April 25, 2012

Rosa DeLauro, CNS, and the Disoriented Catholic Left

by George Weigel

One does wonder, sometimes, just what goes on at Catholic News Service (CNS), an agency that wouldn’t exist were it not for the U.S. bishops and the bishops’ conference. This past April 16, CNS distributed a lengthy interview with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., giving her a platform to blast the 2013 federal budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and to badger Cardinal Timothy Dolan to pay as much attention to “the poor, the hungry, the middle class, the people who are going to be evisceratedby the Ryan budget” as Dolan and the bishops he leads are paying to the defense of religious freedom.

The Congresswoman’s appeal was specifically Catholic—“my Church, the Catholic Church, needs to speak out loud on this issue”—which involved an irony left wholly unexamined by CNS. For Rosa DeLauro’s voting record is in some tension, to put it gently, with Catholic understandings of justice.

The Catholic Church teaches the inalienable right to life of the unborn and insists that that obvious moral truth be acknowledged in law; Rep. DeLauro is a consistent pro-abortion vote in the House. The Catholic Church worked with District of Columbia education authorities to provide “opportunity scholarships” to Catholic inner-city schools for poor children; Rep. DeLauro supportedthe Obama administration’s cruel refusal to fund that program. The bishops have declared that religious freedom is under serious assault in theUnited  Statestoday; the gentlewoman fromConnecticuthas been notably AWOL in defending the first of American liberties.

How, then does Congresswoman DeLauro imagine herself as someone who speaks for “my Church, the Catholic Church?”  My hunch is that she imagines herself a spokesperson for authentic Catholicism because she, like many other Catholics on the port side of both American politics and the Church, have long thought that they alone hold the high ground at the intersection of Catholic social teaching and public policy.

Memo to Congresswoman DeLauro and friends: Those days are over.

They’re over because four decades of intellectual and political work, coupled with extensive care for women in crisis pregnancies, have made the pro-life cause the cultural marker of serious Catholicism in America.

They’re over because much of the Catholic left has obstinately refused to promote religious freedom in full and the inalienable right to life as priority social justice issues.

And they’re over because contemporary history has vindicated Catholicism’s anti-statist social justice principle, subsidiarity.

The impending fiscal meltdown of European welfare states vindicates subsidiarity by making clear that providing necessary aid to those in genuine need means, among other measures, developing the associational and charitable instincts of civil society. The alternative is state bankruptcy and social chaos.

Then there is Obamacare, which flatly contradicts subsidiarity and its principled rejection of vast concentrations of state power—the dangers of which are amply demonstrated by the coercive HHS “contraceptive mandate.” The universal health care the Church rightly seeks must be accomplished by means other than handing over one-sixth of the economy (and critical medical decisions) to unregulated regulators.

These home truths are bad news for Rosa DeLauro and those of her persuasion. Now, to make matters worse, here is Paul Ryan, a congressman of uncommon intelligence who can ably argue the public policy implications of Catholic social doctrine and who understands that what the Church asks of a just society is the empowerment of the poor: breaking the cycle of welfare dependency and unleashing the creativity the Church believes God builds into every human soul.

Paul Ryan is the Catholic left’s worst nightmare and his demonization from that quarter has just begun. Ryan is a big boy, though, and he’ll fight his corner well. That argument might even lead to some consensus about empowerment-based anti-poverty strategies and fiscally responsible social welfare policies among serious Catholics of both political parties.

Rather than being a megaphone for dissenting Catholics posing as authentic representatives of the Church and hyperventilating about people being “eviscerated” by a budget, might CNS help provide a level playing field for the debate?

Tagged as: CNS, Liberal Catholics, The Left

The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

Print this   |   Share this

George Weigel

By George Weigel

George Weigel is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and the author, most recently, of The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
This entry was posted in LIBERALISM. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Curt Stoller says:

    Far-left liberals regard the religious dimension of Roman Catholicism as a kind of peanut shell, a nuisance to be disregarded as soon as the ‘social justice’ aspect of Christianity is revealed. This is something that unites these extreme liberals with the Latin American Liberation theologians.

    But the Holy Father tells us of an interesting experience he had in this regard. I will quote it in full:

    “Recently, I entertained two South American bishops, with whom I discussed both their social projects and their pastoral experiences and efforts. They told me of the intensive proselytizing with which the hundred or so Christian denominations of the reformed churches have encroached upon the traditional Catholicism of the land and are changing its religious face. In the course of the conversation, they spoke of a remarkable event that they considered symptomatic and that had forced them to examine their conscience as to the course taken by the Catholic Church of South America since the end of Vatican Council II. They related that representatives of several villages had come to the Catholic bishop to tell him that they had now joined a Protestant community. They took the opportunity to thank the bishop for all the social undertakings by which he had accomplished many fine things for them through the years and which they greatly appreciated. ‘But we need religion too,’ they said ‘and that is why we have become Protestants.’ Through such encounters, my two guests averred, they had become aware again of the deep religious sentiment which exists in the Indians, in all the people of their countries, and which they had more or less ignored when they decided that these countries should first be developed and then evangelized. But men really do not live by bread alone and cannot wait to have their other need fulfilled until bread in no longer a problem.” [Pope Benedict XVI, Principles of Catholic Theology, p. 133]

    As far-left liberals seek to turn American Catholicism into a type of North American Liberation Theology, one can only wonder if this is what is behind the empty pews and seminaries. Is this the reason for the phenomenal growth in Protestant Mega churches? Will North American Catholic bishops be visiting the Holy Father and telling the same story as the South American bishops some day?

    In the same work, the Holy Father tells of experiments with chimpanzees who demonstrated the ability to reason and produce tools. The Holy Father quotes one of the scientific researchers: “The quality of man that is lacking in animals is, to be precise, not intellect [invention], but tradition–tradition as the possibility to passing on to others the product of intellect and thus augmenting and enriching it as it is preserved from generation to generation.”

    How can we say we love the truth, if we only love the truths we discover on our own? Love of truth cannot be limited to the present or it isn’t true love. If we really love truth, we love it wherever we find it. And we find it in the past as well as in the present or future. In fact, because of memory and tradition, we find the greatest deposit of truth in the past simply because the truths from the past have been preserved cumulatively. The entire work by the Holy Father is a penetrating analysis of the ideas of tradition and progress. In it he rejects false dichotomies such as those between extreme traditionalists who leave the Church and extreme liberals who ” attempt to produce a new and purer Christianity in the test tube of the mere intellect.” [101].

    “Although Jesus fought determinedly against the dogmatization of a casuistic tradition, he stood firmly rooted in the foundation of Old Testament faith, that is, in the foundation of the law and the prophets . . . Jesus did not present His message as something totally new.” [97].

  2. anselmusjmj says:

    Abyssum, It is hard not to read Wiegel’s article without thinking of the words of Pope Leo XIII, before and after composing the Saint Michael prayer for us: “The smoke of Satan will enter the Church.” Which then leads to the words of Pope Paul VI about 70 years later: “The smoke of Satan has entered the Church.” It also reminds me of the dream and vision of Saint Don Bosco, the dream/ vision of the Two columns, Mary and The Eucharist Specifically, I am reminded of the “books and pamphlets” which the enemy launched onto the decks of the Holy Ship (The Catholic Church). Bad “Catholic News” services, unorthodox teaching… these are the books and pamphlets from Saint Don Bosco’s prophecy.

  3. ilovethomisticstraw says:

    I agree that we we are facing a kind of liberation theology, present in the thought of people like Rose de Lauro and supported by the CNS. Liberation theology in a nutshell is a secularized version of the Gospel command “to serve the poor,” where service becomes divorced from charity — the transcendent, inner life of God — and therefore takes a worldly nature. What people do not often perceive is the deep rooted negativity, particularly towards the church, at the core of these “liberated theologians.” Nietzsche critiques the secularizers of Christianity in Essay #1 of his Genealogy of Morals. The secularizer is the “liberated or free spirit,” and he is akin to the man who espouses the Americanized version of liberation theology, that is, to the liberal Catholic democrat like Rose de Lauro. According to Nietzsche, the “free spirit” celebrates the “morality of the common man”, but objects to the church – the historical origin of that morality — because of its coarse and indelicate tastes; the free spirit gains his sense of self-worth both from looking down on the peasant-like Christian “mob” — the church — and from looking up to those with a highly cultured “modern taste.” The free spirit is a negative, reactive, and unaware person who gains his sense of self from others. The free spirit champions Judaeo-Christian values but rejects both Judaism and Christianity, so he has a reactive and negative self; he is a “consequence,” who is locked into profound self-ignorance, and whose negativity grows in proportion to and out of his self-ignorance.

  4. Curt Stoller says:

    George Weigel is perhaps the most savvy spokesperson for orthodox Roman Catholicism as it exists in the United States today. No one seems better at making the connections between all the various movements which are trying to tear apart Roman Catholic orthodoxy than Mr. Weigel. He sort of towers above other commentators in this regard.

    Although no one wants to talk about it, I think we are witnessing the conquest of the Democratic Party in America by Liberation theology, Protestant and Catholic. Leftist individuals who were once content to root for Lenin and Mao and Castro from the comfort of their American homes and then jumped on the bandwagon of Marxist experiments in utopianism where Europeans and Americans used Latin American poor people as their Guinea pigs are now setting their sites on the good old USA. And not just their sights. I think it may be time to admit that Liberation theology has now come to the American homeland through its hijacking of the Democratic Party.

    There were always some Marxist elements in the Democratic Party. But after the 1960’s it seems as though a whole new generation of Neo-Marxists creeped into Democratic Party ranks. Current democratic dogmas like: capitalism is evil, all reality is political, all action must be practical in a naturalistic and political sense, empirical science is the only authority: all this is from the Marxist playbook. Class-conflict is definitely Marxist.

    Also during the 1960’s an entire generation of Christians came under the spell of Rudolph Bultmann and came to believe that scientific exegesis on the Bible destroyed all connections to traditional Scriptural interpretation. This huge negative gave birth to a huge positive: the Bible is now what anyone wants to make it. Hermaneutics is a free for all and Neo-Marxists were not long in proclaiming a new political Jesus whose entire message now centered on the relation between rich and poor. One thing you can say for Marxists is that they are organized. The poor are the oppressed and incapable of “sin.” “Sin” is the ontological being of the rich, their very essence. History is written by the rich and powerful and is therefore a lie by definition. Inequality is engendered and fostered by the rich who are ontologically incapable of doing anything but keeping down the poor. Christianity in general and Roman Catholicism in particular are the religions of the oppressive rich and are therefore also ontologically sinful.

    Now this takes on an American “flavor” . . . The Democrats are the true heirs of Christianity. They are the new Christians, the true Christians. They are the Christians beyond dogmas. They are the Christians of “tolerance.” As such they are the vanguard of real progress which can only be material progress. They are the saints and when criticized by conservatives, they are the martyrs. One can be a Catholic and a Democrat provided that one’s ultimate fidelity is to the Democratic Party which will eventually democratize Catholicism. There is no supernatural hope. Hope is unwavering confidence in the predestined Democratic Party of progress. Love is love for whatever particular democrat cause is currently in vogue. Killing babies is okay. Killing harp seals is a no-no. Redistributive economics which had been put into effect in fits and starts is now a single minded project taken on in earnest. All that matter is liberal political action.

    Everything “conservative” is heretical by definition. The Roman Catholic Church is the enemy which oppresses women, oppresses the poor, preserves the evils of hierarchy and authoritarianism. It’s protests about religious liberty to democrats are the whining and whimpering of the class of oppressors who are now getting their comeupence.

    I worked for many years in a place where people donated their book collections. It is always interesting to see what people like to read. But there was one surprise in my work. I cannot tell you how many donated boxes of books contained the complete writings of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin. I can’t tell you how many boxes contained the little red book of Mao. Now one can expect to find a book by Marx in a donation. But the complete works? And getting donations of books and seeing the complete works appearing all the time? Usually the donations were from families who were getting rid of the books of a deceased relative. We received so many donations of the complete works of Karl Marx that it was like getting donated National Geographics. We had to throw them away because there were just too many. And that told me something.

    So perhaps I am jumping the gun a little bit here. But I think Liberation theology has arrived in America. It’s not south of the border any more.

Comments are closed.