What Makes Those “Conservative Catholics” Tick?

Every so often, a “seamless garment” Catholic demand to know why conservative Catholics do not adopt a position of de facto pacifism, oppose capital punishment just as much as abortion, and clap like a seal at the idea of a supranational world political authority as described in the recent Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace note and in Caritas in Veritate. I hope that this helpful outline will clear a bit of this up and explain why we conservative Catholics tend to act the way that we do.

Generally speaking, conservative Catholics have strong feelings about adherence to basic moral issues and doctrines as they have been constantly presented over a long period of time — with the one key distinction (being American, after all) that they’ll tend to be more sympathetic towards democracy and religious freedom than the official Church position 60+ years ago was.

As such, “right-wing” Catholics get upset about:

- condoning various sins relating to the modern culture of sexual license (contraception, abortion, adultery, fornication, divorce, homosexuality, pornography, etc.)

- denial (or creative questioning of) basic Catholic doctrines and scriptural interpretations including: what seems like denial of the real presence in the Eucharist; denial of the efficacy of the sacraments; questioning the historicity of the resurrection; questioning the existence of heaven, hell and purgatory; questioning the necessity, efficacy and supernatural nature of the seven sacraments; making odd claims about the trinity (saying the Holy Spirit is a woman, talking about God the Mother, etc.); questioning the all male priesthood; etc.

- liturgical innovation in senses that seem to break with the past or reduce the sacredness of the liturgy

They tend to go along less with issues that they see as being innovations or at odds with tradition Church teaching and practice. Thus:

- they have a hard time seeing capital punishment as suddenly being a huge problem now because the Church clearly allowed its use it the past. They may be willing to see it as counter productive or badly administered, but getting them stirred up against it as being as bad as or than than abortion, murder, etc. simply is not going to happen. In their minds, something can’t be okay yesterday but the ultimate evil today, no matter how effective the prison system.

- they don’t see the Church as endorsing absolute or de facto pacifism as the Church did not appear to do so in the past

- they don’t see the Church as absolutely endorsing some novel economic system significantly different from what has organically existed in the past. (Added note: Claiming that capitalism is some drastically new innovation and that for most of the past 2000 years something suspiciously like modern democratic socialism was the norm will generally not float well with them either. If anything, they’re likely to see the extreme regulation of trade by local princes and by powerful guilts as corruptions of the past, not as the best elements of the pre-modern economy. They may or may not be right on this, but generally speaking they’re no less educated about the past than their opponents, and often rather more familiar with it.)

- they don’t see how the Church could officially endorse something like the UN or a “supranational authority” when it a) isn’t Catholic and b) is very much a new thing. (By contrast, they don’t have a problem with the Holy League or the Crusades, even though these were clearly supranational organzations/movements endorsed by the Church — however somehow people excited about “supranational authorities” never call for another one of these.)

I hope this will be of help to all those who profess themselves confused.

46 Responses to What Makes Those “Conservative Catholics” Tick?

  • Brilliant Darwin! The above fits me like a glove!

  • Bravo. I hope it will help those who profess themselves confused as well.

  • This was very good, Darwin, but being liberal, the seamless garment types are still not going to understand. One of my co-workers is of this variety. Intelligent conversation with him along these lines is impossible. It’s as though these people come from an entirely different planet.

  • They detract else they are unable to execute the conscience gymnastics necessary to justify supporing evil.

  • Excellent post Darwin!

    I also cracked a smile when I read this, “clap like a seal”.

    I like to laugh!

  • “the Holy League or the Crusades, even though these were clearly supranational organizations/movements”.

    You fudge. What were they: organizations or movements?

    Obviously not organizations? We have our own supranational organization; we don’t need another.

  • A good conservative Catholic defense of slavery, absolute monarchy, and a married priesthood.

  • “A good conservative Catholic defense of slavery, absolute monarchy, and a married priesthood.”

    Strawman much, RR? Care to address what Darwin really said, rather than indulge in false associations?

  • Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2265 Emphasis mine.

    Those in authority have a grave duty to protect the lives of others. The death penalty and Just are about leaders fulfilling their duty to protect those in their care. Hopefully, unnecessary alternatives, but if those in authorty have the right to use them and it is neccessary they are acting in accordance with the church’s teaching. A person who is in authority is always harming and never protecting those in his care when we permits or especially helps those committing abortion or euthanasia .

    Supporting a “position of de facto pacifism, oppose[ing] capital punishment just as much as abortion,” rips the so called seamless garment to shreds.

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

  • Like Gibbon, I don’t concern myself with opinions (Plato: Opinion is not truth.) that have no merit.

    Secular progressives passing off themselves as catholics employ de fact pacifism, opposition to the DP, and etc. and etc. to justify cooperating in 50,000,000 abortions and class hatred.

    I’m fairly convinced you won’t get into Heaven if you support abortion and hatred (of anyone).

    Here’s an example of a supra-national authority no one will want to copy: the Inquisition.

  • I suppose that my opposition to some of the political positions of the Church, primarily the “social justice” teachings stems from the fact that they might sound admirable, but they just don’t work! The Holy Father would like to see us more widely share the fruits of production, but experience teaches us that when someone doesn’t have to work and will be supported by the labor of others, far too frequently such a person chooses not to work.

    I am opposed to capital punishment, though, like so many people, it gets difficult to have much sympathy for the murderers who have earned it. And it should be pointed out that the Church is not morally opposed to capital punishment as an absolute; §2267 of the Catechism says:

    Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

    If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

    Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

    My opposition to capital punishment is based just as much on practical concerns: it demonstrates no particular deterrent effect on other crime, it is much more expensive than life imprisonment due to all of the added legal costs, and it is much easier to structure arguments against abortion when one doesn’t take the exception to allow capital punishment.

  • I actually find the Inquisition to be unfairly characterized by modernists. As a Catholic, I find nothing to apologize for. The Crusades either.

  • In school I had to read read H. C. Lea’s, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages. I kept it and read it again a few years ago. It was written before your new and improved scholars began “grinding axes” (the West, in general, and the Church, specifically, are the sources of all evil . . . ) instead of searching for Truth.

    I raised the Inquisition (I think) because progressive secularists (They choose the worldly over the Eternal) masquerading as catholics advance supranational organizations but they abhor other-worldly Catholic practices.

    The Inquisition’s raison d’etre was the salvation of souls (“If your hand offends cut it off. Better to enter Heaven without that hand.”). It’s methods: breaking bodies (based on Roman jurisprudence and medieval practice) run contrary to secular progressives’ modernist sensibilities.

    If I were utterly uncharitable, I would prefer that rascals don’t get into Heaven.

  • A good conservative Catholic defense of slavery, absolute monarchy, and a married priesthood.

    Huh? You’re usually more thoughtful and less jingoistic than this, RR.

    Though for the record:

    - Slavery was clearly frowned on by the Church throughout most of Christian history. It phased our fairly quickly after the Church came to power in the Roman Empire was was only allowed back in the late Renaissance, mostly in a misguided attempt to even the odds against the various Muslim powers in the Mediterranean, all of whom used slaves heavily to power their warships. Needless to say, that deal with the devil is a black mark on Church history, but if it was if anything more a brief innovation than a long term policy.

    - Absolute monarchy was another late Renaissance idea, and one which was mostly held by those seeking to minimize the Church’s influence in their kingdoms. It flourished for less then two hundred years, starting during the last quarter of Christendom’s history.

    - Secular priests were allowed to marry (off and on) through much of the first half of Church history in the West. If we were living in 1100 it would be “conservative” to support continuing to do so. However, there’s also been a strong history of celibate higher priests and monastic priests. Insisting on celibacy for all priests was basically just a matter of dropping the “second tier” of the priesthood.

  • Christian civilizations are the only civilizations ever to do away with slavery. Where Christian influence wanes I have no doubt slavery will stage a comeback, under a politically correct new name of course.

    Only someone who is completely ignorant of history could associate Catholicism and absolute monarchy. The Church has ever been the foe of an all powerful state. Our modern conception of a limited state owes much to the struggle of the Church against the overweening power of the State. Sadly we see this struggle resuming in our own land today thanks to policies of the Obama administration.

    Priestly celibacy was upheld as the ideal in the West from the time of Saint Augustine. The great reforming popes of the eleventh century waged an ultimately successful struggle against concubinage among the clergy.

  • At the same time, let me be clear, this piece wasn’t particularly designed to argue for any of these positions. My aim was simply to explain why conservative Catholics (among which, clearly, I number myself) respond to various issues the way they do.

  • Don once posted a pre-Civil War conservative defense of slavery.

    If you’re right about what makes conservative Catholics tick, then I reject conservative Catholicism, and more broadly conservatism. It’s a thought process that naturally lends itself to defending the indefensible for too long.

    But I support capital punishment and military interventions and while I also support international institutions, it’s limited support. Leaving international institutions to the side, my positions make me conservative but I don’t share your thought process at all. I adhere to an orthodox thought process which isn’t exactly the same thing. While mindful of the unintended consequences of radical change, they don’t weigh as heavily as it does in your brand of conservatism.

  • What I posted RR was a perversion of religion used to defend the indefensible, rather as in our time religion has sometimes been used to make a pro-abortion argument. What is notable in the history of the Church is the fact that slavery dissolves under its influence over time:

    1. Slavery in antiquity.

    2. Serfdom in the Middle Ages.

    3. Negro and Indian slavery.

    It is no accident, as the Marxists used to say, that Fascism and Communism, both of which attempted to revive slavery in a new guise, looked upon the Church as a deadly threat.

    As for conservatism defending the indefensible too long, you have to define what you mean by conservative. I get my conservatism from Edmund Burke, the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln, all of whom fought against evils of their time. Too often people who are not conservatives assume that conservatives are simply reactionaries, and that is very far from the truth in regard to most American conservatives.

  • In the Burkean sense, I may not be conservative. Or maybe it’s just a difference of degree or emphasis. In modern parlance, my positions on most issues are, more or less, “conservative.” I get it from orthodox Catholic teaching and Milton Friedman. There’s an abstract imperfect philosophical connection between Burke and Friedman and I that may qualify all of us as conservatives. I believe in unintended consequences. IOW, the fallibility of man. But this isn’t giving a vote to ancestors or rejecting innovation.

  • Burke’s entire career has to be looked at as a whole RR. One of the things that has always struck me about Burke is his consistency, whether defending the rights of Irish and English Catholics, of the American colonists, of the Indians under British rule or attacking the tyranny of the French revolutionaries. He was always against arbitrary power and held that government could not simply uproot societies. One of the best accolades of Burke is that he aroused such fury from Karl Marx, in many ways the reverse of Burke:

    “The sycophant — who in the pay of the English oligarchy played the romantic laudator temporis acti against the French Revolution just as, in the pay of the North American colonies at the beginning of the American troubles, he had played the liberal against the English oligarchy — was an out-and-out vulgar bourgeois.”

    Marx could not refute Burke’s arguments so he simply lied about him, using the greatest swear word, “bourgeois”, at his command!

    The best summary I can think of regarding Burke and how he looked at government and society is this one from Reflections on the Revolution in France: “A man full of warm, speculative benevolence may wish his society otherwise constituted than he finds it, but a good patriot and a true politician always considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of his country. A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. Everything else is vulgar in the conception, perilous in the execution.”

  • “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.” Catechism of the Catholic Church 2265

    Are conservative Catholics claiming self-defense as the need to maintain capital punishment in the United States? Our society can certainly impose life sentences in lieu of the death penalty in order to achieve “defense of the common good.”

    Take Texas as an example, but I think this would apply to every state in the union. The state prison population is now roughly 171,000 and roughly half of them are in for violent crimes. Of the prisoners in Texas convicted of violent crimes, 308 prisoners are on death row. So why not simply hold the death row inmates for life and render them “unable to cause harm” that way? If we can, the Catechism says we should:

    “If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. ” Catechism of the Catholic Church 2267

  • In my county Spambot in 1978 there was a prison riot in which three guards were murdered. Prisoners murder guards and other inmates regularly. Additionally there have been cases where incarcerated prisoners have ordered hits against individuals on the outside. The idea that incarceration can render individuals incapable of causing harm to others is simply not true.

  • Donald, you are right that prisoners continue to commit crimes in prison, but I fail to see how imposition of the death penalty necessarily makes prisoners and guards safer. Don’t you first need to establish that the inmates who tend to commit murder in prison are the one who should have been executed rather than be incarcerated?

  • No I do not Spambot. The argument is made that the death penalty is not needed because modern prisons can keep inmates from harming others. That is manifestly not the case. The burden is on those seeking to use this as an argument against the death penalty to establish that it is the case. Of course without the death penalty we have the grotesque situation arising every now and then of someone murdering a guard in prison being sentenced to prison for life, and being surrounded by guards who are his potential victims of choice. Would you concede that guards in a prison would be safer if a guard killer were to be executed?

  • Would you concede that guards in a prison would be safer if a guard killer were to be executed?

    The guards who are already dead won’t be any safer, but aside from them, definitely maybe. What measures were in place to protect the guards before they were murdered by inmates? If obvious preventative measures were lacking, then Catechism instructs us to improve preventative measures before resorting to the death penalty. Would you concede that to be true?

  • Spambuddy:

    Genesis: “Who spills man’s blood, by man shall his blood be spilled. For man is made in God’s image.”

    No Catholic questioned the DP. The modernist subversion after Vat II changed much of traditional teaching and practice.

    If you want (I doubt that) to understand the traditional Catholic teaching, I suggest you find and read the Catechism “capital punishment” entry prior to its complete re-write by worldlies, carnals and secular humanist heretics.

    The DP is punishment. It is not about defense or protection, or keeping the murderer from again killing.

    Arming and training good people, and allowing them to organize and coordinate are more effective protections against the filthy animals. The DP Is about deterrence. It’s about punishment, penance, expiation.

    But, but [sputter] “There is no such thing as a bad man!” BARF

  • “What measures were in place to protect the guards before they were murdered by inmates? If obvious preventative measures were lacking, then Catechism instructs us to improve preventative measures before resorting to the death penalty. Would you concede that to be true?”

    I would concede that Spambot if I thought that it were possible for any prison or jail to make prisoners harmless both to guards and their fellow inmates. I do not believe that is the case.

    The Catechism asserts the following as a fact:

    “Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”68″

    My point is that is an error of fact. The State, short of the death penalty, cannot render someone who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm. Whoever drafted this portion of the catechism, I suspect that they never worked in a prison as a guard.

  • I would concede that Spambot if I thought that it were possible for any prison or jail to make prisoners harmless both to guards and their fellow inmates. I do not believe that is the case.

    I think it may be possible to make the risk negligible– there’s just no chance that we’ll institute it. Taking a page from Japan’s current prison system and making all cells part of isolation, small as reasonable, etc. Maybe even standard psych ward style rooms?

    *shrug* Like I said, it won’t be instituted, no matter if it would make prison safer for all involved, as well as more effective at the purpose of protecting the public.

  • Taking a page from Japan’s current prison system and making all cells part of isolation, small as reasonable, etc. Maybe even standard psych ward style rooms?

    I would wager making solitary confinement the norm (while desirable) would trigger lawsuits and judicial freebooting. McKenna, esq. has been maintaining for some time that agitators against the death penalty aspire to replace not merely capital sentances but punishment itself. Would not surprise me to discover was true of some of these characters.

  • Okay, there is more to say, but I’ll leave it at that for now and pick up next time around. Also, please be sure to bring immigration policy into the mix next time a list like this is put together.

  • I left immigration policy out in part because I don’t think it aligns as cleanly. With the possible exception of the death penalty, being a conservative Catholic and being politically conservative don’t necessarily line up. Further, in my experience, my political conservatives who are Catholic are softer on immigration issues than other conservatives (others aren’t) and then there are crazly libertarianish conservatives like me who support virtually open borders but oppose the minimum wage.

  • Spamlib: Do you want to feed and clothe the entire Western hemisphere? Have at it. I want to peacefully feed and clothe my family in my intact community. Don’t execrate those of us whose families are being screwed by the invasion.

    Illegal immigration: what part of illegal don’t you understand?

    No wait! The rich ain’t paying enough taxes to feed and clothe the entire Western Hemisphere.

    The facts are this is bankrupting and destroying communities, hospitals, school systems, etc.

    Liberal catholics only obey laws and Commandments with which their well-gyrated, liberal, steal from the rich consciences agree!

    Honor thy father and thy mother. For adults it usually means obeying laws. And, it is not conditional or qualified.

    Thou shalt not steal. Again, not conditional or qualified.

    Thou shalt not bear false witness.

    [...]

  • T. Shaw that is enough of that. Spambot asked reasonable questions and he deserves to be treated with respect.

  • Art Deco-
    All one has to do is look at the maximum “punishment” awaiting that murderous SOB that shot up the child’s camp to sense the truth of the notion that the death penalty is just the first target.

  • There’s no really no need for Catholics to torture reason and claim that capital punishment in the US is necessary to keep society safe. Capital punishment is permissible even if there would be zero benefits outside mere retributive justice.

    Having said that I think Catholics like Justice Scalia go too far in criticizing our bishops who stop just short of an Ordinary Magisterium ban.

  • RR:
    How do you square that with the Catechism? Or do you disavow the Catechism? I am not trying to be provocative here — just genuinely curious.

  • And I pretty much agree with Don’s observation re the Catechism’s error in fact. I found the quoted language very odd, in that it seems so plainly to enunciate a prudential conclusion that is out of place in a Catechism. And I say this as one who *generally* disfavors the death penalty and would abolish it except in cases of murders committed in or from (yes, murders are often ordered from) prison.

  • Mike, application to a specific place and time is a prudential judgment but the principle that capital punishment should not be used if not necessary to keep society safe is not. I would reject that principle but for the fact that it’s in the Catechism and taught practically universally (which may even make it infallible). IMO, it requires obsequium religiosum, at the very least. So I would not support public policy that conflicts with it and I would not publicly oppose it (something I have done in error in the past).

    Of course you can still support capital punishment as applied in the US but I think you really have to torture logic to justify it.

  • “Some would say, well Father, what about those people who support the war in Iraq, or the death penalty, or oppose undocumented aliens? Aren’t those just as important, and aren’t Catholic politicians who support those “bad Catholics” too?

    “Simple answer: ‘no.’ Not one of those issues, or any other similar issues, except for the attack on traditional marriage is a matter of absolute intrinsic evil in itself.”
    Father John DeCelles, 9/1/1008

    A noted theologian penned the following, “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.” The noted theologian that wrote the above is now Pope Benedict XVI

    Mac,

    I won’t respond to spambot’s detractions, no never no more.

  • I won’t respond to spambot’s detractions, no never no more

    I had to look the definition and found this:
    “Detraction in a general sense is a mortal sin, as being a violation of the virtue not only of charity but also of justice. ”
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04757a.htm

    I had no idea.

  • That fabled garment may be “seamless” yet it has more than enough holes to suit a hydra-headed millipede.

  • If I must bear an adjective I suppose that adjective would be conservative, and yet some of the conservative Catholic sites seem to be more Ron Paul than Pope John Paul.

  • Regarding the debate on Capital Punishment ( aka the death penalty), I need someone to explain to me the reasoning for eliminating it. I have heard that due to modern advancements we can “safely” imprison people for life. I don’t understand these modern improvements. Did we just now invent stone walls and steel bars? As it was hinted at by Art Deco; those who would abolish the DP today would cry foul at lifetime terms tomorrow as too inhumane and definitely not Catholic.
    There are some instances where society must admit this or that person is too evil to remain upon earth and turn them over to the eternal Judge.

Follow TAC by Clicking on the Buttons Below
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe by eMail

Enter your email:

Recent Comments
Archives
Our Visitors. . .
Our Subscribers. . .