Saturday, October 27, 2012

The public danger of a malformed conscience

Marcus Tullius Cicero
One of the Catholic principles most embattled in our increasingly secularized society is that of conscience. Conscience, like religion, the secularists insist, is a private matter that must be sacrificed when it seems to conflict with the common good. In this view, both conscience and religion are, in effect, entirely subjective matters, which have no place in public debate. It's easy to see how this view of conscience quickly gives way to relativism, "what's right for me."

Au contraire, says Matthew Hanely, in this column from The Catholic Thing. Conscience, rightly speaking, is conformed to Truth, and truth is not relativistic.

Conscience – and Cicero – under Siege

By Matthew Hanley

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has not been shy about carrying water for a distinctive brand of politicized medicine. If it is in the Orwellian “Affordable Care Act” (where promised savings of $2,500 on insurance premiums morph into $3,000 increases), the NEJM is ready to offer its “scientific” imprimatur.

It ran earnest pro-rationing and pro-euthanasia pieces not long after Obamacare’s opponents were denounced as delusional alarmists; insiders now admit they see a need for death panels.

I was making my way through another article in the NEJM last month, fully prepared for its slanted perspective, when something extraordinary happened. Well, I should say that the author ended an exceptionally disturbing and poorly argued piece, entitled “Recognizing Conscience in Abortion Provision,” with an extraordinarily instructive statement.
The author, Dr. Lisa Harris from the University of Michigan, wants us to believe that the term “conscience” should not be conceded as the sole property of abortion opponents because some people, like her, feel compelled to provide abortion as a matter of conscience....
Read more.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Subsidiarity ≠ Small Government

The Distributist Review logo

One of the key principles of Catholic Social Teaching is the principle of subsidiarity. In this article on the Distributist Review web site, Richard Gallenstein argues that Libertarian Catholics sometimes erroneously equate "subsidiarity" with "small government."

Why Libertarians Are Wrong About Subsidiarity Part I

By /
I find it rather annoying when libertarian Catholic friends of mine get so excited when I say that I know about subsidiarity. It is kind of insulting when they jump on the opportunity to tell me that their economic/political system is the one that upholds subsidiarity the best. Libertarians like to talk about subsidiarity because they think that it automatically and necessarily means small government which they have a pre-conceived ideological dedication to. An ideology that has its roots firmly planted in the enlightenment, not in Catholicism. So they take it, distort it, and thus try to jam the square peg of libertarianism into the round hole of Catholicism. They distort it because they take the definition and they interpret it with two of their previously held (and held higher I might add) ideologies, which are: Capitalism, as understood in the Austrian/Chicago schools of economics, is the best economic system (or is consistent with Catholic Social Teaching), and government is intrinsically bad and has no role in civil society. Here I will refute the first assumption by showing that when we remove the first assumption and replace it with Catholic teaching, we get a very different interpretation of subsidiarity. I will use regulation of business as a helpful example and context for this discussion.  ...
Read more.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Catholic Social Teaching Online and in the News
Even non-Catholics are talking about CST,
since Paul Ryan became a VP candidate.
Last spring, about the time I conceived this reading project, I noticed that references to Catholic Social Teaching (CST) were cropping up in lots of news stories and opinion pieces in print and around the web, with a frequency I had never noticed before. In the last six months or so, such references have become much more frequent, probably because of the growing encroachment of government on religious rights, the presidential election campaign, and the choice of a conscientious Catholic as the Republican vice presidential candidate -- Catholics are beginning to consider more urgently than ever before the way and extent to which the Catholic Faith can and should help us act as responsible citizens and even non-Catholics are talking about subsidiarity and solidarity these days. I'm willing to bet that this phenomenon does not evaporate once the currently raging political battles have been decided.

I'll be posting here, from time to time, news stories and opinion pieces that deal with the interface between CST and current events or situations. Please feel free to let me know about any you run across that may be of interest to readers of this blog.

Additions to the web site, before the readings commence

Since Blogger doesn't report to followers/subscribers on "pages" being added (only "posts"), I thought I would mention here a couple of things I've added, both of which can be accessed in the navigation bar at the top of the main page.

First, I draw your attention to the peculiarities of this site design, so that you can find everything easily (see "Using this website"). I like the fact that this blog template helps things keep from getting cluttered, but it's not always clear where expected items have been tucked. Among other things, I tell you how to find the widgets for following or subscribing to this blog.

Second, I've added a page that explains the method I'll be using as we go forward, and offers a good 4-point plan for reading and making sense of any kind of text that may lie outside a reader's comfort zone. Since I'm not an expert on Catholic social doctrine myself, I'll be relying on this method myself to some extent or other. Anyway, I hope that this method will help lessen the intimidation factor for anyone who may wish to join us on this adventure in reading.

Let me once again encourage any and all who are interested to take part in the reading and the discussion as we go along.