Monday, April 28, 2008

Some Conservative Talk

My job allows me to catch short segments on talk radio as I drive from point to point. Recently, I heard the morning show hosts discussing particular elements of Catholic teaching as apparently presented by one of the many so-called experts commenting on Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States. The gist of his comments were as follows: According to Catholic teaching, God made sexual relations pleasurable so that man would have a desire to reproduce, and having sexual relations strictly for pleasure is a sin. He went on to propose that God made eating pleasurable so that man would take nourishment for survival, and therefore, for Catholics, eating strictly for pleasure is also a sin. The co-host, who happens to be the host’s wife, responded by saying, “I’m sure glad we are Protestants! How can Catholics even enjoy a candy bar?”

These comments were made in a light-hearted way, but underneath, one detects the commonly held stereotypical notion that many Catholic beliefs are nonsense. The host making this observation is politically conservative. I am sure he would tell you he believes in a strict interpretation of the Constitution. He gets upset when judges legislate from the bench through liberal interpretations of the law. He disdains liberal protesters who undermine our nation and disrespect authority. He has great respect for the Founding Fathers, and for the Office of the Presidency. He is Pro-Life. He is a solid upstanding American.

It seems to me that anyone who considers himself a politically conservative Christian ought to be Catholic! One who holds the Office of the Presidency in high regard should hold the Office of the Papacy even higher. One who respects the wisdom of the Founding Fathers should also respect the wisdom of the Church Fathers. One who does not like judges interpreting law to suit their own political beliefs should not tolerate preachers interpreting the Bible to suit their own religious beliefs. One who respects the law of the land should also respect the doctrines of the Church.

When conservatives defend their Second Amendment Rights, liberals will often say the founders were thinking of muskets when they established the right to bear arms. The liberal says times have changed and interpretations of that law need to be adapted to the world in which we now live while the conservative holds fast to the historical interpretation. While the conservative remains firm against gun control, today he is unlikely to take a stand against artificial birth control. Yet prior to 1930, artificial birth control was taboo even for most Protestants. Do they realize how much their Scriptural interpretations have strayed from historical Christianity?

It’s been nearly 500 years since Luther started the Protestant revolt. Since then, split after split has taken much of Christianity far from its Catholic roots. For many Protestants today, Catholicism is no longer on their radar screen. They do not recognize the historical Church and therefore do not give it consideration. Self-interpretation of Scripture has enabled them to become worldly. This secularization is now so ingrained that relinquishing any of the acquired worldly pleasures in submission to a higher authority is unacceptable to them.

Conservatives yearning for absolute truth, respecting the clear demarcation between right and wrong, willing to place the good of the nation ahead of their personal agenda, yielding to the written law and those who protect it, would also find great spiritual comfort in the Catholic Faith. Our forefathers rejected the authority of the British to rule over us. The British rejected the authority of the Church to govern their spiritual life. The challenge to conservative ideals resulting from a self-centered rejection of the common good, may be rooted in a self-centered rejection of an authoritative Church.

I would like to challenge the political conservatives to take their conservatism one step farther. Take a serious look at the one true Church, established and given authority by Jesus Christ Himself. If you believe our nation was founded on Christian principles, and you believe in holding fast to those principles without capitulation, you should also pledge allegiance to the only Church that has continued to hold fast to those Christian principles without capitulation. To be consistently a true conservative and a true Christian requires allegiance to our Nation and fidelity to the Catholic Church.