Why Catholic Politicians Trade Catholic Orthodoxy for Party Orthodoxy

Elizabeth Bruenig writes that evangelicals and Catholics have made their peace, and Catholics are paying the price:

The close quarters produced a new breed of politically evangelicalized Catholic candidates and officeholders who have little use for the church’s social teaching (which includes support for organized labor , immigrants and the poor) but adhere vehemently to its teaching on issues related to sexuality. Evangelicals have greater theological latitude when it comes to matters of the economy, with much less in the way of binding, traditional doctrine on the right use of wealth and property than Catholicism has accrued over the years. In supporting typically lean Republican policies on social programs and the economy, these Catholic politicians adopt a moral approach to politics reminiscent of their evangelical compatriots.

Among these new Catholics, seemingly custom-made for the GOP, are House Speaker Paul Ryan, a onetime fan of the intensely anti-religious, free-market thinker Ayn Rand; former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who radically shrank his state’s nutritional assistance program and rebuffed Louisiana bishops’ attempt to halt an execution scheduled for Ash Wednesday ; and Rep. Dave Brat, a Virginian who describes himself, dizzyingly, as Catholic, Calvinist and libertarian . This brand of Catholic, a perfect fit with America’s conservative movement, would supposedly “remake” the GOP.

But instead of carrying Catholicism’s compassionate approach to social programs into the party, the Catholics who’ve joined the Republican ranks seem to have adjusted their faith to the party’s interests, at least where economic matters are concerned. Church authorities have taken notice. Though Ryan has enjoyed some support from more conservative church leaders, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has repeatedly issued letters of correction to Ryan’s austere budget proposals, urging Congress in a 2012 letter to remember that “a just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons.” Ryan replied that he and the bishops “just respectfully disagree,” a statesmanlike rebuff from an evangelical politician, but a more puzzling riposte from a Catholic speaking to the ordained leaders….

Spadaro and other like-minded Catholics might be irritated by Catholic cooperation with evangelicals on conservative issues, but the same challenges certainly face Catholics working within the Democratic establishment, where the situation is similar in kind but reversed on the issues.

The impasse comes down not to the specific nature of either party but to the very foundations of America. Spadaro was right about the difficulties of Catholic participation in U.S. politics, but he didn’t seem to see how deep the trouble goes. This country was founded around Protestant principles. Catholics involving themselves in American politics — especially the machinations of the two parties — are always likely to find that the closer they come to Washington, the further they stray from Rome. It may simply be the price of doing business in a country like ours, but it makes authenticity and efficacy very difficult to square.

Read the full article here.