The Disoriented Catholic Left

One does wonder, sometimes, just what goes on at Catholic News Service (CNS), an agency that wouldn’t exist were it not for the U.S. bishops and the bishops’ conference. This past April 16, CNS distributed a lengthy interview with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., giving her a platform to blast the 2013 federal budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and to badger Cardinal Timothy Dolan to pay as much attention to “the poor, the hungry, the middle class, the people who are going to be eviscerated by the Ryan budget” as Dolan and the bishops he leads are paying to the defense of religious freedom.

Rosa DeLauroThe Congresswoman’s appeal was specifically Catholic—“my Church, the Catholic Church, needs to speak out loud on this issue”—which involved an irony left wholly unexamined by CNS. For Rosa DeLauro’s voting record is in some tension, to put it gently, with Catholic understandings of justice.

The Catholic Church teaches the inalienable right to life of the unborn and insists that that obvious moral truth be acknowledged in law; Rep. DeLauro is a consistent pro-abortion vote in the House. The Catholic Church worked with the District of Columbia education authorities to provide “opportunity scholarships” to Catholic inner-city schools for poor children; Rep. DeLauro supported the Obama administration’s cruel refusal to fund that program. The bishops have declared that religious freedom is under serious assault in the United States today; the gentlewoman from Connecticut has been notably AWOL in defending the first of American liberties.

How, then does Congresswoman DeLauro imagine herself as someone who speaks for “my Church, the Catholic Church?”  My hunch is that she imagines herself a spokesperson for authentic Catholicism because she, like many other Catholics on the port side of both American politics and the Church, have long thought that they alone hold the high ground at the intersection of Catholic social teaching and public policy.

Memo to Congresswoman DeLauro and friends: Those days are over.

They’re over because four decades of intellectual and political work, coupled with extensive care for women in crisis pregnancies, have made the pro-life cause the cultural marker of serious Catholicism in America.

They’re over because much of the Catholic left has obstinately refused to promote religious freedom in full and the inalienable right to life as priority social justice issues.

And they’re over because contemporary history has vindicated Catholicism’s anti-statist social justice principle, subsidiarity.

The impending fiscal meltdown of European welfare states vindicates subsidiarity by making clear that providing necessary aid to those in genuine need means, among other measures, developing the associational and charitable instincts of civil society. The alternative is state bankruptcy and social chaos.

Then there is Obamacare, which flatly contradicts subsidiarity and its principled rejection of vast concentrations of state power—the dangers of which are amply demonstrated by the coercive HHS “contraceptive mandate.” The universal health care the Church rightly seeks must be accomplished by means other than handing over one-sixth of the economy (and critical medical decisions) to unregulated regulators.

These home truths are bad news for Rosa DeLauro and those of her persuasion. Now, to make matters worse, here is Paul Ryan, a congressman of uncommon intelligence who can ably argue the public policy implications of Catholic social doctrine and who understands that what the Church asks of a just society is the empowerment of the poor: breaking the cycle of welfare dependency and unleashing the creativity the Church believes God builds into every human soul.

Paul Ryan is the Catholic left’s worst nightmare and his demonization from that quarter has just begun. Ryan is a big boy, though, and he’ll fight his corner well. That argument might even lead to some consensus about empowerment-based anti-poverty strategies and fiscally responsible social welfare policies among serious Catholics of both political parties.

Rather than being a megaphone for dissenting Catholics posing as authentic representatives of the Church and hyperventilating about people being “eviscerated” by a budget, might CNS help provide a level playing field for the debate?

George Weigel


George Weigel is an American author and political and social activist. He currently serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Weigel was the Founding President of the James Madison Foundation.

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  • AnnaMarie 53

    Hooray for this editorial! It is about time (and then some) that someone decried the demonization of those of us firmly on the conservative end of the political spectrum and our legitimate concern for the poor.  Welfare was meant as a temporary safety net, NOT a way of life as has happened during the past 40 years or so of “the war on poverty.”  It was a bust from its inception because it has the idea that only those who really, really, want to should ever have to work.  Gee, if that made sense I would have never swung a stick at a snake myself!  However, I realized my God-given talents, however meager they may be, were meant to  used, even if my talent is no bigger than the understanding that I SHOULD work.   Besides, we all know, if we are honest with ourselves, that the left could not care less about the poor if they tried.  They only want to use these people, to exploit them as votes, with empty promises the government in power knows will never work.  This callous attitude has brought us to the state of bankruptcy we currently find ourselves heading for like a bat out of hell.  True charity requires not just handing out money endlessly, but the assistance of helping people to work, which gives the sense of worth that God wants for us all.  Getting the government, and its professional welfare devotees out of the way as much as possible would be, I believe, a great place to start.

  • Yblegen

    Thank you for the stating the obvious to those of us who agree with you that the “days are over” for  those who think they “know” the Truth” and  can spout it without criticism from the truly catechized.

  • I’m extremely weary of all this bantering between huffy right wingers and the unorthodox lefties over issues that should not even exist.  I am sick to death of the political grandstanding by people on both sides of our shamefully divided church.  When we lose sight of our Lord, where can we find him?  Like Mary and Joseph who had to return to Jerusalem after noticing he was not with them, we also can find him in His Father’s house.  This is all scandalous to the Church.  Stop it.

  • chaco

    The only way the deceipt of “Truth’s enemy” can further expand it’s destruction is through the suppression of FREE SPEECH. What we have here infuriates the enemy. It seems it’s only hope of retaliation, this side of limiting FREE SPEECH, is to flood the airways by outspending the Truth. The liar is getting madder by the minute as it realizes how Truth can also inform at the push of a button.  “The Gates of Hell ( lies / big money & big govt.) will not prevail against Her (Holy Mother Church).” Mt. 16: 18 

  • chaco

    Melonie, I feel your frustration, but it doesn’t get better if we just allow everyone to claim they have the Truth – That’s called Relativism (no truth except what is RELATIVE to each individual’s own appetites or experience). “His Father” warned us about how Truth divides (Lk. 12: 51-53). As long as we have FREE SPEECH and use it in Love/ charity, “everything(lies) will come out in the wash” (public debate).

  • antimoron

    The term “Catholic  left” really is an oxy-moron but they are the morons in our catholic church to bring it down.

  • nah

    Shamefully divided Church!  The only divide is the Church with all who believe and practice ALL of its teachings and those that don’t.  Jesus said he can’t stand the lukewarm, that’s should be enough of a warning.  The real scandal is phony Catholic politicians who use the Church to suit their selfish ends.  Yes, lets stop it by voting for faithful Catholic values first and political party last. 

  • Apilgrimsoldier

    I love this article.  Thank you for pointing out the errors of the Catholic press which should be promoting the good news of Catholic activities, and the words of truly Catholic representatives in our government.  The discouragement I’ve observed upon finding these phoney Catholics claiming the high ground in Catholic places has been maleable among  some Catholics.  Yet we’re learning from people like yourself and we’re out here praying for our Holy Catholic Church and our Country.  Is it alright to cry for our country like Jesus cried for Jerusalem? ( or was that city a metaphor?)  God loves America and is blessing us. As he was leaving after his visit in 2008 I saw Our Holy Father Pope Benedict say “God Bless America” and I believe his blessing has effect. We should all repeat his words to God every day.

  • We are at a crossroads in American Catholicism between “orthodox” and “anything goes” Catholicism.  Pope Benedict XVI is leading the Church towards the orthodox side and so are many of our Catholic Bishops.  Hopefully the Catholics that lean to the left will realize that it isn’t kosher anymore to be a cafeteria Catholic like it once was.

  • pigseye

    House speaker O`Neil said ,party, family and God.That has been framework of democrats here in Massachusetts

  • Peter Nyikos

     Is “in that order” understood in what you wrote, pigseye?  There is a huge grain of truth in that, especially where the likes of Rosa De Lauro are concerned.

  • Peter Nyikos

    I never was one for judging a person by their looks, but I can’t help noting that Rosa DeLauro looks like a great many liberal women who belong to religious orders and are referred to as “nuns” by the mainstream media, even though becoming cloistered is the furthest thing from their minds. 

  • nah

    DeLauro has the typical look of the middle age far left feminist: angry, old and tired.  I think you could categorize it as the “elder elite lesbian statesman-pro abortion warrior” look.   
    Sorry for the lack of charity but I find nothing feminine or attractive about her type, and I don’t mean just physically. 
    On the other hand, orthodox nuns, young and old, have a beauty that goes beyond physical appearance, they have a presence about them that makes them seem to glow.  Their attraction is at a higher, greater level.  I wonder why.   

  • Terrygeorge

    well careful here.  if some, many, are falsely proclaiming leftist political implications of catholic teaching over the last few decades, and very many are deceived by it, then we have a duty before God to proclaim the Truth, in word as well as deed.  you cannot escape it by pretending neutrality, that effectively becomes an endorsement of the deception by omission of its correction…

  • WaronWomenStinks

    Right, boys. That’s what relevant in this article: her looks. Thanks for the religious insight.

  • annie

    Wow, was your statement inspired by God? Is that the “Truth” the Catholic Church teaches? Can you find a quote in the Bible that uses the word moron? Those of you that call yourself the “catholic right” were once call Protestants.