Home Us bishops Catholic teaching on the human person paves the way for American politics

Catholic teaching on the human person paves the way for American politics

0

What do we mean when we say the words “human person” in light of the person of Jesus Christ? It is Christian anthropology. (Unsplash/Dominik Leine)

The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago formulated a “coherent ethic of life” in the 1980s. This coherent ethic did not take hold or shape the ongoing debate about abortion and the relationships of this issue. with other life issues.

Bernardin’s second successor, Cardinal Blase Cupich, called for a “coherent ethic of solidarity”, drawing attention not only to how life’s problems are interrelated, but to how our Catholic response can and should be linked to each of these issues. . This call has not been embraced by Catholic voters either, at least by enough of them to form a significantly broad bloc that cannot be ignored.

Unfortunately, the views of Catholic voters in this country have become increasingly indistinguishable from the views of other non-Catholic members of the same political party, with Catholic Democrats supporting abortion rights and Catholic Republicans opposing anti-abortion policies. more liberal immigration. Moral consistency plays little or no role in these political calculations.

Catholic voters sometimes invoke their Catholic identity to justify their political loyalty. Catholic Republicans identify their opposition to abortion as the primary reason for joining the GOP, while Catholic Democrats cite their support for policies that help the poor justify their partisan affiliation.

“The momentum of our times runs counter to integral human development. Against our divinely appointed role to care for our common home. Against the sanctity of human life. Against human solidarity.

—Cardinal Michel Czerny

Tweet that

Most, however, do not allow positions on which their party differs from their church to bother them too much. Like the stains of cigarette smoke gradually graying the curtains of a smoking house, Catholic voters are now melting into the cancerous disrespect for human dignity that their own political party perpetuates.

Last weekend, Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, spoke of a different future. Delivering the Bernardin Center lecture at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, he cited both Bernardin’s and Cupich’s texts, but added a specific element that American Catholic theologians and writers tend to overlook: he linked these ethical issues in Christian anthropology.

What do we mean when we say the words “human person” in light of the person of Jesus Christ? It is Christian anthropology. In forceful terms, Czerny confronts the spirit of the age for its failure to embrace adequate anthropology. He said:

Tragically, unfairly, and contrary to life, the momentum of our times runs counter to integral human development. Against our divinely appointed role to care for our common home. Against the sanctity of human life. Against human solidarity. At their root, many of the contradictions our current era poses for integral human development are based on faulty understandings of the human person: faulty anthropology. For 130 years, Catholic social teaching has attempted to correct this erroneous anthropology.

The cardinal reviews the great social encyclicals, from Rerum Novarum in 1891 at Quadragesimo Anno in 1931, at Populorum progressio in 1967 at Solicitudo Rei Socialis in 1987, Caritas in Truth in 2009 and, finally, Fratelli Tutti in 2020.

Cardinal Michael Czerny delivers a lecture for the Bernardin Center of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago on September 17.  (Courtesy of the Catholic Theological Union)

Cardinal Michael Czerny delivers a lecture for the Bernardin Center of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago on September 17. (Courtesy of the Catholic Theological Union)

For those interested in a hermeneutics of continuity, here it is! In fact, there are elements of continuity and discontinuity in this tradition of papal encyclicals, in short, precisely the hermeneutics of reform that Pope Benedict XVI effectively endorsed in his famous address to the Curia in 2005.

One of the points of continuity was the realization that the foundation of the liberal order on a political philosophy of human rights and autonomy disregarded human nature; that is to say, it suffered from an inadequate anthropology and gave birth to a competitive society in which relativism will become normative. In one of the most important passages of his speech, Czerny said:

However, regardless of their degree of freedom, economic markets powerfully shape the choices and character of those who participate in their operation. In fact, market operations can create conditions of moral relativism. As I have already noted, Pope Francis raises the specter of the “culture of relativism” when, in Laudato Si’he sees in it “the same disorder that drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing hard labor on them or enslaving them to pay their debts”.

The ideology of the free market is itself a source of moral relativism, a constant invitation to neglect the humanity of others for the benefit of one’s own interest.

This neoliberal worldview becomes indifferent to human suffering. It “conceives of the human person as individualized and competitively driven to maximize one’s own material self-interest and to look at the world simply as a mere collection of objects to be bought and sold,” Czerny said. “Even other human beings can be objectified for their own sake or seen simply as competitors to be overcome. Seen in this form, the human being does not become a beloved creation of God, but simply another tool or resource in the market economy.

Catholic anthropology and social teaching came to embrace a strong notion of human rights, but never in the hyper-individualistic context of neoliberalism.

Czerny, to his credit, notes that the church’s charge against individualism is not crude enough to be indifferent to the value of individualism in certain circumstances. Commenting on the encyclical of Pope Paul VI Populorum progressioobserves the cardinal, “while exalting economic efficiency to the point of dominating all other values, individual autonomy was seductive as a defense against totalitarian tendencies”.

There are times and circumstances when an otherwise morally challenging attribute, such as individualism, is needed and should be valued. He just shouldn’t be allowed to run amok.

I hope that the American bishops will read the important Czerny conference before their meeting in November. Soon they will begin the process of deciding how to approach the 2024 national elections. The document they have issued for the past four cycles, “A Loyal Citizenship”, must be abandoned and a new approach must be adopted. , an approach that includes the social magisterium of Benedict XVI and Francis.

The ideology of the free market is itself a source of moral relativism, a constant invitation to neglect the humanity of others for the benefit of one’s own interest.

Tweet that

This document did not prevent the conference from moving from fruitful engagement with the political realm to sordid complicity with politics, as it did when it ignored its own stated purpose of “shaping consciences” and decided that abortion was the “primary concern” of the Catholic Church in the 2020 election. It was appallingly bad theology and appallingly bad politics.

Czerny – and 130 years of papal magisterium – point to a way forward. Bishops must begin with Christian anthropology. They should say less about individual problems and more about promoting a Christian worldview that can withstand the moral relativism of the surrounding culture.

It is not enough to refine the ethical arguments: they must go further. Their next document aimed at forming the consciences of Catholics for the important act of political participation must be laser-focused on Christian anthropology and the set of attributes that anthropology entails.

As the Cardinal said: “There are several related and even synonymous terms here: sacred, transparent, social, solidarity, consistent, understood, integral. May they help us to be more mindful, to open our minds and hearts, to broaden our horizons, to move to various relevant frontiers.”