Last week, upon receipt of an email from my chapter’s religious assistant, Sr. Alice Marie Schmid, OP, I reviewed an article at domlife.org, about a friar that had produced a film regarding the current election cycle. I have not seen that production to date. I intend to soon. [The movie is called Inside Darkness].
I checked out the website. The friar raised a notable question about what motivated him to produce the movie. The question was with regard the 2004 election cycle: “How can good and smart people have such different political beliefs?” He called it a very complicated question that he wanted to explore in a movie. He tackled that question in the entitled Inside Darkness. The commentary here is not about that movie, it is ultimately about the question he raised.
The Dominican friar and part-time producer commented that regarding people of different beliefs, we can learn to “respect, listen to, and learn from people with different beliefs, political or otherwise.” True. Respect is an exercise in charity.
Learning to explore different perspectives is certainly positive, because when we listen to differing views, at times we can convey the Gospel as St. Dominic did in charity with the innkeeper nearly 800 years ago in Toulouse.
This respect does not deny the truth of our Catholic Faith or the Gospel, it does not engage in dialog or cooperation with falsity or foolishness, but it aids us in understanding different perspectives held in good faith within the Family of God.
The question posed by the friar surprised me, as it may have betrayed some sway on his part, that there are people who hold positions in good faith that differ from his own.
Presently, the friar’s personal political perspectives are unknown, but it is important that we demonstrate respect for other people’s positions in politics. By producing a movie, it is the friar’s way of showing such respect.
There are those who do not act in good faith but rather in cynicism or ignorance, but by and large most people stand on beliefs in good faith. When it comes to religious beliefs, the Gospel demands that we preach the Gospel in the hope that men and women of good will become Catholic. When it comes to political and social positions, there are differing and opposing beliefs. There are people in the world that respect political power more than truth, but regardless, we should respect the views that differ from our own.
Too often in our society, people quickly throw epithets or caustic words, that relegate people of a differing and opposing position to a radical or irrelevant part of society. For instance, we may quickly call someone “liberal” or “conservative” as an insult, or try to place a moniker on them as a “right wing nut” or a “left wing wacko” or the like. These words and phrases when used for defamatory or inflammatory purposes are used to insult or to pre-judge other people without respect to their person or personal positions.
As persons and as Catholics, we cannot expect to agree with everyone else. At times, the truth controls the issue. For instance, the truth about abortion, homosexual marriage, or euthanasia will control the issue. With other issues, the common good demands prudence and right judgment to prevail. Differing opinions and perspective about certain issues are valid in the marketplace of ideas.
For instance, many in the social justice community advocate for more government involvement in our daily lives, expanding state and federal programs and spending beyond measure.
Often it is presumed within much of the social justice community that a government solution is the only real solution. Simply stated, it is better to have more government.
Anyone who opposes that view may be dismissed as irrelevant.
For example, there are advocates of universal health care. This position holds that the U.S. Congress should pass a federal healthcare plan that would functionally take over the health care industry in the United States. If other people raise an alarm and opposition to that view, that person is often dismissed.
By way of example, I believe the nationalization of health care would be a failure. It has been a disaster in many states and countries around the world. I believe that the marketplace will provide competition, lower prices, and better health care delivery.
For many in the peace and justice community, it is axiomatic that such people who hold peace and justice in good faith in their hearts, support universal health care.
For prudent reasons, I do not.
Let’s look at another example. Many religious groups and others believe the United Nations is the universal solvent for human failings, looking to the UN to provide an answer for every evil, poverty, and environmental degradation. In reality, the best the UN can do is to simply be an organ to help nations and peoples to dialog, to establish rule of law, to recognize the rights of all humankind including the most innocent, and assist towards peace and justice. The UN is not the answer, but it is a venue toward peace between peoples and nations.
Oftentimes, the best answer for governments is to embrace free market alternatives, secure the rights of its peoples to own and use private property, to establish the rule of law, to provide a just and free judiciary to secure the rights of citizens, to establish laws to protect against environmental degradation, and allow people to enjoy the natural rights of political and economic freedom.
This is a legitimate alternative to more ‘statism’ that seeks government solutions to every problem instead of trusting that a free people will care and be responsible for their own families, communities, environment, and nation.
The collaboration of private peoples, resources, associations, religious, civic groups, cities, communities, as well as government actions is a valid alternative that will seek common solutions for the common good. This effort to perfect society for the care of the innocent, the poor, and disenfranchised cannot be achieved with more collectivist solutions. To achieve these efforts in the name of Christ, requires the private initiative of men and women of good will. Of course government can be helpful in social goals, but it is not the fait accompli of solutions to social and community problems.
Finally, another example that is currently popular in social justice circles is the philosophy of a “new” cosmology that sees the environment and creation on par with humankind, dismisses original sin, calls for substantial population reduction, and is an archetype of a new socialism in the 21st Century.
Social justice advocates and promoters can call upon the conscience of good men and women to effectuate real change in the world about them, to avoid sin and seek holiness, to change themselves in Christ, their families, and their communities by living in Christ.
The most important thing is that we be open to the Truth, after all, isn’t it true that even as adults, we are students? And as good Catholic students of peace and justice issues, we should look especially to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church. The Compendium is a compilation and summary of the Church’s teaching on social issues. You can see it here:
I am student of the Compendium and the truth it seeks to tell. It is my hope to come to know and learn the truth fully as stated by the Church and to care for the issues that are critical to justice and peace and stewardship of creation in the modern world.
This includes, among others, the fundamental rights to life and liberty, i.e. abortion, euthanasia, enslavement, etc. When confronting injustice, we must first act to eliminate the most egregious injustices in society. Clearly the greatest injustice presently is society’s illicit tolerance of allowing one person to choose to kill another person—an unborn child—in the womb, or to permit a disabled or elderly person to be snuffed out due to inconvenience or denial. It also calls us to be good stewards of God’s creation.
In the end, you may not agree with me on issues subject to right judgment and prudential thinking, but I will always respect you and your position and engage in discussion about ideas, motives, hopes, and efforts to change the world for the better in Christ.
In Peace & Faith,