It is not surprising that Pope Francis will continually ask that we are mindful of the needs of the poor. He is doing this as he visits Brazil and it is a staple of his young papacy. Of course any Pope must do this because it is a major feature of the Gospels. It is a plain fact of the natural law that we will be held accountable for how we use this worlds goods, and if you are blessed with a lot of goods then there is a corresponding duty to use them to help others. We are not to hoard.
Still recent Catholic commentary does not leave it at this. In the United States amidst the Catholic blogosphere there is an attempt to make the following argument:
“There exist conservative Catholics rightfully concerned with issues of “sexual morality” and proper worship and they get it right on abortion, same sex marriage, and perhaps are more likely to follow the “rules”. Then there are liberal Catholics who are not so concerned about the “pelvic morality” but are deeply concerned about peace and justice so tend to oppose needless war, and have solidarity with the poor. They get it right on those issues. The Bishops of course preach the whole Gospel and we need to realize that the dissidents on the left are not different then the dissidents on the right…”
This argument has been pushed in various forms and has become more popular in response to conservative Catholic laity complaining more vocally about insufficient support from the Bishops in fighting the culture wars. Sometimes the official organs of the Church have gone beyond lack of support to actual aid and comfort to the enemy, such as the news that for years Catholics were indirectly funding left wing groups opposed to Church teaching via grants issued by the USCCB controlled Catholic Campaign for Human Development. It seems that this “There is dissent on both sides” thesis is an effort to show that conservative Catholics are off the mark as well, but in their own way.
This line of thought has made its way into the commentary of a number of very orthodox Catholic opinion leaders, often popular priest bloggers. This suggests that to some extent the reasoning is coming from the Bishops with the troops being told to get the message out. It has most recently been discussed by Fr. Dwight Longenecker , on his blog, the full piece can be read here .
Fr. Longenecker is a very smart guy and often says a lot of things that make sense. I read him regularly. But on this issue he is helping to perpetrate one of the more foolish myths circulating in Catholic circles. There is no balance here. For the most part conservative Catholics are trying to restore some sense of sanity back to the Church and a tiny bit of decency back to the culture. It is quite false to think they are concerned with “sexual” issues. They are more concerned with protecting basic natural law rights that others would trample on, and protecting the family as the essential unit of society. The “Peace and Justice Crowd” are in contrast dangerous leftists analogous to medical quacks. To the extent they mean well they are even more dangerous since the will peddle the snake oil all the more persistently.
The reason there is such confusion about this is because the Church no longer teaches rigorously using careful logic about moral issues. To illustrate this I would like to discuss the moral principles involved in “peace” and “justice”. I think it is pretty obvious that the Catholic left has no idea what they are talking about in regard either issue. Look for our next post regarding “peace”