Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Kevin J. Jones

11/24/2010 (3 years ago)

Catholic News Agency (www.catholicnewsagency.com)

How does the Tea Party line up with Catholic Social Teaching

CNA spoke about the movement with Dr. Steven Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, and Fr. Robert Sirico, president of the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Acton Institute.

Highlights

By Kevin J. Jones

Catholic News Agency (www.catholicnewsagency.com)

11/24/2010 (3 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: tea party, catholic social teaching, catholic, theology, politics


WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNA) - This past election season "Tea Party" rallies were held around the country to protest government policy or to call for a new direction for the country. The movement even showed some substantial political clout at the ballot box. But is the movement compatible with Catholic social teaching?

CNA spoke about the movement with Dr. Steven Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, and Fr. Robert Sirico, president of the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Acton Institute.

Fr. Sirico described the Tea Party as "an amorphous thing" with a lot of variety and as a "populist, spontaneous movement." He thought its common themes include a desire for less government and a desire "to limit the power that politicians have over peoples' lives."

Participants find motivation in a variety of philosophies. Some have "well-developed Catholic sensibilities" while others' sensibilities are "almost anarchistic." He thought it was "remarkable" that the Tea Party could bring so many non-political people into the political process.

The Church's teaching on subsidiarity can meet these people and "augment what they're doing," he said, while also guarding against "the more fanatical edges of the tea party."

Fr. Sirico explained subsidiarity as being the principle that higher levels of society should not intervene in lower levels without "manifest and real necessity," and such intervention should only be temporary.

"Needs are best met at the local level," he said, calling government "the resource of last resort."

For his part, Dr. Schneck agreed the Tea Party is still a movement being formed. He sees it as motivated in part by middle class frustration with "a political environment that seems to reward the rich and the poor but ignores or even undercuts the middle." He also sees a "libertarian dynamic that wants to end do-gooder, nanny government."

He told CNA that Catholics are called to practice politics based on four aspects: the dignity of the person, the common good rather than private interests, solidarity with our fellow citizens in community, and an understanding of subsidiarity that recognizes the appropriate role of the state and civil society in addressing community needs.

This approach also reveals other requirements for good politics, such as preferential consideration of the poor, welcoming the immigrant, the importance of family and community, and a "stewardship" understanding of property and creation.

Granting that no political movement conforms to these principles, Schneck said the Tea Party movement has its clearest tensions with Catholic teaching on the issues of the common good and solidarity, while immigration, poverty and stewardship may be other areas of tension.

"Solidarity reminds us that we must properly understand ourselves and others as part of the Mystical Body of Christ," he explained, saying that responsibility to others is "prior to our individual liberties."

"Our freedom is not limited by our responsibilities to others in community, but is rather enhanced by what we do for others."

Schneck also warned that a "hard-edged individualism" which sees justice best resolved in competition ignores solidarity's emphasis on "caritas," that is, Christian love.

On the issue of national health care, which many Tea Party participants have opposed, Schneck noted Pope Benedict's recent insistence that health care is an inalienable right and governments are obliged to ensure universal health care for all citizens regardless of their ability to pay.

Like Fr. Sirico, Schneck thought that subsidiarity "dovetails quite well" with Tea Party thinking, for example in arguing that education policy is best set by local government rather than national.

"As part of subsidiarity, however, it is also true that if local government or the private resources of civil society are unable to address the needs of the common good, then the national government is morally bound to respond," he continued.

Fr. Sirico had his own criticisms of the movement. He thought charismatic leaders could lead people in the wrong direction, and the Tea Party's lack of a "historical memory" of past mistakes means that it lacks safeguards against plausible-looking proposals that "end up being harmful." Some Tea Party rhetoric suggests it has no role for government to serve the poor.

However, Fr. Sirico said in his experience most people sympathetic to the Tea Party movement, including himself, are not of that mindset.

He compared the government policy to a dentist visit, saying "we just want to get through it with as little pain as possible."

Schneck added that it was "gratifying" to see individual Tea Party representatives oppose abortion "even though libertarianism theoretically is suspicious of government promoting moral or religious values."

The future of the Tea Party's support for pro-life concerns and marriage issues has also been a public issue. Some Tea Party spokesmen have said the Republican Party should not focus on either.

Jeffrey Bell, a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told CNA he saw very little of this opinion in the daily activities of movement participants and sympathizers.

"People who think that voters are not concerned about social issues should go look at Iowa," he commented, referring to the electoral successes of traditional marriage activists in the key presidential primary state.

"People don't get amnesia on other issues just because the economy is in bad shape. They're still a factor," Bell remarked. "And the people who feel strongly about these issues, who are quite a few, are going to be less likely to vote for a candidate who is on the other side."

He did not think a Tea Party focus on fiscal issues and small government could eclipse social concerns. Polls indicate that most Tea Party participants are social conservatives, said Bell, and "very, very few" Tea Party-backed candidates for the Senate or the House were pro-choice on abortion.

He contended that both movements are "very similar" because of the importance they place on returning "to the values of the Founding."

"It's really a triumph of social conservatives that people would see these economic and size of government issues in the same light as many would also see abortion and traditional marriage," Bell claimed.

Those who are speaking of a "big civil war" between social conservatives and others in the Tea Party are, in Bell's view, "creating an issue where, on the ground, not much of an issue exists."

---

Founded in continued response to Pope John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization,” the Catholic News Agency (CNA) has been, since 2004, one of the fastest growing Catholic news providers to the English speaking world.



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, Proverbs 3:27-34
27 Refuse no kindness to those who have a right to ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 15:2-3, 3-4, 5
2 Whoever lives blamelessly, who acts uprightly, who ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 8:16-18
16 'No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Thomas of Villanueva
September 22: Augustinian bishop. Born at Fuentellana, Castile, Spain, he was ... 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