July 16, 2017
So, if there is an official Catholic version of political theology, does that mean that there is an official way that Catholics should vote? The answer, to no one’s surprise, is both yes and no.
The first thing about the Catholic voter would be that he or she recognizes that there is no way, by democratic process, to arrive at guaranteed truth or moral perfection. Those can be had only in God. That means that the Catholic is going to have very modest expectations of the electoral process. Thus, the Catholic voter will probably be more of an independent than a follower of any particular party line. Faith and loyalty belong first to God. But, at the same time, charity for one's neighbor demands an informed and generous participation in the process of self-determination.
A major consideration for the informed Catholic voter will be that nothing wrong, morally offensive, or destructive will be allowed to become part of the policy of the community to which he belongs. He will have a conscience as well as his own wants and needs.
The rightness or wrongness of some option or another will be measured by its power to enhance the quality of the shared life of the community. Thus, appeals to self-aggrandizement, class interests, racist thinking or isolationism will find no support amongst Catholic voters. As the Pope said: bridges, not walls.
Because there is no absoluteness in partly politics two Catholic voters may well vote in two different ways on a particular candidate or idea. But neither voter will do so because of ‘what is good for me’. Their votes will always be cast in terms of what is good for the whole community.
The principle of subsidiarity is one of the pillars of Catholic social thought. It insists that local issues should be dealt with locally. The concerns of one part of a population or country may not be the determiners of universal policy. Although it may be necessary for the part to seek help and support from everyone else. It will also recognize that some half-way steps may need to be taken as one works ‘with eyes on the prize’. Perfection will not be the enemy of the good. But the greater good will be ever the pole star of every decision.
The idea of a pole-star will demand a strong sense of the relatedness of all things and all people to each other in a clearly defined and communally discerned common good. No one will be excluded from participation in the good and all will be expected to sacrifice to achieve it. Creating such a vision in a country as diverse and large as ours is going to be difficult for sure.
This thought brings us to the consideration of a truly unpopular principle of Catholic social thought: The universal destination of all created goods. Private property exists in order to serve the good of all or it is a crime.
We’ll take another week to explain this idea and flesh it out. That doesn’t mean that we’ll all like what we learn from the exploration. But it is still one of the core notions of Catholic economic and social theory.
Really and truly and commonly yours,