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The Unenviable Catholic Conservative

“Redistributive justice” has a clear ally in the Catholic Church. Those of us who oppose socialism are therefore placed in the unenviable position of contenting with Catholic doctrine. Pope Benedict attempted yesterday to convict “rich” industrialized nations to assume responsibility for the environmental affects of their citizen’s lifestyles. Summarizing the pope’s address, Reuters writes:

“… technologically advanced societies must be prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency.”

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Environmental concerns too often took a back seat to what [the pope] called “myopic economic interests,” adding the international community and governments had a moral duty to “send the right signals” to effectively combat misuse of the environment.

Of course, the immediate question ought to be; how should societies “encourage more sober lifestyles?” In a vacuum, the pope’s remarks might be dismissed as inspirational rhetoric, like a parent encouraging their child to eat their vegetables. However, these remarks are not made in a vacuum. They are timed to coincide with the United Nation’s climate change conference in Copenhagen, which this week aims to reach an agreement obligating rich nations, including the United States, to pay climate reparations to third world countries through an administration of global government.

This move by the Catholic Church to rhetorically support institutionalized redistribution of wealth is not its first. Liberal commentator Jack Clark, host of a podcast called Blast The Right, advances a challenge to conservative Christians to reconcile their political views with the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25, which mandates Christians to care for “the least of these [Christ's] brethren” (i.e. the poor). Clark asserts that conservative Christians who oppose redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor do so in violation of Matthew 25. Clark relies heavily on Catholic social doctrine to support his position, relishing in what he clearly perceives to be a delicious irony. Indeed, Catholics are specifically and directly charged by the doctrine Clark cites to correct “systematic structures of sin” with “systematic structural solutions.” Clark argues such solutions can only come from government, and challenges conservatives to provide an “equivalent alternative solution” which helps the same amount of people in the same way, just as fast, just as certainly. In a recent Fightin Words podcast, I take on this challenge and provide what I believe to be a superior alternative solution to socialist economic policies. Key to this refutation is a direct confrontation with the Catholic Church.

As an authoritarian institution positioned as intermediary between man and God, the Catholic Church shares a defining characteristic with the state. Governments likewise act as intermediaries, intervening in the affairs of citizens to correct injustice. The Catholic Church is a form of ecclesiastical government which has at times been incestuously entangled with civil states or served as the state outright. So it should be no surprise to see Catholic doctrine supporting state intervention and centralized power. The question for conservative and libertarian Catholics becomes; is the Church infallible?

The Church has a vested interest in supporting the ideas advanced by President Barrack Obama in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech last week. “We do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected.” This quote was delivered in the context of advocating “evolved human institutions” to promote peace. It implies imperfect humanity can somehow manifest institutions capable of perfected results. If that is so, such institutions must be pursued, empowered, and supported. Clearly, the Catholic Church would derive an existential benefit from such a mandate. The alternative view, that humanity’s imperfection precludes the possibility of substantial evolution, to say nothing of perfected conditions, endangers institutions like the Catholic Church, the United Nations, and any oligarchy regarding itself separate and superior to the unwashed masses of humanity.

What say you Catholics? How would you answer Clark’s “equivalent alternative solutions” challenge? Do you agree with Pope Benedict’s comments regarding environmental responsibility? How do you reconcile your political beliefs with your religious ones?

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