The Dream of a Catholic Center Party

Do you feel a twinge of despair at what is happening in the American political stadium?

Are there any Catholic voters daunted at the prospect of having to choose between two narcissist egomaniacs come November, to say nothing of the bizarre characters parading about in the Republican primary?

Are you irked by the relentless, dumbed-down dualism of Left-Right, Liberal-Conservative, bi-partisan politics? Are you tired of the exaggerations, the insinuations, the false claims, the ready embrace of untruth?

Can it be that all Catholics are either ardently Republican or Democrat, given that the fact both parties are thoroughly suffused with and perverted by lobbies, plutocracy, litigiousness, exorbitant privileges (including insider-trading for Congress), and insultingly thoughtless rhetoric? Trial lawyers, media interests, unions, and the over-sexed seem to dominate the one, while corporate executives, financiers, war hawks, and anti-intellectuals apparently lead the other.

Come election time, when the executive branch is up for grabs, the parties escalate their quarrels about how best to arrange taxes, security, abortion, welfare, equality, freedom, war, and the like. Extremist rhetoric seems the preferred mode of communication, even though both parties agree to a depressingly similar fiscal irresponsibility, foreign policy without justice, and endless amounts of self-adulation. The one routinely confuses patriotism for jingoism, the other liberty for license. It’s like watching a march of the seven deadly sins.

By now, let’s assume that Manichean party devotees have stopped reading in offended, self- righteous disgust.

For those of us left over, let’s take a break and indulge in a moment of escapism. Imagine what it would be like to have an alternative to the left-right mania, for example, a Catholic Center Party.

Imagine a political party meant to represent and advance the civil interests of the great, growing, diverse Catholic community in the USA, which is found in every state and bridges all the supposed divisions of race, ethnicity, age, sex/gender, and class. This party would openly and constantly embrace the dignity of every human life from conception till natural death. It would acknowledge the sovereignty of God over the world he created and has given to us as a gift, one that we must cherish, maintain, and protect.

Based on this a priori assumption, the party platform could include the following positions on the key issues of common concern, arranged here in alphabetical order:

Abortion: Drastically reduce the killing of innocent human lives in vitro from the current one million or more per year (regardless of which party is in power).

Death Penalty: Put a stop to it, not only for moral consistency, but also because of irreversible errors and ridiculous legal costs. Furthermore, the USA can afford to leave the unpleasant company of Iran, Iraq, South Africa, Russia, and China on this issue.

Economy: Let human freedom work in the market place, but let the governing powers intervene to guard against wanton abuse.

Education: Make sure parents have the first responsibility for their children’s education. Let the family be prior to the state in all considerations, within the rule of law.

Environment: We must care for creation as the good stewards we are expected to be. Pope Benedict XVI has made this point repeatedly: nature is not just there for economic exploitation.

Government: On the local, state, and federal level, subsidiarity and solidarity should be the first consideration. Let the constitutionalism that has served us so well for over two centuries continue to guide us.

Health Care: Look around the world for the best examples in terms of per capita cost and performance and make a sincere effort to emulate them. Establish it with a thorough reform of tort law, which will cut insurance and other costs significantly.

Marriage: Strengthen the root institution of human life in manifold ways. As said above, the family is prior to the state! Make, therefore, legal divorce longer, tougher, and less frivolous than it currently is.

Religion: Make sure that the separation of church and state means that the state keeps its hands off the church.

Taxation: Let it be clear, simple, and uncorrupted by legions of lawyers. Let rates be graduated and proportional, so that those with more than $100 million pay a higher percentage than the median earner.

Warfare: Pursue only demonstrably just wars. Prefer defense over offensive adventures. Scale back runaway military spending. Let patriotism take other forms than throwing money at the Pentagon and the defense companies.

Welfare: Be generous but firm. Distinguish between the deserving and undeserving poor. Those who cannot take care of themselves should accept their status as wards of the state, residing where state agencies say and performing the jobs assigned to them. No benefits should go to those engaged in crime and those who fail routine drug testing. Take special care of children and mothers left in the lurch.

Now it is time to wake up.

It may be pleasant to imagine a USA with a Catholic Center party, but it’s a pipe dream. Virtually the only thing the two domineering parties agree upon is that there shall be no third alternative. The whole system, from the districts to the White House, is based on a bi-partisan assumption. One might venture to argue that we do not have a real democratic republic in the USA any more, but rather a bi-partisan oligarchy. Either way, we Americans, obsessed with sports of all varieties, do not really mind political playoff and championship games. We thrive on the exhilaration of us vs. them. May the best (i.e. most popular) team win, this time around. We probably enjoy the suspense, excitement, and hullabaloo more than we ought.

We also need to be realistic in another way. A multiplicity of parties is no guarantee of clean, orderly, civil politics. A Catholic Center Party might be an interesting idea, but it would not amount to more than just another political association that concerns itself with money and the power of office, both with a strong downward pull.

So what then must we do? There is no harm in resigning ourselves to choosing the lesser among two or more evils. Because human beings matter more than money, maybe for many the vote will be given according to the candidate’s stance on life. We can only hope that person will do something to make a difference.

The state cannot save you or me or anyone else. It was never meant to. There is only one true savior. Christ clearly distinguished his kingdom from that of the world, his reign from Caesar’s, religion from politics, something the local and imperial government establishment in his day could not tolerate. So they tried to get rid of him, but they failed, ultimately, like so many brutal regimes ever since. No matter how we vote come November, we can always pray for his mercy.

Forgive us, O Lord, for we know not what we do.

Brennan Pursell


Dr. Brennan Pursell is Professor of History at DeSales University and the author of The Spanish Match (Sophia Institute Press, 2011), History in His Hands: A Christian Narrative of Western Civilization (Crossroad Publishing, 2011), Benedict of Bavaria: An Intimate Portrait of the Pope and His Homeland (Circle Press, 2008), and The Winter King (Ashgate, 2003).

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  • markeyjoe

    In what way can the president stop the death penalty? The Gov’t does not need to be in the business of health care, and we need to promote Subsidiarity. DOMA needs to be implimented and supported. and SMALLER Gov’t, less restrictive regulations. and lets stop this nonsense about Global Warming.

  • Hellothere


  • Terrygeorge

    well i see what you are trying to show.  and it appears that you attempt to adopt a neutrality stance in order to draw in an audience from all backgrounds.  unfortunately in so doing you fall into the trap of asserting that there is no moral difference between the naturally imperfect human options from which me must select.  yes we ought to know what to do.  there is a distinct moral difference that can be boiled down to this: one party predominantly supports Catholic teaching on direct application of doctrinal issues but sometimes opposes the ‘catholic’ (small c) stance on matters of prudential judgement (those issues in which people can legitimately disagree without leaving the bounds of Catholic teaching), meanwhile the other party is reportedly more agreeable with the supposedly ‘catholic’ position on these negotiable issues but consistently contradicts catholic teaching on the more direct doctinal applications.  the republican party, imperfect though it is, is far stronger in defending the lives of the innocent vs abortion and euthanasia and in defending traditional marriage and heterosexuality vs homosexuality and in defending religious freedom: these are the more central and preeminent issues as even our bishops’ voting conscience guide indicates. only in the more prudential issues in which people may legitimately hold differing opinoins is there purported disagreement with the ‘catholic’ position.  the democratic party swaps these postions, agreeing on these less eminent prudential issues but extensively countering Christ’s Catholic Church on the most central and eminent issues of direct application of Catholic doctrine.  that is to say, the democratic party strains the gnat but swallows the camel.  don’t even pretend there is equivalency between these two, that is anti-intellectual!  don’t muddy the waters to make up an excuse for anyone.  we all know darn well what we should do.

  •    It’s nice to dream about a Catholic Center Party, especially one that held a platform as described in the article.  The rude awakening comes when we realize that the “great, growing, diverse Catholic community in the USA” couldn’t even agree that the sun will rise tomorrow, let alone support all the tenets of that platform. 

       If a majority of those calling themselves Catholic don’t believe in the true presence of the Eurcharist, don’t go to mass regularly, use contraception, vote for pro abortion presidents etc., the dream should more likely be getting our own house in order before any political aspirations. 


  • The trouble with this argument is that the two party system is a myth.  There is one party, the government party with the left hand offering the road to hell as fast as possible and the right hand suggesting we take a little longer to go to the same place.  There is NOTHING the two really disagree on except who gets to operate the levers and dials of government.   As long as they keep the populace confused and sedated they put on their magic act year after year.  The Catholic Church is a willing participant while often claiming it is unwilling in the charade at every step of the way.  

    Disagree?!  End the nonprofit option.   Eliminate all tax-deductible donations and suggest all current so called non profits follow the same tax laws as any other organization.  The church has no voice but to go along to get along as it stands now.  I refuse to donate to a system that no longer allows me to give cash, no strings, no attention, no credit from the government for my contribution.    How long did the church exist before the label nonprofit and without being a tax-deductible entity working for the government?

  • Samueldean9

     The mainstream Republican party is no better at protecting lives than the Dems. Both have let Roe vs Wade stand while pandering to the appropriate voting blocks. Until Christians learn that heaven cannot be created here on earth thru the state we will continue to live with the Bushes and Obamas of this world. God warned the Israelites against a king, but the stiff necked people wouldn’t listen. It took three kings to wreck the promised land. We took a little longer, but…

  • Thomas Young

    terrygeorge is is right on.

  • Cindyannsmith

    Thank you for speaking the truth!  Contrary to what some Catholics think, you do not have to be Republican to be Catholic!!!  You do not have to be against healthcare for all people, you do not have to be a gun fanatic, and you do not have to not care about the environment!  Yes, you do have to be pro-life.  However, there are pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans, remember.  It is so refreshing to read your article.

  • Cindyannsmith

    Thank you for speaking the truth!  Contrary to what some Catholics think, you do not have to be Republican to be Catholic!!!  You do not have to be against healthcare for all people, you do not have to be a gun fanatic, and you do not have to not care about the environment!  Yes, you do have to be pro-life.  However, there are pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans, remember.  It is so refreshing to read your article.

  • clairesolt

    Jesus said nothing about politics and the church is wise to avoid it. In the Middle
    Ages, the church did not usurp the space left by the demise of the Roman empire, so that civil power could resume. The cautionary tale is that the nation states have gobbled up both the wealthand institutions the church created.  Caholic documents are always founded on the Bible. Where is the biblical justification for all this.

  • Agreed except for one thing:  Abortion platform must not be “reduce” but “Put a stop to it”.  I agree to end death penalty but in CCC there is a smidgen of prudence left for government whereas with abortion no such thing exists.  A truly center party would have Put a stop to it for both.

  • Julia

    Social conversatism is not Jesus’ deal. He told us to have unconditional Love for our neighbour and He was against injustice and discrimination. He said I do not judge. He said that because He understands each person’s specific situation. Thus, He would encourage his gay friends to get married, He would not tell what she should do to a women facing difficult challenges of pregnancy and motherhood (because He knows what she is facing! Jesus is PRO-LOVE before being pro-life: He died to show us exactly that!!!), he would want every women to be free to serve Him at the altar if they want to, like He encouraged Maria to wash his feet. (Unfortunately, the Catholic Institution is the contrary of Christ in too many ways because the men who lead it have interests in keeping its power and control over your ability to Think and Love freely) JESUS IS A SOCIAL DEMOCRAT and encourages ALL OF US to SHARE and GIVE EVERYTHING TO THE POOR. It woud work well if nobody was trying to use it for their own profit or the profit of their own friends, like Romney does.