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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Should We Expect Catholics to Agree?

The Feast of Christ the King which we celebrated today is of fairly recent origin. It was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI and moved to its current place on the last Sunday of the church calendar in 1969 by Paul VI. The feast was instituted as a counterbalance to the rising secularism of the 20th century. In the encyclical Quas Primas, in which he declared the feast, Pius XI begins by summing up the challenge of secularism and his promise to counter it:
We remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ; and that We promised to do as far as lay in Our power.

This emphasis on Christ as ruler, intentionally set in contrast to civil secularism, reminded me of something that had me thinking in the wake of the election. A number of posts that I read lamented the extent to which Catholics had been divided by the election. This post over at Catholic Moral Theology was one which I had saved on a link to on that theme:
The most significant question for me today has nothing to do with who won the election or what will happen on the American scene now. The most significant question for me is, what will we do as a church? We are fortunate to live in the US, but American politics is not our final goal toward which we are working. What can be said about a vitriolic election in which Catholics fought against Catholics – in which Catholics came down very keenly split across political parties?

I have been so sad (perhaps even distraught) about the ways in which I have seen the church divided against itself this election season. That only harms us – because when we are divided, we cannot very well witness Christ to other people.
In this election, we lined up and chose sides, based on American ideologies and not Catholic doctrine. In public discourse, it seemed we were either FOR the “Nuns on the Bus” or FOR the “bishops”. We began election arguments by deciding that “those” people are not the truly pure Catholics, and therefore we don’t have to listen to their arguments.
Now, maybe I'm just a very cynical person, but it generally does not surprise me when Catholics end up on both sides of a partisan divide. There are a few issues on which one could at least hope that Catholics would speak with one voice: abortion, persecution of the Church, etc. But on most political issues it strikes me as unsurprising that Catholics would be as divided as other people because the issues at stake are not ones which the faith can answer for us in some definitive fashion.

When it comes to helping the poor, do work requirement help people rise out of poverty or are they yet another indignity heaped upon those requiring public assistance?

What is the right balance between reforming entitlements and increasing taxes?

Is Wagner Act-style unionism a solution to the low wages of service sector workers, or would it simply drive up prices and unemployment?

Is raising the minimum wage or using negative income tax-like tools such as the Earned Income Tax Credit a better way to help low wage workers?

Does the pay given to executives constitute "stealing" from those who make less, or it is a legitimate profit for the services rendered?

How much of a person's health care expenses is it reasonable to expect a person to pay himself, assuming that he able to afford the cost?

Would a given set of environmental regulations actually improve the environment enough to be worth the cost?

These are questions on which people in full agreement on the moral teachings of the Church could strongly disagree. How one rules on these questions relies not on teachings on faith and morals but rather on how one believes the nation and the economy to work, and where one believes the balance should be struck between the duties of the individual and the duties of society. Why, then, should we expect that Catholics should not be as divided on these kind of issues as any other group of people? As Catholics, we may share moral principles, but we certainly cannot expect to all share the same views as to how the economy works. Thus, I can hardly see it as a scandal that Catholics are divided on many of the same issues that divide the rest of the country.

Thinking on all this, I was curious as to what issues in particular, if any, Pius XI spoke about in relation to the proclamation of the Feast of Christ the King. It turns out, they are mostly what we today would call "religious issues", particularly the anti-clericalism which was so often a feature of the secular regimes that were on the rise at that time in had been traditionally Catholic countries:
24. If We ordain that the whole Catholic world shall revere Christ as King, We shall minister to the need of the present day, and at the same time provide an excellent remedy for the plague which now infects society. We refer to the plague of anti-clericalism, its errors and impious activities. This evil spirit, as you are well aware, Venerable Brethren, has not come into being in one day; it has long lurked beneath the surface. The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them. It was then put under the power of the state and tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers. Some men went even further, and wished to set up in the place of God's religion a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart. There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences. We lamented these in the Encyclical Ubi arcano; we lament them today: the seeds of discord sown far and wide; those bitter enmities and rivalries between nations, which still hinder so much the cause of peace; that insatiable greed which is so often hidden under a pretense of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making men seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these; no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined; society in a word, shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin. We firmly hope, however, that the feast of the Kingship of Christ, which in future will be yearly observed, may hasten the return of society to our loving Savior. It would be the duty of Catholics to do all they can to bring about this happy result. Many of these, however, have neither the station in society nor the authority which should belong to those who bear the torch of truth. This state of things may perhaps be attributed to a certain slowness and timidity in good people, who are reluctant to engage in conflict or oppose but a weak resistance; thus the enemies of the Church become bolder in their attacks. But if the faithful were generally to understand that it behooves them ever to fight courageously under the banner of Christ their King, then, fired with apostolic zeal, they would strive to win over to their Lord those hearts that are bitter and estranged from him, and would valiantly defend his rights.

25. Moreover, the annual and universal celebration of the feast of the Kingship of Christ will draw attention to the evils which anticlericalism has brought upon society in drawing men away from Christ, and will also do much to remedy them. While nations insult the beloved name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim his kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm his rights.
Opposing the repression of the Church is, at least, something which one would imagine all Catholics could agree upon. Viva Cristo Rey!

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