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Paleocon? Neocon? None of the Above--Catholic!

9/29/2003 - 5:00 AM PST

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Paleocon (servative)? Neocon (servative)?… How about none of the above?

Liberating Catholic Social teaching from some American intellectuals.


(c) Third Millennium, LLC
By: Deacon Keith A. Fournier
National President Your Catholic Voice Foundation


I vividly remember watching the “Wizard of Oz” every year when I was a child. I am of the generation that sat, as children often do with films, “star struck” when the movie turned from Black and White to color. My brother, sister and I would anticipate the broadcast each year and plan our little lives around being in front of the tube, snacks in hand!

Classic lines from that film still form a backdrop in the creative framework of my brain; lines like “there’s no place like home”, “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…”, “Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore” and the famous response of Dorothy to the inquiry of the allegedly “good witch” “Are you a good witch or a bad witch”, … Why, I’m not a witch at all.”

It is this last line that came to my conscious mind immediately upon reading a recent column by a prominent Catholic lay leader protesting (“me thinks a bit too much” to borrow from the bard) that he was not a “neo-con.” He is one of the more prominent of the intellectual members of the group that leads the neo-conservative movement among conservative Catholics and an apologist for the close affinity between the political “neo-cons” and popular “neo-con” Catholics in the national political scene in America.

There is no doubt that the intellectual framework of American “neo-conservativism” has greatly influenced the viewpoint of this subset of prominent Catholics and forms the backdrop (or at least it colors) their communications organs. The editorialist in question feigned that there really is no influence of neo-conservatism on this group of Catholics or on his publication. Well, frankly, I disagree.

It has taken me quite a few years to discern what it is that has long disturbed me about the analysis and popular political positioning of many of these folks. First, let me clarify for my readers. I am not saying that they are unfaithful Catholics. To the contrary, they are among the staunchest allies of all “orthodox” Catholics and other Christians in the United States. Nor am I saying they are not intelligent or profoundly influential –they are both!

In fact, it is their huge influence among the “elites” that forms part of my decision to write about this issue. I am concerned about the continued failure of other thinkers, writers and activists to gain some traction in the so-called “culture war” in America. This group of people is so tied in right now to current popular “conservative” and republican politics that many people think they are actually presenting the “Catholic” position. Well… not always. I also fear that their current political ties and prominence has also lost them the ability to speak with prophetic impact on some serious issues.

Finally, I am concerned that they are casting confusion over just what the Catholic Church really teaches about the person in society, economic and social justice, war and peace and the common good. Their writings are becoming so influential among some emerging young Catholic thinkers that they actually end up sounding more like these folks than they do Pope John Paul II. When one reads this Pope, and his spokespersons, no-one would cast him (or them) as a “neo-con.”

These folks of which I write, because they are so well positioned, seem to have a significant influence in the current political administration nationally. They have apparently billed themselves as representing “Catholics in America”. Their influence in some circles and segments of intellectual influence in America today has led to their being perceived as a kind of new lay “magisterium” (with a small “m”) for far too many people.

There are many emerging wonderfully faithful Catholics who are fresh thinkers, and who, with other Christians are seeking to influence the culture -by exposing the lies of the contemporary culture of death and use and building a new culture of life and civilization of love. They too often either have to tow this neo-con line or they are not given a hearing.

Many people, in many parts of our culture and our Church are beginning to question the near captivity that this segment of folks has had on popular Catholic thinking and activism. The neo-conservative movement in America, and this subset of Catholic neo-conservatives, is not the only voice in popular activism any longer. They are being questioned, with charity, and many are realizing they are not as influential as they may have once thought.

For me, it was further theological studies under some brilliant men and women, formed in the full teaching of Pope John Paul II that ...

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