January 04, 2009

Neuhaus on the Election

A couple months ago my reaction to John Allen's column lamenting the lack of a Catholic-utopian candidate was "how could those who are to be 'in the world but not of it' even expect a political party to perfectly match up to their beliefs and aspirations?" Well seems every now and then a blind squirrel finds a nut because here's what Fr. John Neuhaus wrote in the latest issue of First Things:
A week before the November election, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter... weighed in with a remarkably tendentious and muddled commentary on how so many Catholics are “alienated from both parties” and feel “disenfranchised.” So why, on that score, should Catholics be different from many, if not most, other voters? But Allen wants a party that represents “a holistic Catholic sensibility,”...“What would happen if a serious candidate came along who’s pro-life, pro-family, anti-war, pro-immigrant, anti-death penalty, pro-sustainable development, and a multi-lateralist in foreign policy concerned with religious freedom and a robust role for believers in public life?" . . . If one sets aside conventional liberal biases in defining such slogans, it is obvious that an argument can be made that John McCain meets, except for the death penalty, all those desiderata. In a wearily familiar mode, Allen bundles issues, gives each its liberal spin, and then suggests both candidates are unacceptable, leaving it implicit that Obama is less unacceptable than McCain.
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Apart from the political partisanship, however, John Allen’s initial concern is misguided. Why is it a problem that Catholics are politically “disenfranchised” or “homeless”? True, most Catholics once thought they had a “home” in the Democratic party, but that was part of a long immigrant experience that is, for most Catholics, now long past. For Catholics, as for all Christians, “we have here no abiding city” (Heb. 13:14). The sense of being homeless, out of step, and bereft of any enduring alliance with parties or temporal powers is a sign of Christian fidelity. In our exile we can, as Jeremiah advises the Jews in their Babylonian exile, work with whoever is willing to advance whatever measure of justice is possible in what St. Augustine calls the “city of man,” which is far short of our destiny in the City of God. Meanwhile, political homelessness is not our problem but our appointed circumstance on the way toward home.

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