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Catholics: Our Deeper Task (1st of 2 Articles)

It would come as no surprise that there seem to be disagreements in our country – about everything! Many people have spoken to me about this. What they find especially disturbing are the level of vitriol and the lack of civility.

Catholic teaching is based on science. Many would dispute, or even mock, that statement.  We have to admit, that has not always been the case (Like there’s that Italian guy with the telescope and stars and the fact that the earth was not the center of the universe…. it still isn’t). It’s still a dicey subject in the discussion of many topics. Faith and reason are not opposed to one another. St. Pope John Paul II even wrote an encyclical on this entitled Fides et Ratio (or Faith and Reason)   “Natural Law” continues to form the basis for much of the Catholic Church’s thought. Often, in arguments that I have with others on Catholic teachings, the issue is not whether the Catholic teaching is true. It often is. There are typically several reasons for this. The other person hasn’t investigated  the teaching. They don’t understand the teaching. Or, as is often the case, they understand the teaching all too well. They just don’t like it. To follow the teaching would mean that they, or someone they know, would have to significantly change an aspect of their life which they do not wish to change.     

Yet, we are called to preach and teach the truth. The challenge today isn’t so much what we preach and teach, as how we preach and teach. Pope Benedict XVI wrote that “The Catholic church must propose – not impose.” 

The Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. is an institute dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy. It was founded in 1976, the EPPC has engaged debate from the Cold War to the war on terrorism, from disputes over the role of religion in public life to battles over the nature of the family. Its scholars have sought to defend and promote our nation’s founding principles—respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, individual freedom and responsibility, justice, the rule of law, and limited government.

I recently came across an EPPC author named Stephen P. White. Peter penned an article entitled, “Our Deeper Task.” The article addresses the call of the Catholic Church to do what was formerly proposed by Pope  Benedict XVI. Stephen offers us an analysis – and a challenge! His thoughts are provided below.  (Fr. Zlock)

A spirit of Gnosticism has been sweeping our nation. It proclaims that a person is whoever or whatever that person claims to be. At the same time, a similar spirit (or is it the same spirit?) strives to wring from America a forced confession: that this country’s “true identity” can and must only be found in the very worst version of itself. We are expected to believe – indeed, to profess – that the identity of an individual is infinitely malleable and plastic, but that the nation’s identity was irrevocably set in stone in 1619 (when, according to the New York Times’ 1619 Project, the first slaves arrived and the country was, on that basis, founded).

There are those who cannot sin, and those who can never be forgiven.

This perversion arises from, and affects, how we Americans address the most basic political question: “How should we order our lives together?” Looking around these days, I am not sure most of us even understand the question. Our arguments on that question run up against the increasingly evident fact that there exists among us no fundamental agreement about who and what we are. Our malignant politics are a consequence of our deep confusion about human nature.

This is, to understate things, a very big problem. To deny the existence of human nature is to abandon the firmest foundation of justice. How can I know what is due to you if I am agnostic about what you are? All we are left with is a view of justice as a mere function of power: rule of the stronger. Needless to say, this is a strange view of justice upon which to assert, let alone defend, the rights of minorities. It’s even flimsier grounds upon which to judge historical oppression. It is, however, useful – if one aspires to tyranny and domination.

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