The Catholic Vote & the New Evangelization – Part III

This is the conclusion of a three part article by guest blogger Dr. David Delaney.

What happens with the Catholic vote this election remains to be seen.  However, from the perspective of this year of faith and the new evangelization, the results do not much matter.  The problems identified above: the need for re-evangelizing, re-catechizing, and converting Catholics to the zealous practice of the faith remains as a challenge.  I would argue that we should start by by following the Holy Father’s admonition to work on our own interior conversion.  This purification can start with purification of our own understanding of the faith and with the way we explain it. We can also help to correct mistaken Catholics by removing unnecessary barriers, using only the language of the Church and purging ourselves of the use of confusing terminology and even more, mistaken interpretations of Church teaching.

We should all vote and pray that God’s will be done in this presidential election, but it will only be when Catholics vote in accord with the truth, that is in accord with the authentic common good, that the Catholic vote will really be of any meaningful consequence.

David Delaney is Professor of Systematic Theology at the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, Texas. He previously wrote for the now defunct Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex blog.

The Catholic Vote & the New Evangelization – Part II

This is the second part of an article by a guest blogger and friend, Dr. David Delaney.

The common source is a problem that affects a good number of Catholics, even those who intend to be faithful Catholics.  However, most problematically it seems to legitimize dissent from Church teaching.  The problem I am talking about is the use of the terms “liberal Catholic” or “conservative Catholic.” Now I understand the desire to know where someone is coming from and the convenience of placing him into an intellectual box.  However, I would like to suggest that the importation of the liberal-conservative classification scheme to identify Catholics is problematic.  These terms were coined in late 18th century France and at the time meant something specific.  One either wanted to conserve the monarchy or to free France from what the liberals saw as its tyrannical rule.  Today, the meaning is not so clear in either politics, economics, or sociology, and the meaning is certainly not clear in terms of being a faithful Catholic.

The problem in the use of these terms are similar for both conservatives and liberals, even if the problematic results are usually more grave for the liberal ideology.  And this is the root of the problem.  Liberalism and conservatism are ideologies that may capture certain truths but neither of them embrace the fullness of the truth.  Rather than the Catholic working to purify the ideology, he tends to try to interpret Church teaching, and many times to critique Church teaching, through the lens of his particular ideology.

For example, many Catholics who espouse social liberalism seem to conflate Catholic social doctrine with liberal social policies when there is very often only a superficial correspondence and more often a deeper contradiction between the two.  On the other hand some Catholics who consider themselves to be conservative can often appear to dismiss out of hand consistent and repeated magisterial statements which appear to conflict with their conservative ideology.  This is especially the case when these statements are a prudential application of Church teaching such as is the case with the death penalty (of course this is of a different character than dissent from the teachings themselves but that does not justify a casual dismissal of magisterial statements).

I believe that this terminology is destructive for another reason.  There is an increasing group of Catholics who consider themselves liberal and who are trying to grapple with fidelity to Church teaching.  They are not being helped by faithful Catholics who mistakenly tell them that they need to be conservative Catholics in order to be faithful Catholics.  What the conservative means or what the liberal understands by the term conservative is anyone’s guess. Regardless, I would like to remind us that Jesus commanded His disciples to abide by His commandments, not to be liberal or conservative.  Neither do we find either term in the Catechism.

Please check back tomorrow for the conclusion!

David Delaney is Professor of Systematic Theology at the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, Texas. He previously wrote for the now defunct Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex blog.

The Catholic Vote & the New Evangelization – Part I

Today we are privileged to introduce a friend of ours, Dr. David Delaney, who has generously offered to contribute posts to Quidnunc.

Dr. Delaney is Professor of Systematic Theology at the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, Texas.  He previously wrote for the now defunct Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex blog.

With the presidential election just two weeks away, the talk about the “Catholic vote” again is becoming a point of interest for many pundits. Unfortunately, U.S. Catholics tend to vote in a manner indistinguishable from their American contemporaries. Rather than allowing their votes to be informed by the truth proclaimed by the Church they are voting for primarily worldly concerns. Rather than Catholics being the leaven for a fallen world, too many Catholics, perhaps a majority, are now allowing themselves to be formed by the mistaken views of society.

Now let me say that this observation is not motivated by political partisanship. I am more concerned to consider what Catholic voting patterns have to say about the challenges for the year of faith.  Election results for a variety of candidates and issues in recent years show a large percentage of Catholics voting in direct contradiction to objective moral norms indicate the challenges are great.

There are a number of reasons for this wayward Catholic vote.  One reason can be gleaned from national polling done over the last thirty years which has consistently indicated that Catholics are increasingly ignorant of their faith.  Another more worrisome concern is that many Catholics who understand what the Church teaches do not believe they should be “constrained” by Church teaching.  Many follow the lead of confused Catholic politicians who employ the “Cuomo doctrine,” saying that they believe what the Catholic Church teaches but cannot compel non-Catholics to abide by Catholic teaching.  Others who claim to be faithful Catholics appeal to their mistaken understanding of Catholic teaching on the primacy of conscience. A number of these problems have a common source and that is what I would like to consider here.

Check back tomorrow for Part II.