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Orthodox Politics? PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 30 April 2007 08:47

Written by Keith Strohm

As I was reflecting on the issue of Global Warming on my blog, I started thinking about the ways in which American politics seem to intertwine with orthodox Catholicism. If one were to take the whole of Catholic doctrine and "map" where it might fall on the American Political Spectrum, it would become quite apparent that it extends well into both Conservative and Liberal camps.
This has ever been the problem for many Catholics who wish to apply Catholic teaching in the current political landscape--for whom should I vote, seeing as no single political party stands for everything that I do? The Truth of Revelation can not simply be fit neatly into either increasingly polarized political view.

Over the course of the last year or so, I have been increasingly impressed with the folks over at Evangelical Catholicism. They consistently undertake a rather rigorous and nuanced application of Catholic Teaching to the issues at hand. And, at the end of the day, that is exactly what we, as lay members of Christ's Church, are called to do: apply the Truths of the faith to the world in which we live.

Regarding the relationship of Catholic Teaching to , Evangelical Catholicism has this penetrating analysis:

In my experience, it seems that in recent times, some Catholics in this country understand orthodoxy as a synonym for conservative ideals. However, these ideals are not necessarily concerned with the traditional moral values that many cultures still refer to. For instance, when I was growing up, my mom would always talk about how I had to uphold the conservative values she taught me: dress modestly, save myself for marriage, respect your elders, etc. These are not the ones I am referring to on this post. In contrast, the conservative ideals I am referring to seem to extend to the political and social spheres that are based on the principles of the Republican party. The problem is that when you go outside of the U.S., you will not find such marked differences between one party and another, so to evaluate orthodoxy in terms of one country’s political ideologies is not universally applicable, other than just being completely erroneous.

Orthodoxy means “right belief” and because as Christians we believe that belief is not isolated from actions, orthodoxy is always coupled with orthopraxis or “right action.” Some Catholics seem to use the term orthodoxy quite loosely even forgetting that one cannot judge someone else’s belief without looking at how their actions correspond to that belief. As a result, just because I prefer Gregorian chant to be sung in the liturgy and I enjoy the Tridentine Mass over the Novus Ordo, does not make me an orthodox Catholic if I ignore the homeless mother waiting outside of the church asking for help.

To be sure, faithful and orthodox Catholics can disagree on the best way to actually apply the Church's Teaching to particular issues--but we must all begin from the same set of Principles. As Katerina over at EC writes:

Catholic teaching is simply true. It is not conservative, nor liberal, nor socialist. Let us not reduce true Christian teaching to mere political ideals. Rather, let us see the problems we face in society in light of Catholic teaching, because if we take our political ideologies as our starting point, we will ignore the fullness of truth contained in the entire corpus of Catholic doctrine.

This is the classic Catholic both/and--a fullness and integrity of Truth with which we have been gifted. As men and women who have received this great gift, it is our responsibility to reflect carefully on how to bring this Teaching in to every area of human endeavor--this is the lay apostolate in action.


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