THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: So you're wondering what it means to be a Catholic in today's political world, and how to apply your Catholic principles to politics. Every election year, your national council of Catholic bishops likely publishes some kind of voter's guide, based on some vague principles, that when applied to the current political climate, usually don't make a lot of sense. Well, I'm about to simplify this whole matter for you. As an American, I'll keep this article limited to the American political spectrum, but the same principles could easily apply to almost any Western country.
As a Catholic, should I be a Republican or a Democrat?As you can see, the Catholic way of politics doesn't line up with either the traditional Democratic-Republican or Liberal-Conservative paradigm. Both ideologies are hopelessly deficient in attempting to capture the Catholic political way. As Catholics, we must be truly and totally independent of the political party system, and explore candidates not only of the two mainstream parties, but of the minor third-parties as well, electing people who best represent our Catholic perspective. In summary, the Catholic way in politics is both INDEPENDENT and DISTRIBUTIST in nature. This includes a militant Pro-Life, Pro-Family and Pro-Labor position, but it is certainly not limited to that. Catholicism is more than just a religion. It is a comprehensive way of life, that should encompass every aspect of our being -- including and most especially politics! To understand what to do as a Catholic in the political field, a Catholic must first understand the Catholic Church's position on politics. The Catechism of the Catholic Church of course provides the best resource for this. Only by reading it can a Catholic understand the basics. As far as practical application of Catechism principles go, no political philosophy has done more to study this than Distributism. Understand Distributism, and you will have begun to grasp the heart and soul of Catholic Social teaching in political life.
How about neither. The truth is, both political parties violate Catholic teaching on some level or another. For the Democrats it's usually issues related to society and morality. For Republicans it's usually issues related to labor and justice. Both parties violate the teachings of the Church in some way or another, and this is just a fact. The best thing for Catholics to do is avoid political parties all together, as they tend to cloud one's judgment and suck people into partisan bickering. Often such bickering is really a distraction from what the party is really trying to do behind the scenes, which may not be in anyone's best interest, including the party's own members. For the most part, Catholics should be Independents, with the understanding that both Democrats and Republicans each oppose the Church's teaching on vital issues of different sorts, and neither party is to be trusted. Beware of partisan hacks like Michael Moore (liberal Democrat) and Sean Hannity (conservative Republican). Both claim to be "Catholics" representing the teachings of the Church in their own political way, but both misrepresent authentic Catholic social teaching
Again, how about neither. The irony about both systems is that they are really two different manifestations of the same problem. That problem is ownership of property. You see, under the Capitalist system, the majority of productive property ownership ultimately ends up in the hands of a few corporate bureaucrats. Under Socialism, the majority of productive property ownership ultimately ends up in the hands of a few government bureaucrats. Neither system is just, and both systems concentrate productive property into the hands of just a few people. The only real difference between the two systems is which people end up with the property. Shall they be corporate bureaucrats (capitalism)? Or shall they be government bureaucrats (socialism)? The Catholic Church teaches that the only real solution to man's economic problems is the complete opposite of both systems. This is manifested in the widespread natural distribution of productive property to as many people as possible. By "property" one does not always mean land, though land is certainly included in that. By "property" one can also mean shares in a business, stocks, cooperative ownership, and other things of productive value. This type of widespread distribution of property is called Distributism. You see, property is power, and ownership of property gives one the necessary power to take control of one's own destiny. This is the beginning of economic social justice. It is only upon this foundation that we can begin to build the other elements of economic social justice according to Catholic teaching. So when it comes time to vote, we should vote for those politicians that promote small business over large business and government programs. The ideal politician, from the Distributist mindset, would be one who promotes helping small businesses by eliminating unnecessary government regulations and simultaneously preventing large business from engaging in practices of monopoly and unfair competition. Politicians should advocate strict enforcement of antitrust laws at both the federal and state level, as well as strict zoning laws for business size at the local level. Politicians should also support a living wage, private cooperative ownership of large industry, and perhaps creating arbitration courts for labor and business that exist outside the political realm. Likewise, politicians should support the strengthening of labour unions, ultimately replacing them with trade guilds for various skilled workers of various types of industry. However, they should mandate that such guilds have spiritual direction of some kind (chaplains) for moral purposes, and that they work for the common good of both employees and employers, seeing as the two are dependent upon each other. Again, non-political courts of arbitration would do much to expedite this process, and politicians should support that. You can learn more about Catholic Distributism and the Distributist economic model by clicking on the image above.
As a Catholic, should I support big government?
No, big government runs against the Catholic social teaching of subsidiarity, and subsidiarity is the "hinge" upon which all of Catholic social justice turns. Catholic social doctrine supports decentralization (or downsizing) of big government bureaucracies. The principle of subsidiarity teaches that it is immoral for higher government to do the functions that can be easily carried out by lower government, the family or the individual. Subsidiarity also teaches that higher government should always function in a subsidiary role to lower government. Therefore, Catholics should support politicians who advocate "downsizing" or decentralizing big government in Washington DC, giving some of that power back to the states, families and individuals. So when a politician starts talking about his latest government "program" to solve all your woes, ask yourself if this is going to increase or decrease the size of government. If the answer is "increase" the size of government, than the Catholic thing to do would be to vote against that politician and his big government program. In the Catholic economy of politics, power should go directly to the people, as much as reasonably possible, while higher forms of government perform ONLY those functions the people, and lower forms of government, cannot perform on their own.
As a Catholic, can I vote for politicians who favor a woman's "right" to choose an abortion
No. Under no circumstances are Catholics permitted to vote for pro-abortion politicians of this type. The only circumstance in which a Catholic could vote for a "pro-choice" politician in when there literally are no "pro-life" politicians to vote for anywhere on the ballot. This is the crystal clear teaching of the Church. The problem with so-called "pro-choice" politicians is that they believe certain human lives (unborn babies) are expendable to their political aspirations. Any person who believes this is unfit for public service, for if he is willing to sacrifice one class of people for his political gain, he is certainly willing to sacrifice another class should the situation present itself. You had better hope you don't fall into one of those classes he's willing to sacrifice.
As a Catholic, can I vote for politicians who favor the death penalty?
We really need to be careful about this. While the Catholic Church does not prohibit the death penalty in all circumstances, it does discourage it's use in almost all circumstances. Politicians who are eager to execute people should be viewed with suspicion. Again, this comes back to the "expendable class" we see with the abortion issue. Catholics should be highly suspicious of politicians who eagerly support the death penalty with inappropriate enthusiasm. Reluctant support of the death penalty might be acceptable, but opposition to the death penalty is preferred.
As a Catholic, can I vote for politicians who favor preemptive international wars and police actions?
Again, we really need to be careful about this. As cited in the abortion and death penalty situations above, politicians who are eager to kill people in other countries should be viewed with suspicion. Again, this falls back to the "expendable class" problem. Political leaders should always be reluctant to go to war, and even then it should only be for cases of obvious self-defense. The nature of preemptive warfare contradicts this entirely. Beware of politicians who are ready to take this nation to war without a clear and obvious danger to our national security. Usually, if a politician has to spend a lot of time "explaining" why we need to go to war, that's a really bad sign.
As a Catholic, can I vote for politicians who support gay-marriage?
No. Again, this goes against the social teachings of the Catholic Church and is destructive to society, the family and religious freedom. Politicians who support gay-marriage, or even gay civil-unions, are violating the natural law, and upsetting the balance of civilization. The damage they do to the family and to religious freedom is significant and severe. Catholics must not support such politicians.
As a Catholic, can I support politicians who oppose school-choice?
No, the pope has made it clear that school-choice for parents is a fundamental human right and that both local and national governments must do everything within their power to make sure this right is protected and promoted. It is the RIGHT of Catholic parents to educate their children in a Catholic setting, just as it is the RIGHT of Protestant parents to do the same, as well as Jewish parents and Muslim parents. If this is their choice, this right must be protected. Politicians who oppose this are opposing a fundamental human right according to the pope.
As a Catholic, can I support politicians who oppose universal healthcare?
No, the pope has made it clear that basic universal healthcare is a fundamental human right, and that both local and national governments must do everything within their power to make sure this right is secured. This however, does not mean "big government" nationalization or socialism is the answer. Catholics should seek to create a localized Distributist approach to solving the healthcare crisis, emphasizing the principle of subsidiarity, and higher government should only be involved insofar as supporting localized solutions. Any politician who opposes the fundamental human RIGHT of basic universal healthcare is unfit for public service.
As a Catholic, should I support government programs for the poor, elderly and handicapped?
Yes. Jesus Christ requires us to care for our fellow man. However, in the process of supporting such things, we should ask ourselves how they are administered, and demand our politicians establish institutions to administer them fairly, and in a fiscally sound way, according to a localised Distributist model. We should also insist that they follow the principle of subsidiarity by delegating most responsibilities to the state and local governments, which in turn can delegate to, and support, religious and charitable institutions, which are the backbone of a truly just and effective welfare system. So Catholics should support politicians who advocate for welfare assistance, but also support it's reform by decentralizing it.
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