Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

4/7/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Social conservatism is not seen as generous, compassionate, or interested in the wide range of issues that impact our well-being, and that has become a political liability.

"Social conservatism" has long been the Good Housekeeping brand in pro-life politics. Its usefulness, however, has come to an end, not because the moral commitments it signifies are any less important, but because politics is about attracting voters. A new language that in no way compromises the principles of life, marriage, and authentic freedom needs to be cultivated, one that encompasses more than a handful of issues, no matter how important, and one that connects to the larger culture.  The demands of social justice, then, begin with the right to life and end with the right to be protected from euthanasia or the temptation of assisted suicide. It\'s a mistake to detach the idea of social justice from the protection of vulnerable life: The source of moral obligation to protect the unborn and to feed the hungry is one and the same-the inherent dignity of the human person.

Using dominant-issue language can help to close the unnecessary divide between pro-life and social justice Catholics. There's a clear continuity between providing someone with food and shelter and the willingness to defend his life when it's threatened.

Using dominant-issue language can help to close the unnecessary divide between pro-life and social justice Catholics. There's a clear continuity between providing someone with food and shelter and the willingness to defend his life when it's threatened.

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/7/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: solial conservative, cultural conservative, Social Justice, Social Doctrine, Catholic vote, faithful citizenship, Pro-Life, Pro-Family, Pro-Poor, Pro-Peace, Catholic Action, activism, religious right, Deal W. Hudson


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - "Social conservatism" has long been the Good Housekeeping brand in pro-life politics. Its usefulness, however, has come to an end, not because the moral commitments it signifies are any less important, but because politics is about attracting voters. A new language that in no way compromises the principles of life, marriage, and authentic freedom needs to be cultivated, one that encompasses more than a handful of issues, no matter how important, and one that connects to the larger culture. 

"Cultural Conservatism" has been suggested, as I have discussed in previous columns, and I applaud the direction that would take those of us who want to unite the pro-life convictions with a concern for "social justice." I understand the skepticism readers might feel at this suggestion, so I promise to sort through just what social justice really means in Catholic teaching in a future column. The point, however, is a simple one; social conservatism is not seen as generous, compassionate, or interested in the wide range of issues that impact our well-being, and that has become a political liability.      

Some critics refer to social conservatives as "single issue" voters. It's not a fair characterization but is a troublesome one.  Those of us who believe that some issues are more important than others and should be given top priority in considering a candidate's qualifications, should be viewed not as single issue voters but as "dominant issue" voters. These are voters who take into account the urgency of addressing issues of social injustice in the culture but see those issues arranged vertically not horizontally.

The life issues-including abortion, euthanasia, fetal stem-cell research, and cloning-are at the top of that hierarchy. These issues should be considered dominant in determining how to vote for two simple reasons: First, the protection of life-the right to life-is a moral principle that sits at the foundation of morality itself. And it's one of the three foundational rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. There could be no right to liberty or happiness unless there were a living person in the first place.

Second, the injunction of natural law and the Church to oppose abortion is unqualified: Individuals are not required, or allowed, to make prudential judgments of the principle to a specific case. Appeals to private "conscience" cannot override this infallible teaching. In his 2002 Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Public Life,  the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:

In this context, it must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church's social doctrine does not exhaust one's responsibility towards the common good.

Opposition to abortion, therefore, admits of no exceptions. There is no question, then, that as the dominant issue, a politician's position on abortion qualifies him or her for the Catholic vote. From the perspective of the Church, not all the policy positions taken by candidates are of equal importance. Catholic voters, by understanding themselves as dominant-issue voters, can preserve the hierarchy of values at the core of Church teaching while not ignoring the legitimate spectrum of issues important to political consideration.

Furthermore, by understanding the dominance of life issues, Catholic voters will overcome their confusion about the difference between moral principle and prudential judgment. Unlike the admonition against abortion, most of the general principles proposed in Church teaching can be implemented in a variety of ways; it's simply a mistake to assume-as the Left often does-that one kind of implementation is more "Catholic" than another.

As has been noted many times, the USCCB's habit of issuing dozens of policy recommendations during every congressional session on issues ranging from broadband legislation and immigration to minimum wage and partial-birth abortion results in confusion at the grassroots. Unfortunately, the average Catholic doesn't discriminate between simple policy recommendations made by the Conference and doctrinal statements, and often wrongly assumes that they have equal authority.

Using dominant-issue language can help to close the unnecessary divide between pro-life and social justice Catholics. There's a clear continuity between providing someone with food and shelter and the willingness to defend his life when it's threatened. The Church often employs the phrase "social justice" when addressing "the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of "authority" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1928). A cultural conservatism, if it is to emerge, must reconnect what never should have been disconnected - because to care about life is to care about everything.

The demands of social justice, then, begin with the right to life and end with the right to be protected from euthanasia or the temptation of assisted suicide. It's a mistake to detach the idea of social justice from the protection of vulnerable life: The source of moral obligation to protect the unborn and to feed the hungry is one and the same-the inherent dignity of the human person.

Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

-----
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, is heard on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Politics & Policy

Hillary Clinton caught in shameful lie on family's history Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As Hillary Clinton continues to shape her platform for presidency, she is reported as boasting her family's immigration history. During one of her first speeches as an official candidate, Clinton said that "all her grandparents had immigrated to the United States," ... continue reading


Federal government sets all-time record for tax revenue Watch

Image of We will not know how much additional tax revenue the Treasury pulled in until it releases its next daily statement tomorrow afternoon. Every dollar of it will add to the new record.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Tax day has arrived - and with the close of business on April 14, the Treasury brought in a record $1,477,901,000,000 since fiscal 2015. Began on October 1, 2014, these figures are courtesy of the Daily Treasury Statement. Despite this record tax revenue, the ... continue reading


INSANE: U.S. federal tax code is 74,608 pages long! Watch

Image of If the tax code continues to grow at the same pace it did over the last century, it will pass 100,000 pages in 2050.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

If you had your taxes professionally prepared this year, you may now fully appreciate what your accountant or cleric did for you this year. The U.S. federal tax code is a whopping 74,608 pages long! Try to imagine trying to digest all the nuances that go along ... continue reading


'We're in uncharted territory here' U.S. official admits ISIS' reign of terror is crushing Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S.-led coalition against ISIS continues, now with 62 countries working to put an end to ISIS. Canada has become the latest country to shoot airstrikes against ISIS. The fight against ISIS is being described as "off the charts historically." LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Who are Hillary Clinton's supporters? Well not women, and not young Americans: A look into Clinton's shocking Facebook following Watch

Image of Hillary Clinton is the favored Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2016, but Facebook demographics show she may have a long way to go.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hillary Clinton is the de facto face of the Democrat party's aspirations for the presidency in 2016, but you wouldn't know that by looking at her Facebook pages. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The single largest percentage of Clinton's fans aren't even from ... continue reading


Lois Lerner emails expose secretive IRS warnings Watch

Image of The lower-level employees

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Former director of Exempt Organizations Unit at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Lois Lerner is reported as warning other IRS officials to manage the lower-level employees written conversations in 2013. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Lerner resigned from the ... continue reading


Rubio steps into spotlight for 2016 run Watch

Image of Florida Senator Marco Rubio will officially announce his intent to seek the Republican nomination for the president today, following months of speculation.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The question over which Republican will be the next to announce their intent to run for the nomination in 2016 has been answered, as Marco Rubio joins Senator Ted Cruz and Rand Paul in the race which will soon be flooded with even more competitors. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


COLD WAR NO MORE? U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro meet Watch

Image of Obama and Castro greeted each other courteously amid an explosion of camera flashes Friday night. The two sat at the same table but not directly next to one another.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The United States and Cuba may not be the best of friends, but the meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro this past weekend marks a turning point in international relations. It was the first time that leaders from both ... continue reading


Putting the big bite on the top 20 percent: Unlucky few pay 84 percent of all U.S. income taxes Watch

Image of The U.S. federal income tax system is very progressive - higher income groups pay increasingly higher tax rates, and therefore disproportionately higher and higher shares of the total income taxes collected.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Who pays what in income taxes? According to a study in the Wall Street Journal, only 20 percent of all U.S. taxpayers pay 84 percent of all taxes owed. How does every day, ordinary taxpayer fit into this schema? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Individual ... continue reading


'I'm running for president' Hillary Clinton declares Watch

Image of While Hillary Rodham Clinton is courting the middle class with her presidential bid, both her and her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton remain among the wealthiest of Americans.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion," Hillary Rodham Clinton has declared. Saying that America's economy is "still stacked in favor of those at the top," according to a campaign video this past weekend. "I'm running for ... 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, Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
13 It is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9
2 Children of men, how long will you be heavy of ... Read More

Reading 2, First John 2:1-5
1 My children, I am writing this to prevent you from ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 19th, 2015 Image

St. Alphege
April 19: Archbishop and "the First Martyr of Canterbury." He was born in ... 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