Monday, April 10, 2006

A Catholic American or an American Catholic?

Little story before we start...

I was sitting around with a bunch of my friends one night last year, discussing the potential pool of Republican 2008 Presidential candidates. A lot of them voiced support for Rudy, which is well-deserved, even today, given that he was mayor of New York City, a city that is sapphire in its blueness, and did one hell of a job. But I wasn't about to get on the Rudy bandwagon.

"He's pro-choice," I said.

"But he's good on terrorism and national security. He's a shoo-in," one of my best friends added.

"Yeah, but he's pro-choice."

"So? That's minor."

"He won't get out of the primary, for starters," I said. "And I can't vote for a pro-choicer. I'll vote for a pro-life Democrat before I vote for a pro-choice Republican."

Most of the people in the room looked at me like I was crazy. Winning is, in the political life, first and foremost in the mind. With winning you get to set the agenda. But I wasn't about to let the agenda be set by someone who doesn't agree with me on key moral issues. He might win, but it wasn't with my vote.

All of this came to the surface lately after I finished reading Father Neuhaus' new book Catholic Matters (I posted a review of it in another post). He asks an intriguing question: Are we, as Americans, Catholic Americans or American Catholics? Which comes first in our allegiance?

As I thought about this, I realized that I consider myself a Catholic American. My faith is probably, if I had to say, more important that my citizenship. Don't get me wrong. I am proud to be an American, glad for the freedoms and privileges I enjoy and can say, without reservation, that I consider the U.S. the best country in the world (sorry to my foreign readers :) ). But my country isn't going with me when I die. I don't have to stand in judgement before George Washington, and Abe Lincoln didn't die to save my soul. I love America, but she can make mistakes--she's run by faliable humans. But with Catholicism, that doesn't happen. "The gates of Hell will not prevail against it." I can put more stock in those beliefs than in others. And when it comes to what my party believes and what my Church teaches, I'm going to side with the Church. Of course one does not have to accept everything that comes out of a bishop's mouth, so I put my faith in Rome, the Magesterium and the catechism. Thank God we have B XVI in charge.

This is a difficult thing to think about. It isn't often that one has to make this distinction, but when you have to, I'd make it a Catholic American over an American Catholic. God has to come first, right? Isn't that what He tells us?

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts about this...but this is what I've got for now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You know, my sister, dad, and I had that conversation just the other day so I really empathize. My sister is a Republican type in terms of fiscal policy and national defense with Libertarian leanings on moral issues so someone like Rudy is right up her alley. Personally, I find myself taking the same line as you lately. I'd go pro-life Democrat before I'd go pro-choice Republican. In fact over here in Dayton (Ohio), when I was growing up we had a decent pro-life Democratic congressman named Tony Hall. Very strong on humanitarian causes like feeding the poor, etc.

Great blog post. I've added you to my RSS reader. Hope to read some more in the future.


PS I used to live and work in Columbus myself during my undergrad years at Ohio State. So much more interesting than my hometown here in Dayton.