March 1988

The Deadly Equation

I have been a reader of the NOR for 10 years. In that decade there have been some changes of emphasis. One such shift I be­came aware of at first vaguely — namely, that there was an in­creasing amount of commentary on economic matters, and more and more reference to the Cath­olic Church’s preferential option for the poor. I wasn’t pleased: economics is a bore. I wanted more articles on the petulant the­ologians who are defying the teaching authority of the Church.

Still, that “preferential op­tion” is also from the teaching authority.

A letter from a friend re­cently told me that he was not going to renew his NOR subscrip­tion. He said that no journal that played with fire (socialism) could escape being burnt (putting so­cialism ahead of God). My friend is a thoughtful, published, Catho­lic writer.

There are two things my friend doesn’t see — or didn’t till I told him. One is the deadly equation that almost everyone makes: orthodox faith equals right-wing politics. And the con­verse: left-wing politics equals heterodoxy. It’s easy to see why. The Protestant fundamentalists, who are, so to speak, orthodox-plus, wrap themselves in the American flag and damn those who would give away the Pana­ma Canal. Or consider the Cath­olic newspapers: The Wanderer is firmly orthodox but is also (I’m told) very right-wing politically, while the National Catholic Re­porter is not only vigorously left-wing in its politics but heterodox — indeed on the edge of heresy, if not over the edge.

Are these equations intrin­sically true? Is there some ineluc­table correspondence between, on the one hand, orthodoxy and loyalty to the Magisterium and, on the other hand, right-wing politics and big business? If there is, it totally escapes me. I there­fore say that there is no such cor­respondence. I see no slightest reason why a labor unionist or a non-Communist socialist should­n’t also be a faithful Catholic, or any reason why the conservative head of a corporation shouldn’t also be a secularist. But if these equations exist in the popular mind — and they do — left-wingers will tend to shun Christianity, and the Church will come to be “The Right-Wing at Worship.” That we must not allow to hap­pen.

The second thing my friend doesn’t understand is what the NOR is trying bravely, riskily, to do. The risk is demonstrated by my friend who is ending his sub­scription (unless I persuaded him to think again): the risk of losing subscribers. And what is the NOR trying to do? It is trying to show that one can be uncompro­misingly orthodox and loyal to the Magisterium while being leftish in politics and economics. This, after all, is precisely what Pope John Paul II (blessed be his name!) is.

I do not want the Catholic Church in America to be crippled by having that deadly equation thought to be true. That is why, whether or not I enjoy what the NOR is doing, I shall support the effort, and keep thinking about it. I ask other NOR readers to do the same.

Sheldon Vanauken
Lynchburg, Virginia




The Religious Right

I have enjoyed reading the NOR almost as long as it has been publishing. It has been and remains one of my favorite peri­odicals. I am, however, troubled by its “anti-religious right” as­pect.

My own conversion to Catholicism, via evangelicalism and Anglo-Catholicism, has left me with a settled conviction that only Roman Catholicism, in its richest and fullest form, has the capacity to overcome modernism and secularism. Nevertheless, the nuanced contempt which the NOR routinely expresses toward the “religious right” is unbecom­ing. While there may be an erst­while lack of sophistication, phil­osophical rootage, or affective balance on the religious right, it has done much, at least on a po­litical level, to interrupt the cor-rosive agenda of the modernists and secularists. For this we should be heartily grateful.

Reading the lives and less time-bound counsel of the saints leads one to the conclusion that there is a better way to handle the religious right. Let’s affirm and be thankful for our areas of agreement with other sincere Christians, including fundamen­talists, demonstrating by our lives the fullness and unity of the faith. Let us be lights and models that draw others into our catho­lic vision by our sacrifice and prayer and balance. And let us be thankful for any sign of faith or virtue we find in the public wit­ness of believers of whatever stripe.

Carl Horn
Charlotte, North Carolina



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