Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Kevin J. Jones

11/24/2010 (5 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 (5 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

EXCLUSIVE - America, King of Propaganda: U.S. government spends billions to spew LIES to the American people. And guess what you foolish Americans, Congress made it all perfectly legal without your vote Watch

Image of

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Have we won the ground war in Afghanistan? According to the government reports and the media, we sure have. However, this is not what one whistleblower has said, warning as early as 2012 that the American people are being deceived by the government. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


'He deserves what he gets:' Latino youths violently protest Donald Trump in Orange County Watch

Image of Trump protestors broke out in a violent riot during his Orange County rally (Reuters).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Thousands attended Donald Trump's Orange County rally - then broke out in violent protest. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Trump rally in Costa Mesa's Orange County Amphitheater was overflowing with supporters. There were several supporters who couldn't fit ... continue reading


New White House rules leave religious groups open to government abuse Watch

Image of Religious groups question the government's new regulations (Shutterstock).

By Kevin J. Jones (CNA/EWTN News)

The Obama administration's new rule for faith-based partnerships has drawn various reactions: one observer warned they could cause problems for partnering religious groups, while another said the action also strengthens these groups' protections against government ... continue reading


Bill De Blasio's ongoing investigation scandal fails to stop him from new fundraising efforts Watch

Image of Mayor Bill de Blasio won't talk - but his staff will (Wikipedia).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's closest aides have been issued subpoenas to aid the investigation into his shady fundraising strategies. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The scandal surrounding de Blasio's fundraising has made headlines since 2014, when a leaked ... continue reading


Trump delivers first foreign policy speech, and sounds like a president should! (FULL TEXT) Watch

Image of Donald Trump's first full foreign policy speech sounded relatively presidential, and while short of specifics, was still worth listening to.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Donald Trump delivered his first full speech on foreign policy and he sounded fairly presidential while doing so. Trump is not a politician by trade, but he may make an excellent president thanks to his extensive business acumen. Trump is on the path to the Republican ... continue reading


The olive branch and the barb: Clinton vs. Trump Watch

Image of Trump and Clinton came out on top (Shutterstock).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The race for the presidential nominee has been full of surprises as history-making events, claims of foul play, dirty dealings and controversial statements have cropped up in abundance. Candidates have, at times, been caught up in a tight race, but Tuesday's primary ... continue reading


Trump will be president! Real estate mogul outpacing Romney by whopping 25 percent Watch

Image of Mitt Romney was friendly with Trump when he needed a campaign donation.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Donald Trump is on track to win both the primary and the election, according to the numbers. He is on a better trajectory than Mitt Romney was in 2008. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, while winning her primary, is losing support. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - ... continue reading


Desperate Cruz and Kasich agree to stop competing, will focus on Trump Watch

Image of Cruz and Kasich are teaming up to block Trump, but their chances of success are slim.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Ted Cruz and John Kasich have teamed up to block Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination. The rivals have agreed to divide upcoming primary states, so they can efficiently spend resources attacking Trump instead of each other. LOS ANGELES, CA (California ... continue reading


Public Bathrooms: Private and safe facilities or free-for-alls? Watch

Image of Apparently, gender-confused children can use whichever restroom they want - without adult supervision to ensure the safety of either gender within the confines of a bathroom (David Bro/ZUMA).

By Thomas Heed (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Men with bad motives or who live dissolute lifestyles have always been potential sexual threats to women - and now women have been pushed further into their corners as "transgender rights" rise to prominence as the newest notion of the sexual revolution. These rights ... continue reading


'We are in a race against time:' 175 nations sign landmark climate accord Watch

Image of World powers finally agree to make a move to fight climate change (Shutterstock).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

World leaders have finally realized the destruction they have been allowing the planet to endure - and the ensuing consequences. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A shocking number of 175 global leaders gathered at the United Nations headquarters to sign the Paris ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
1 Then some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, 'Unless ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
2 Then the earth will acknowledge your ways, and all nations your power ... Read More

Gospel, John 14:23-29
23 Jesus replied: Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father ... Read More

Reading 2, Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
10 In the spirit, he carried me to the top of a very high mountain, and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 1st, 2016 Image

St. Marculf
May 1: Marculf is also known as Marcoul. He was born at ... Read More