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

'I would ask her to step aside': DNC chair pressured to resign Watch

Image of Debbie Wasserman Schultz pressured to resign.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Controversial emails continue to haunt the Democratic party. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The emails suggested the Democratic National Committee (DNC) favored Clinton during the primary and revealed possible evidence of the DNC attempting to destroy Bernie ... continue reading


Ted Cruz did WHAT at the Republican National Convention? Watch

Image of Ted Cruz was booed when the crowd realized he wouldn't be endorsing Donald Trump.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Ted Cruz was booed during the Republican National Convention Wednesday night when it became clear he wouldn't be endorsing Donald Trump. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When the Texas senator took the stage Wednesday night, his 23-minute remarks began well.He ... continue reading


The people have won! Trump becomes official nominee Watch

Image of Donald Trump is the people's choice for president.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Donald Trump is the official Republican nominee for president. Last night, Trump was officially awarded 1,725 delegates to become the nominee.  The total is well above the 1,237 required by the party rules. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - America has a ... continue reading


RNC convention opens with plagiarism accusation, Dems have worst record Watch

Image of The Republican National Convention opened last night with controversy over Melania Trump's speech.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Republicans kicked off their convention in Cleveland last night with a list of speakers addressing the theme, "Make America Safe Again." The event conveyed low energy, possibly because of the subject matter involved, but it was topped with an appearance by Donald Trump ... continue reading


Making a Difference: A political platform for all the people Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

During this month of political conventions, when America's two major parties adopt platforms designed to further their particular goals, it is clear that neither party's goals reflect a genuine total commitment to God, all of God's people and all of God's creation. ... continue reading


Traitorous liar Paul Ryan tries to deceive voters after supporting Obama's radical agenda Watch

Image of Voting for Ryan is like voting for Obama.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Paul Ryan is asking voters to reelect him because he will stand up to Obama's open borders policy. The problem is, he's had 17 years to do this and all he's done is the opposite. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Paul Ryan, the treasonous, ineffective rat of a ... continue reading


Judge rules: Police need a warrant to track your phone Watch

Image of Police now need a warrant to track your phone.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A federal judge has ordered that police cannot track cell phones without a warrant. The ruling may impact thousands of cases. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Police may not track phones without a warrant. This is the latest ruling in a narcotics case in a ... continue reading


Nancy Pelosi, Boasting of her Devout Catholic faith, is a Heretic Watch

Image of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

By Deacon Keith Fournier

It is time to take the verbal gloves off once again - especially, as the 2016 election campaign begins in the United States of America. It must be said that Nancy Pelosi is engaging in more than scandal. She is engaging in the "obstinate denial of truths which ... continue reading


Democrats freak out as Clinton drops in polls Watch

Image of Clinton is still confident of victory, but she shouldn't be. Trump has surprised people before and he could surprise Clinton. Democrats are worried.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Democrats are concerned over Hillary Clinton's poll numbers as Trump inches close to Clinton in battleground states. The polls suggest that Trump could win, despite Clinton's greater popularity. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - A private meeting at the Capitol on ... continue reading


LEAK? Trump picks Pence as Clinton continues to collapse Watch

Image of Trump appears to have decided on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Donald Trump has picked Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate. A Republican insider has leaked the news a day early. Trump has a conference planned for tomorrow to make the formal announcement. Trump has not confirmed this information, so it remains speculative. ... 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

  • 'She is the witness to the risen Christ': Mary Magdalene honored
  • Daily Readings for Monday, July 25, 2016
  • St. James the Greater: Saint of the Day for Monday, July 25, 2016
  • 'Contemplative communities are not immune': Pope Francis on prayer
  • Daily Reading for Monday, July 25th, 2016 HD Video
  • Christ apparition in Mexico
  • Daily Reading for Tuesday, July 26th, 2016 HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Genesis 18:20-32
20 Then Yahweh said, 'The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8
1 [Of David] I thank you, Yahweh, with all my heart, for you have ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 11:1-13
1 Now it happened that he was in a certain place praying, and when he had ... Read More

Reading 2, Colossians 2:12-14
12 You have been buried with him by your baptism; by which, too, you have ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 24th, 2016 Image

St. John Boste
July 24: One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. He ... Read More