When it comes to Politics Catholics should all be ‘Independents’

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In today’s ideologically charged and politically polarized society terms like GOP Catholics, conservative Catholics, Catholic Democrats, and liberal Catholics are getting thrown around way too much. It’s enough to make one sick.

Quite frankly these terms bring a knot to my stomach.  That’s followed by a bad taste in my mouth. It makes me think that I just digested something old and rancid.  I worry that I’m going to end up in heaving convulsions hunched over a toilet. Oh, if only vomiting could get rid of the political madness that’s spread to the Church like a cancerous cell.

No matter what side of the political aisle you stand on, it’s pretty hard to deny that our country, and the rest of the world as well, is more polarized than ever based on political beliefs. Perhaps it’s the media making it so.  Or maybe it’s the technology that is making information, opinions, and news more ubiquitous than ever. Or maybe it’s our educational system. Whatever the cause, it seems as if our whole world today is revolving around political ideologies and affiliations. Today, what is “right” seems to depend on whether one is on the right or the left.

This has not always been the case. There was time when people supported the policy or candidate that was most in line with what was most important in their lives – their faith. U.S. Catholics, in particular, tended to identify more as Catholics first and foremost, as Americans second, and by political affiliation third.

Political Views Coloring Faith

This is clearly no longer the case – and unfortunately so. This week, the Pew Research Center published findings that are pretty dismal for U.S. Catholics.  They lead to one premonitory conclusion: the Church in America is in danger of becoming political organization. The new poll highlights that for the first time ever American Catholics’ opinions on our Holy Father are seemingly becoming aligned with political beliefs and affiliation.

According to Greg Smith, a Pew senior researcher quoted in a Catholic News Service (CNS) article, “What’s interesting about this survey [is] that this is the first one where this political polarization among American Catholics really stands out.”

Over half of American Catholics who identify or lean Republican view Pope Francis as being too liberal.  But only 19% of Catholics who identify as Democrats agree with the statement. Moreover, 32% of Catholics who identify as Republicans believe that Pope Francis is too naive about the world.  But only 18% of Catholics who identify as Democrats believe this is so.

According to Pew, in 2014 “there was no discernible difference” between Republicans and Democrats when it came to views on Pope Francis. What a quick turn this took from just four short years prior. Clearly, the political polarization in our country is more apparent and infectious than ever before.

There are two possible conclusions from such a statistic:

  • American Catholics are now placing politics over faith more than ever.
  • American Catholics, from the clergy down to laypeople, are placing political agendas and social activism over the Church’s sole mission on Earth.

These outcomes may not be ‘either-or’ possibilities, but rather both at the same time.  This is an even more horrifying and saddening revelation.

Political Activism Has No Place in the Church

Many Catholics may make the case that the Church has the responsibility of ensuring just legislation, which may at times cross over to political and social activism. However, this is a misnomer.

The Church is not a political or government organization tasked with the protection of the innocence. She is not a champion of the downtrodden, disenfranchised, victims of discrimination and unjust policies. Hers is not a mission based on the activism of political agendas – be they conservative or liberal. Her mission, as explained in Catechism of the Catholic Church #765-768, is to share in Christ’s mission and His power: To bring all men to salvation.

This mission is also stated in Lumen Gentium #5: “From this source [Christ] the Church, equipped with the gifts of its Founder and faithfully guarding His precepts of charity, humility and self-sacrifice, receives the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God and to be, on earth, the initial budding forth of that kingdom. While it slowly grows, the Church strains toward the completed Kingdom and, with all its strength, hopes and desires to be united in glory with its King.”

One Mission

Of course, by carrying out the Church’s mission, we as Catholics inevitably take up the just causes of the downtrodden.  We strive to ensure the protection of the weakest among us. However, it seems as if we have forgotten the origination and motivation of this “agenda” (if one can even call it an agenda).

By placing political affiliations and ideologies over the mission of the Church we place the temporal over the eternal. Even worse, we begin to support legislative action for the sake of political advancement instead of for the sake of the human soul. To support “just legislation” for justice’s sake, as defined by man, is to place the definition of justice in the hands of men. Justice for justice’s sake devoid of Christ and Truth ignores actual personhood and places the human person at the mercy of ideas created by men.

When we support a candidate based on which party the candidate belongs to we place our hope of being saved in men and not in God. If we choose to view the world – and, most disheartening, the Church – through a political lens, we begin to interject our own ideas and agendas into carrying out the Church’s mission.

When we begin to call the Holy Father a champion of the Left, as some are doing with Pope Francis, or a champion of the Right, as was done with St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, we lower the eternal mission of the Church to an earthly and temporal mission that could just as easily change with the tides of time.

Through The Eyes of Christ

Our politics should not be running our Faith. We are called to view the world through Christ-like eyes, with our hearts and minds ever turned towards Heaven. We are called to look on the world as Catholics, not conservatives or liberals. Our political beliefs should have no room in our lives if we are truly centering our lives on Christ. Our Faith, the Church’s Teachings, cannot be boiled down to or categorized according to political labels. Christ’s Teachings are neither liberal nor conservative, Republican or Democrat. Jesus is neither a social justice warrior nor a champion of individualism.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God. His mission, actions, and teachings rise above and beyond earthly politics. To give glory and praise to God, to spread His Kingdom on Earth, so that all nations will call Him blessed – this is the eternal mission of Christ and the Church. By looking at the world through political and social activism lenses we are instead placing politics, the government, and nations above the Kingdom of God. Is this the kind of world we want to create?

Next time you catch yourself saying, thinking, or referring to Our Holy Father – current or otherwise – or any Church Teaching for that matter – as being conservative or liberal, stop and ask yourself, “Am I viewing the world through Catholic eyes or political eyes?” Lest we forget, political labels and ideologies change with the times, but the Church and the Truth are Eternal.

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46 thoughts on “When it comes to Politics Catholics should all be ‘Independents’”

  1. Non American here. Raised Catholic. Though I cant call myself Catholic due to faith. But morals and culture certainly yes.
    My understanding is that the US was significantly created on Freemasonic principles.
    The two party system prevents Catholics from uniting. Much damage has been done in last few decades.
    I completely agree that both parties are NOT Catholic and I have no clue why people would support people like Obama, Trump, Bush, etc. I know its tough since USA is very diverse.

  2. “The principle of democracy is a recognition of the sovereign, inalienable rights of man As a Gift FROM God, “The Source of Law.”
    Fulton J. Sheen

  3. You set up a false argument. There are more possibilities. One might be that people perceive Pope Francis’ policies as being not as strong in terms of traditionally held moral views. Rightly or wrongly, that is the perception many seem to have from the reading I have done.

  4. If we look on the world with Christ’s eyes, as suggested in the article, what do you think He would see? In our country, there are lots of problems to behold. Which do you believe He would prioritize? Do we honestly believe that Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the same Person who lashed out against the money-changers, would not take a stand on behalf of the millions of children who are torn apart by the evil we call abortion? Do we think He would accept that the example provided by the Holy Family could be warped into something other than what God expressly intended as set forth in Genesis all in the name of “tolerance” and “openness.” Does it make sense that He would accept as worthy of our allegiance a political party/ideology that openly and brazenly declares God a “myth” or a “superstition,” and then mocks adherents to the very same faith that Christ Himself instituted?

    We are in an existential battle for the soul of this nation. While there are problems on both sides of the political divide, it is painfully clear that one side of that battle has all but abandoned the notion that God even exists, let alone that He should be placed first in our lives. If we Catholics continue to blindly walk through our daily lives ignoring this very real problem, and look upon that political ideology as the same affiliation of our “youth” as Cardinal Dolan admitted he has been doing for some time now earlier this week, we are part of the problem and are just as responsible for the outcome as those perpetrating the outrages. We cannot be “salt” and “leaven” for the world by pretending that these issues are not ours to solve as well.

    It’s time we all snapped out of our sleep. It’s not about being left or right, democrat or republican. It’s about sanity, common sense, and basic morality. One of our political parties has left all three of these at the door. Things will not improve until we speak with one voice about where the basic lines of civil society need to be drawn. Until then, the other issues of our day are nothing but distractions from the deeper sickness in our culture.

  5. beatrice sullivan

    The only reason that this is the first time that American Catholics have separated in their opinion of the Holy Father along party lines is that this is the first time that the Pope has been so blatantly political. Pope Francis has loudly proclaimed his political views on climate, guns, Trump and many other hot button issues with specific targeting toward the U.S. Simultaneously, it is clear that he would prefer to undermine Catholic teaching on marriage and family. No other Pope in recent memory has so adamantly and loudly proclaimed his liberal political personal opinions that are clearly outside the defined teachings of the Church.

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  7. Steffani, I would like to reply with ten thousand words. Any catholic with a well-formed conscience, as that is defined by Holy Mother Church, cannot vote for a democrat and cannot vote for a prodeath republican. You can find a few truly prolife republicans and you can write in a prolife person, of whatever party. Thank you for a fine and thought-provoking article. Guy McClung, Texas

    1. But then it’s ok to vote for a pro life republican who votes to take away meal on wheels from the elderly, cut medicare and medicaid to the poor and elderly, reduce housing subsidies for the poor, reduce SNAP benefits for the poor and disabled, eliminate afterschool programs for children, summer meals for children of the poor, heat subsidy programs for rural poor, etc. Pro-life is ambiguous and does not end at birth and let’s not forget Matt 25….the republicans certainly have.

    2. Spiking toward 23 Trillion in dept with no end in site thanks to both parties.

      What a legacy we are leaving our kids and grandkids. Eventually the whole house of cards is going to come tumbling down and we, like in Venezuela, will all be scrounging for scraps of food in garbage pails!

    3. There is no shortage of funding for any of these programs. There are logistical problems in getting the benefits to deserving people thanks to a bloated and inefficient bureaucracy created to provide employment of democrat voters.

  8. As I write, one of the few remaining pro-life Democrats is in the primary fight of his life to retain his seat against a pro-abort opponent. He has been targeted specifically because of his votes to defund Planned Parenthood and in favor of the pain capable abortion ban (which was defeated due to a Democrat party filibuster in the Senate).

    I only vote for pro-life candidates and, in today’s America – that leaves me with only one party to chose from! The Democratic Party should change its name to the Progressive Humanist Party because that has become its driving ideology.

    1. You are truly delusional if that is what you believe. Look up the ‘non-negotiable’ issues. The Democratic Party supports them all. Abortions are decreasing because of pro-life activism and the passage of pro-life legislation in States under Republican control.

    2. If abortions were decreasing because of less access to legal abortion clinics, then births would be up in those areas. But they’re not. Possibly abortions are still happening, albeit in back alleys. Those appear to be less objectionable because often the mother dies too.

      It’s not hard to find correlations of cuts in the social safety net and increased abortion rates. Virtually every pro-life person concedes as much, when they say that women seeking abortion are often desperate, because of economic factors.

    3. The case heard yesterday by SCOTUS was all about Calif.’s attempt to shut down pro-life clinics who offer alternatives to abortion. Many of them offer financial assistance to those in need. That is an example of true Christian charity given in love and not the bureaucratic nightmare offered by the secular state. Have you not heard of the Catholic principal of subsidiarity?

      Many state sanctioned abortion mills aren’t any better than those done in ‘back alleys’ – Kermit Gosnell comes to mind but his is not the only one…by far!

    4. Responding to the real horrors of Kermit Gosnell with a Doonesbury cartoon tells me all I need to know about you.

      This conversation is over!

  9. One certainly gets the impression from Catholic Stand that only one party is consistent with Catholicism. One of the bloggers here even called the 2016 Democratic candidate “a force of evil”.

    1. The problem is that the Democratic party has made it dogma that people who are against abortion and gay marriage, cannot call themselves “a Democrat”.
      The Republican party is more in line with Catholicism for many reason. Number one is they emphasize the importance of the family structure. They promote moral responsibility. The human being is not meant to be caged in a Democratic- victimhood world. We are meant to be self sufficient.

    2. All of those arguments are now forfeit, in the age of Trump. By supporting that man, Republicans have given up their claim that they care about moral responsibility and family structure.

    3. How so? What has Trump done to curtail moral responsibility and family structure. I’m talking as a matter of policy, I don’t really care what he’s done in his personal life. I already know he’s a sinner just like the rest of us.

    4. I don’t know any Republicans who think of Trump as a role model. I’m very glad he’s our President – although I didn’t vote for him – I will be in the next election. He’s the most Democratic President we had since JFK.

    5. What do you mean by “role model”? Here’s the difference: Republicans don’t hold ANY politician on a moral pedestal because we are all sinners. Democrats treat their leaders like demigods. I mean, Obama was the savior of everyone. He was going to lower everybody’s rent and pay for cell phones, tuition, health care. Republicans want our leaders to stay out of our way. The less we hear about them the better off we are. So is Trump a role model for kids? Yes if you’re talking about his policy. Is he a role model for business? Of course. Is he a role model for marital relationships? No….but he hasn’t been at any time in his life.

    6. Would you prefer the Communist pro abortionist Democrats? And do you know that Trump is not a repentant Christian? Using your logic, God should’ve skipped over David.

    7. Neither party is acceptable. I know tons of problems with Democrats..
      So I focus on Republicans. The party is hawkish and often dangerous. Many support Israel over Catholicism.
      The politicians fool people that they are traditionalist or conservative but infact always change from their platform. Whether from pressure or other reasons.

  10. Where are we to turn? Neither one of the two major parties is completely compatible with the faith and there aren’t enough catholic’s who take their faith seriously enough to have an impact on either one of them.

    1. Don’t side with the baby-killers, the marriage destroyers, the communists. Stay AWAY from supporting democrats.

  11. I’m curious about how many Catholics (and others) in the USA would agree with the statement “The Catholic Church approves of socialism.” Few today know that the Church says socialism is a heresy.

    1. Few also know of the genocide of the Native Americans resulting from the “Catholic Doctrine of Discovery.” Fewer Catholics are familiar with the “Pact of the Catacombs” at Domitilla. Cite reference about about socialism as heresy …. things change .

    2. Truth does not change. If something was a heresy 100 years ago, it is a heresy today. Every Pope since at least Pius IX. 1846 -1878 has condemned socialism and communism.

      “You are aware indeed, that the goal of this most iniquitous plot is to drive people to overthrow the entire order of human affairs and to draw them over to the wicked theories of this Socialism and Communism, by confusing them with perverted teachings.” (Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, December 8, 1849)

      But Pope Leo XIII really let them have it from 1878 – 1903, in the Encyclicals Diuturnum, June 29, 1881: Humanum Genus, April 20, 1884;
      Quod Apostolici Muneris, December 28, 1878; Libertas Praestantissimum, June 20, 1888; Graves de Communi Re, January 18, 1901. Clearly he was trying to warn the world of the evil of socialism!

      He even described their MO of debasing ‘the natural union of man and woman’.

      And every Pope since, until we get to Pope Francis, has condemned socialism/communism. Search ‘what the popes say about socialism.’ One can see why some Catholics find themselves wondering about him when he praises some socialists, both from the Right who adamantly oppose the Marxist heresies and the Left, who embrace them, claiming Jesus was a socialist. What blasphemy, to accuse Our Lord of supporting the imposition of theft and redistribution of anyone’s wealth by governmental tyranny.

      And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man,… Romans 1.

      And our Blessed Mother tried to warn us too, in 1917 at Fatima. “Russia will spread its errors…” indeed.

    3. Catholics should be opposed to both excessive capitalism and excessive socialism.
      You can read online about Catholic economic views.

  12. There is a person who writes a column entitled “Neither left nor right but Catholic”. However, my impression over the years is that this should read “Never left, mainly right and fully Catholic”. For the left, so many of whom share the eclipse of reason decried by Pope Benedict 16 and dwell more or less inside the culture of death, it is almost impossible to discern what is true and worthy of belief. So they turn everything into ideology. I don’t agree that it is a betrayal of our Catholic beliefs to see that socialism and globalism are not ever compatible with the Gospel, while supporting pro-life, pro-family and a proper balance between solidarity and subsidiarity IS compatible.

  13. “If all you knew about Christianity came from a close reading of the New Testament, you’d expect that Christians would be hostile to wealth, emphatic in protection of justice, sympathetic to the point of personal pain toward the sick, persecuted and the migrant, and almost socialist in their economic practices.”

    1. You failed to give the source of what you appeared to quote, captcrisis.

      Your remark was authored by someone who is confused about “justice” and “socialist”.

    2. Jesus told us as INDIVIDUALS to give to the poor WHO COULD NOT TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES. Everyone worked except widow who had no husbands to support them. Jesus didn’t want the Government to confiscate our wealth and give it away.

    3. Joseph of Aremathea who gave Jesus his tomb, was a rich tin merchant. Jesus wasn’t a Liberation Theologian like our Pope. He didn’t despise the rich.

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