The similarities between neo-Calvinist and Roman Catholic transformers continue to be remarkable (at least to all about me). Adding to the remarkableness is that the inspiration for cleaning up public life or for motivating Christians to become involved can go in either politically conservative or liberal directions. What is more, the ideas don’t need to be tied directly to confessional theology — as in matters that rise to the level of dogma.
Consider two recent examples from the Roman Catholic world. First an appeal on the left to a version of the Social Gospel that goes cosmic:
“As Catholics, we must be continue to be involved the issues of world hunger, human rights, peace building and justice promotion,” Wenski said. “This social ministry is not opposed to the ultimate spiritual and transcendent destiny of the human person. It presupposes this destiny, and is ultimately oriented toward that end.”
“This Earth is our only highway to heaven,” he said. “And we have to maintain it. As Catholics we are concerned about ecology, both natural ecology but also human ecology. In other words, we have to make sure that to the best of our abilities this highway of life is cleared of the obstacles that sin, both personal and structural, has placed in the path of those traveling on it.”
Remarking on biblical figure Job, who’s friends “blamed him for his miseries,” Wenski said that, “today, in a world of increasing inequality, as Catholics we must struggle against what Pope Francis has termed ‘the globalization of indifference,’ and we must struggle against that tendency within American society, which we see especially today in the debate over immigration reform, to blame the victim!”
Then a call (not that one) for Christian statesmen to clean up the U.S.A.:
There are currently twenty-six Catholics in the Senate, although many are Catholics in name only. The House of Representatives lists 142 members who claim to be Catholic – the greatest number in our history, and at a crucial period of moral peril. But where is their witness to natural law, religious freedom, and enduring moral truths?
Happily, several (faithful) Catholics are considering a run for the presidency. We should hope that would include both parties. What a wonderful moment it would be if our once-great country were to produce a number of great Catholic statesmen ready and able to confront the great crises, moral and civilizational, threatening our nation (and the world) today.
This post comes with a citation of the Roman Catholic Church’s catechism about the work of God’s people (which I hardly regard as dogma):
898 By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will. . . .It pertains to them in a special way so to illuminate and order all temporal things with which they are closely associated that these may always be affected and grow according to Christ and may be to the glory of the Creator and Redeemer.
899 The initiative of lay Christians is necessary especially when the matter involves discovering or inventing the means for permeating social, political, and economic realities with the demands of Christian doctrine and life. This initiative is a normal element of the life of the Church: Lay believers are in the front line of Church life; for them the Church is the animating principle of human society.
Imagine if we heard imams in mosques telling Muslims the Islamic equivalent of these bromides. Maybe then the notion of secular society and the separation of church and state (not to mention the spirituality of the church) look a whole lot more appealing. But when Christians violate American habits of governance for Christ’s sake, it’s not only okay but
great pretty good.
Meanwhile, which of the saints, whether overseers of the overseen, are worried about the teachers at church institutions that might be leading the people and the politicians astray (think Richard McBrien):
Although Fr. McBrien was often called fearless and broad-minded, he was frequently hypersensitive to criticisms of his own views. After he defended Mario Cuomo against possible ex-communication, for instance, McBrien complained about the letters he received, calling them “mean and vindictive.” Notably, though, he never used such language against politicians who took the lives of unborn children, much less theologians who provided cover for them.
The one thing most frequently said about Fr. McBrien—which he himself affirmed—was the least convincing: that he “never held back.”
In fact, he did hold back—on everything from the value of clerical celibacy, to the dangers of moral relativism, to the necessity of the Catechism, to courageous pro-life witness. He had the intelligence and gifts to take action, guided by the wisdom of the Church, but consistently let those opportunities escape him.
But why oh why do American Christians worry more about Washington, D.C. or debates at the United Nations Security Council than about faculty or pastors and priests within their own communion? Could it have anything to do with failing to heed the apostle Paul’s dualism, that distinction he makes in 2 Cor 4 between the seen and unseen things?