The Church and Social Programs | James Kalb | Catholic World Report
Christians in the US are not under hard totalitarianism, but we are in the midst of a struggle for the soul of our country.
A couple of months ago I noted that the Church generally supports and cooperates with political authorities. She interprets their efforts charitably, supports whatever can be justified, and, when some particular measure is undeniably bad, tries to show what would be better.
All that’s obvious good sense when Christian or natural law principles are generally accepted, or when government is mostly a matter of guarding basic social functions. In such settings, it makes sense to accept that government, however infected by human weakness, is basically natural and good. Hence the alliance of throne and altar in old Europe, and hence the Al Smith Dinner in 20th-century New York.
To what extent does that approach make sense today? Modern thought tends toward the radical and transformative. It wants to reject the authority of nature, custom, and Christianity, and treat man as left to his own devices. It tells us, for example, that the human body has no natural meaning, so we are free to do with it what we will. If we want to redefine human life or marriage so they fit our plans better, that’s what we should do. That’s the technological view of reason that dominates serious mainstream political discussion today. It’s the reason Choice and Change, which tell us that the point of politics is remaking the world in accordance with human decision, have been so successful as slogans.
The influential people who do the choosing are OK with choice and change as supreme principles, but the Church has problems with them. A government truly based on choice and change would be very different from the kind of government she has habitually supported. It would be a system of force in the service of willfulness, and thus a system of organized violence against man and nature. As such, it would be essentially bad, even though it might do some good things.
In the last century Russia and Germany demonstrated how politics based on will can work out when the principle is taken with unmixed seriousness. Liberals are aware of the problem, but expect the principle of equal treatment to keep their system from becoming tyrannical. If everybody’s desires have to be treated equally, no one can tyrannize over anyone else, and the specter of totalitarianism is exorcised. Indeed, liberals believe their solution to oppression is the only one possible. A will’s a will, or so a liberal technocrat might say, so Catholics and others who deny the equal claim of all wills to satisfaction must be tyrants who want to impose their own will on everything.Even so, the liberal principle of equal willfulness can’t be relied on to avoid tyranny.
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