Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

4/7/2014 (5 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Social conservatism is not seen as generous, compassionate, or interested in the wide range of issues that impact our well-being, and that has become a political liability.

"Social conservatism" has long been the Good Housekeeping brand in pro-life politics. Its usefulness, however, has come to an end, not because the moral commitments it signifies are any less important, but because politics is about attracting voters. A new language that in no way compromises the principles of life, marriage, and authentic freedom needs to be cultivated, one that encompasses more than a handful of issues, no matter how important, and one that connects to the larger culture.  The demands of social justice, then, begin with the right to life and end with the right to be protected from euthanasia or the temptation of assisted suicide. It\'s a mistake to detach the idea of social justice from the protection of vulnerable life: The source of moral obligation to protect the unborn and to feed the hungry is one and the same-the inherent dignity of the human person.

Using dominant-issue language can help to close the unnecessary divide between pro-life and social justice Catholics. There's a clear continuity between providing someone with food and shelter and the willingness to defend his life when it's threatened.

Using dominant-issue language can help to close the unnecessary divide between pro-life and social justice Catholics. There's a clear continuity between providing someone with food and shelter and the willingness to defend his life when it's threatened.

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/7/2014 (5 months ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: solial conservative, cultural conservative, Social Justice, Social Doctrine, Catholic vote, faithful citizenship, Pro-Life, Pro-Family, Pro-Poor, Pro-Peace, Catholic Action, activism, religious right, Deal W. Hudson


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - "Social conservatism" has long been the Good Housekeeping brand in pro-life politics. Its usefulness, however, has come to an end, not because the moral commitments it signifies are any less important, but because politics is about attracting voters. A new language that in no way compromises the principles of life, marriage, and authentic freedom needs to be cultivated, one that encompasses more than a handful of issues, no matter how important, and one that connects to the larger culture. 

"Cultural Conservatism" has been suggested, as I have discussed in previous columns, and I applaud the direction that would take those of us who want to unite the pro-life convictions with a concern for "social justice." I understand the skepticism readers might feel at this suggestion, so I promise to sort through just what social justice really means in Catholic teaching in a future column. The point, however, is a simple one; social conservatism is not seen as generous, compassionate, or interested in the wide range of issues that impact our well-being, and that has become a political liability.      

Some critics refer to social conservatives as "single issue" voters. It's not a fair characterization but is a troublesome one.  Those of us who believe that some issues are more important than others and should be given top priority in considering a candidate's qualifications, should be viewed not as single issue voters but as "dominant issue" voters. These are voters who take into account the urgency of addressing issues of social injustice in the culture but see those issues arranged vertically not horizontally.

The life issues-including abortion, euthanasia, fetal stem-cell research, and cloning-are at the top of that hierarchy. These issues should be considered dominant in determining how to vote for two simple reasons: First, the protection of life-the right to life-is a moral principle that sits at the foundation of morality itself. And it's one of the three foundational rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. There could be no right to liberty or happiness unless there were a living person in the first place.

Second, the injunction of natural law and the Church to oppose abortion is unqualified: Individuals are not required, or allowed, to make prudential judgments of the principle to a specific case. Appeals to private "conscience" cannot override this infallible teaching. In his 2002 Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Public Life,  the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:

In this context, it must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church's social doctrine does not exhaust one's responsibility towards the common good.

Opposition to abortion, therefore, admits of no exceptions. There is no question, then, that as the dominant issue, a politician's position on abortion qualifies him or her for the Catholic vote. From the perspective of the Church, not all the policy positions taken by candidates are of equal importance. Catholic voters, by understanding themselves as dominant-issue voters, can preserve the hierarchy of values at the core of Church teaching while not ignoring the legitimate spectrum of issues important to political consideration.

Furthermore, by understanding the dominance of life issues, Catholic voters will overcome their confusion about the difference between moral principle and prudential judgment. Unlike the admonition against abortion, most of the general principles proposed in Church teaching can be implemented in a variety of ways; it's simply a mistake to assume-as the Left often does-that one kind of implementation is more "Catholic" than another.

As has been noted many times, the USCCB's habit of issuing dozens of policy recommendations during every congressional session on issues ranging from broadband legislation and immigration to minimum wage and partial-birth abortion results in confusion at the grassroots. Unfortunately, the average Catholic doesn't discriminate between simple policy recommendations made by the Conference and doctrinal statements, and often wrongly assumes that they have equal authority.

Using dominant-issue language can help to close the unnecessary divide between pro-life and social justice Catholics. There's a clear continuity between providing someone with food and shelter and the willingness to defend his life when it's threatened. The Church often employs the phrase "social justice" when addressing "the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of "authority" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1928). A cultural conservatism, if it is to emerge, must reconnect what never should have been disconnected - because to care about life is to care about everything.

The demands of social justice, then, begin with the right to life and end with the right to be protected from euthanasia or the temptation of assisted suicide. It's a mistake to detach the idea of social justice from the protection of vulnerable life: The source of moral obligation to protect the unborn and to feed the hungry is one and the same-the inherent dignity of the human person.

Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

-----
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, is heard on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

Are they on to something? Judicial Watch says terrorists are operating in Mexico Watch

Image of Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat who represents El Paso in the U.S. House of Representatives, called the area offices of various government agencies in response to a report that Middle Eastern terrorists were operating across the border in Mexico.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Judicial Watch, a controversial Web site that maintains that Middle Eastern terrorists are operating just cross the border from the United States from Mexico is evidently stirring up waves. Federal law enforcement sources in El Paso, Texas say that a United ... continue reading


CLOTHES HORSE: Wasserman Schultz losing confidence among Democrats Watch

Image of Stylish  Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman has alienated members of her own party by reportedly demanding that the party pick up the tab for her wardrobe!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Two "faux pas" have alienated Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz from her party. Her criticism of the White House's handling of the border crisis and comparing tea party members to abusive husbands have alienated her constituency at ... continue reading


Supreme Court justice Sotomayor warns about drones encroaching on American way of life Watch

Image of Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that she's particularly troubled by the potential for commercial and government drones to compromise personal privacy.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Unmanned surveillance planes called drones pose a threat to the privacy of American citizens, warns Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. Speaking to students at Oklahoma City University's law school, Sotomayor says that frightening changes in technology ... continue reading


Obama says Islamic State 'is not Islamic' - what are they, then? Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Obama vowed to "degrade and destroy" the Islamic State insurgency in Iraq and Syria, He intends to do so with airstrikes and a minimal military presence on the ground. The president also declared that the Islamic State terrorists "are not Islamic." ... continue reading


Obama vows to attack Islamic State militants 'wherever they exist' Watch

Image of There has been some progress made against the group. After more than 150 U.S. airstrikes in Iraq in the past month, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have halted the Islamic State advance.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Barack Obama has vowed to attack Islamic State militants "wherever they exist." Obama will be sending a limited U.S. military presence of 475 personnel. The president also declared that the United States will act in concert with a broad coalition ... continue reading


Opinion: We Need a Blue Collar Conservative like Rick Santorum in the 2016 Presidential Campaign Watch

Image of Rick Santorum is not an establishment candidate. He threatens establishment leaders in both major political parties. he has always played the role of the underdog and been counted out by the many self professed experts. That is one of the greatest assets he would bring to the 2016 Presidential campaign. He has the potential to draw voters from across party lines and help to forge a new governing coalition which can resuscitate the American dream and set us on a course to brighter future. I sincerely hope he runs.

By Keith A. Fournier

Rick Santorum is a statesman in an age of salesmen - and women. He is a man with a chest.  I will be watching his movements over the next few months. If he decides to run, and I hope he does, he will bring along with him into his presidential campaign a ... continue reading


Pelosi favors sweeping regulations to save net neutrality and ban Internet 'fast lanes' Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's an unpopular stand for many Republicans, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says she wants to give federal regulators sweeping new powers over Internet access. It's a necessity in order to save net neutrality and protect Internet users, she says. ... continue reading


READY TO STRIKE: President Obama prepared to use airstrikes in Syria Watch

Image of President Obama believes he needs formal congressional approval to take that action, according to people who have spoken with the president recently.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

From admitting that he had no policy in regards to Syria, U.S. President Barack Obama is now ready for some clear decisive action. The president says that he is prepared to use U.S. military airstrikes in Syria in order to defeat the militant jihadist group ... continue reading


Real cost of Obamacare - 350,000 jobs loss and premium hikes for small businesses Watch

Image of Individual year-round employees at businesses with 50 to 99 workers lost $935 annually, while those at firms with 20 to 49 workers are out an average of $827.50 per person in take-home pay.

By Catholic Online - (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

According to a new analysis of the effects of the health-care reform law, Obamacare has taken a toll on small businesses. According to a new study, there have been millions of dollars in reduced pay and hundreds of thousands fewer jobs. In short - many ... continue reading


More emails 'lost' connected to Lois Lerner case Watch

Image of IRS teacher Lois Lerner, who was placed on leave and has since retired, has emerged as the key figure in congressional investigations.

By Catholic Online - (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In the most recent development, the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS says it has lost emails from five more employees' part of congressional probes into the treatment of conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49
35 Someone may ask: How are dead people raised, and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 56:10-12, 13-14
10 In God whose word I praise, in Yahweh whose word I ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 8:4-15
4 With a large crowd gathering and people from every ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 20th, 2014 Image

Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang, and Companions
September 20: Feastday: September 20 The evangelization of Korea began ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter