Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Liberals and Conservatives

The editors of U.S. Catholic interview Father Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I. in the latest issue of the magazine, noting, They say it’s lonely at the top, but it’s also lonely in the middle. That’s where Oblate Father Ronald Rolheiser often finds himself, trying to negotiate a peace between liberals and conservatives in the church.
What’s positive about liberal secular culture?
Liberalism is about freedoms, many of which we take for granted. The opposite of secularity is not the church; the opposite of secularity is the Taliban. I don’t think you want to live in Iran, which is a theocracy. Holland, on the other hand, is the most secularized culture in the world, far more secular than the United States. It has very low church attendance, and everything is legal: abortion, euthanasia, prostitution, drugs. You could look at that and say it’s a cesspool of moral relativity.

Those aren’t good things. But Holland takes care of its poor better than any culture in the world, and the status of women is the highest of any place in the world. Those are major moral achievements. And they didn’t come out of conservatism. Those are liberal achievements, which also come out of the gospel. So it’s a complicated thing for some to say the church is a culture of life and secularity is a culture of death. That’s far too simple.

Not only that, people don’t buy it. Young people are not looking at the church and saying, “Ah, that’s life!” and at Hollywood and the Super Bowl and saying, “That’s a culture of death.” That’s not the way they see it at all. They see something in the Jerry Seinfelds, the David Lettermans, the Olympics: There’s life in there, and there’s also something about God in there.

What’s good about conservatism?
They get a very important part of the gospel: intimacy with Jesus. People may say they don’t care about justice. Maybe they don’t, but they get the intimacy part.

Sometimes people in liberal circles don’t get that intimacy with Jesus part. We’re doing the social justice, but we’re not really sure why we’re doing it, like sometimes we don’t know the difference between Christian social doctrine and Greenpeace. The better ones get it—Dorothy Day, Jim Wallis, Daniel Berrigan.

But we all pick and choose; we’re all “cafeteria Catholics.” I was once asked to write a definition of a practicing Catholic. I began by saying that only Jesus does God real well, and the rest of us drop off, either to the left or to the right. Conservatives have major blind spots and liberals have major blind spots.

The rest of the article is here.

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