The Dark Void of Catholic Socialists

A close family member telephoned me from Baltimore County in this last week of January. He was rightly distressed over the politicization of Sunday Mass by a Jesuit priest at his family’s Roman Catholic parish. Apparently, by any fair understanding of his Homily, the Jesuit was more upset by the first two weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency than he ever was concerning the apostasies and heresies of the Democratic Party (to include the millions of deaths occurring since Roe v. Wade was handed down by a progressive SCOTUS in 1973). This priest’s invectives are disturbing for a number of reasons.

First, “the great weaknesses of the progressive, as distinct from the religious, mind, is that it has no awareness of truth as such; only of truth in terms of enlightened expediency.”[1] Preaching a socialist diatribe from the pulpit against Trump’s immigration policy turns this truism on its head.

Secondly, what occurs in the political arena is rarely the milieu of religious dogma. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar and unto God that which is God’s” (Cf. Matthew 22:15-22). There is so much at stake for a priest concerned with his flock’s eternal salvation to speak about than ranting over a partisan political matter. To do so appears cheap and uncaring. Moreover, one ought to care about as much of a priest’s political views as one does of Bruce Springsteen’s. In short, a priest’s Sunday Homily ought to teach men and women about the Cardinal Virtues or the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Faith, not progressive political dogma.

Lastly, from a Roman Catholic perspective, if one were to mix politics and religion where were the priests of St. Ignatius for the eight years of the Obama administration’s wanton support of abortion and homosexuality? In contrast, a nation without borders ceases to be a nation. It needs strong immigration policies. For a priest to become overwrought over the latter while silent about the former is cowardly and petty. This Jesuit ought to read more of St. Augustine and the Patron Saint of his order, Ignatius Loyola, and less of liberation theologians and others confusing Christ for a Communist.

Another Catholic writer points out the following:

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Immigration is a modern problem and so some might think that the medieval Saint Thomas Aquinas would have no opinion about the problem. And yet, he does. One has only to look in his masterpiece, the Summa Theologica (I-II, Q. 105, Art. 3). There one finds his analysis based on biblical insights that can add to the national debate. They are entirely applicable to the present.

Saint Thomas: “Man’s relations with foreigners are twofold: peaceful, and hostile: and in directing both kinds of relation the Law contained suitable precepts.”

Commentary: In making this affirmation, Saint Thomas affirms that not all immigrants are equal. Every nation has the right to decide which immigrants are beneficial, that is, “peaceful,” to the common good. As a matter of self-defense, the State can reject those criminal elements, traitors, enemies and others who it deems harmful or “hostile” to its citizens.

The second thing he affirms is that immigration is to be determined by law in the cases of both beneficial and “hostile” immigration. The State has the right and duty to apply its law.

Saint Thomas: “For the Jews were offered three opportunities of peaceful relations with foreigners. First, when foreigners passed through their land as travelers. Secondly, when they came to dwell in their land as newcomers. And in both these respects the Law made kind provision in its precepts: for it is written (Exodus 22:21): ’Thou shalt not molest a stranger [advenam]’; and again (Exodus 22:9): ’Thou shalt not molest a stranger [peregrino].’”

Commentary: Here Saint Thomas acknowledges the fact that others will want to come to visit or even stay in the land for some time. Such foreigners deserved to be treated with charity, respect and courtesy, which is due to any human of good will. In these cases, the law can and should protect foreigners from being badly treated or molested.

Saint Thomas: “Thirdly, when any foreigners wished to be admitted entirely to their fellowship and mode of worship. With regard to these a certain order was observed. For they were not at once admitted to citizenship: just as it was law with some nations that no one was deemed a citizen except after two or three generations, as the Philosopher says (Polit. iii, 1).”

Commentary: Saint Thomas recognizes that there will be those who will want to stay and become citizens of the lands they visit. However, he sets as the first condition for acceptance a desire to integrate fully into what would today be considered the culture and life of the nation.

A second condition is that the granting of citizenship would not be immediate. The integration process takes time. People need to adapt themselves to the nation. He quotes the philosopher Aristotle as saying this process was once deemed to take two or three generations. Saint Thomas himself does not give a time frame for this integration, but he does admit that it can take a long time.

Saint Thomas: “The reason for this was that if foreigners were allowed to meddle with the affairs of a nation as soon as they settled down in its midst, many dangers might occur, since the foreigners not yet having the common good firmly at heart might attempt something hurtful to the people.”

Commentary: The common sense of Saint Thomas is certainly not politically correct but it is logical. The theologian notes that living in a nation is a complex thing. It takes time to know the issues affecting the nation. Those familiar with the long history of their nation are in the best position to make the long-term decisions about its future. It is harmful and unjust to put the future of a place in the hands of those recently arrived, who, although through no fault of their own, have little idea of what is happening or has happened in the nation. Such a policy could lead to the destruction of the nation.

As an illustration of this point, Saint Thomas later notes that the Jewish people did not treat all nations equally since those nations closer to them were more quickly integrated into the population than those who were not as close. Some hostile peoples were not to be admitted at all into full fellowship due to their enmity toward the Jewish people.

Saint Thomas: “Nevertheless it was possible by dispensation for a man to be admitted to citizenship on account of some act of virtue: thus it is related (Judith 14:6) that Achior, the captain of the children of Ammon, ‘was joined to the people of Israel, with all the succession of his kindred.’”

Commentary: That is to say, the rules were not rigid. There were exceptions that were granted based on the circumstances. However, such exceptions were not arbitrary but always had in mind the common good. The example of Achior describes the citizenship bestowed upon the captain and his children for the good services rendered to the nation.[2]

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Finally, a dear Protestant friend of mine added the following prescient comments:

Because God is Lord of all things and the Bible speaks to every area of life, I have no problem with political and cultural issues of the day being addressed from the pulpit, provided that they are addressed in light of Scripture and not from the perspective of the pastor/priest’s own personal pet peeves. Remember the political sermons and fearless speech of the preachers of the American Revolution. All political leaders – Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, you name it – should be held to the same standards, and you are surely right to condemn the hypocrisy of clergy who cravenly ignore their particular party’s support for blatantly unbiblical and ungodly practices such as abortion and homosexuality. Clerical compromise, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, became increasingly common, perhaps inevitable, once the authority and inerrancy of Scripture was negotiated away in the name of (liberal) academic respectability beginning in the 19th century.

[1] “A Knight of the Woeful Countenance” in The World of George Orwell (1972) edited by Miriam Gross, p. 167

[2] Horvat II, John, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society – Where We’ve Been, How We Got There, and Where We Need to Go, American TFP.