual license (contraception, abortion, adultery, fornication, divorce, homosexuality, pornography, etc.)

- denial (or creative questioning of) basic Catholic doctrines and scriptural interpretations including: what seems like denial of the real presence in the Eucharist; denial of the efficacy of the sacraments; questioning the historicity of the resurrection; questioning the existence of heaven, hell and purgatory; questioning the necessity, efficacy and supernatural nature of the seven sacraments; making odd claims about the trinity (saying the Holy Spirit is a woman, talking about God the Mother, etc.); questioning the all male priesthood; etc.

- liturgical innovation in senses that seem to break with the past or reduce the sacredness of the liturgy

They tend to go along less with issues that they see as being innovations or at odds with tradition Church teaching and practice. Thus:

- they have a hard time seeing capital punishment as suddenly being a huge problem now because the Church clearly allowed its use it the past. They may be willing to see it as counter productive or badly administered, but getting them stirred up against it as being as bad as or than than abortion, murder, etc. simply is not going to happen. In their minds, something can't be okay yesterday but the ultimate evil today, no matter how effective the prison system.

- they don’t see the Church as endorsing absolute or de facto pacifism as the Church did not appear to do so in the past

- they don’t see the Church as absolutely endorsing some novel economic system significantly different from what has organically existed in the past. (Added note: Claiming that capitalism is some drastically new innovation and that for most of the past 2000 years something suspiciously like modern democratic socialism was the norm will generally not float well with them either. If anything, they're likely to see the extreme regulation of trade by local princes and by powerful guilds as corruptions of the past, not as the best elements of the pre-modern economy. They may or may not be right on this, but generally speaking they're no less educated about the past than their opponents, and often rather more familiar with it.)

- they don’t see how the Church could officially endorse something like the UN or a “supranational authority” when it a) isn’t Catholic and b) is very much a new thing. (By contrast, they don’t have a problem with the Holy League or the Crusades, even though these were clearly supranational organzations/movements endorsed by the Church — however somehow authors here never call for another one of these.)

I hope this will be of help to all those who profess themselves confused.


Anonymous said...

A most interesting post. The common thread, it seems, is the assumption that the Church is unflexible or does not change according to newly determined psychological and scientific findings. One need only look at the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe to see the fallacy there. The Church is constantly in flux; it is not stagnant. What, then, is the fear?

Darwin said...

No, I'd say that the Church does indeed deal with new psychological and scientific findings all the time. (Recall, this is the DarwinCatholic blog.) So, for instance, in Aquinas' time theologians were grappling with the up to the minute scientific belief that the physical universe had always existed. Nowadays, with the big bang theory, that's gone, but She grapples with issues such as evolution. That in itself is certainly not a problem.

However, there are a number of things which new scientific or psychological information won't charge, from a Catholic point of view. For instance, finding that dispositions towards various sins are genetic (say, a predisposition towards psychotic behavior, or towards drunkenness, or towards homosexual activity) would at most be seen by the Church as affecting the culpability which a person might have for committing the sins to which he is predisposed. Predisposition, no matter how clearly proved, would not be seen as making the acts themselves moral.

I'm not clear what you're getting at with the example of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There was no new doctrine (moral or theological) revealed via Our Lady's appearance to Juan Diego.