An evangelical can find much of value in recent Catholic pronouncements, but …

This time it is a 120-page draft of a “Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the Economy” (Nov. 1984). The document aims to set forth a Catholic approach to poverty. In October 1982, the bishops had issued a revised statement on nuclear armament. Both pronouncements received wide public attention and general acclaim from the mass media and the liberal establishment. Not surprisingly, they also drew sharp fire from some evangelicals and fundamentalists as well as from many conservative Roman Catholics and the New Right generally.

Of the draft on nuclear armament, for example, Roman Catholic Michael Novak writes, “I cannot be certain that my own vision of reality is correct. Yet if it is, then this draft statement moves the world very close to war. That is not its motive, clearly. But it may well be its effect.” And on the most recent statement by the bishops, dealing with issues related to the U.S. economy and poverty, a Roman Catholic lay commission has just published what many consider a “Catholic alternative” to the position taken by the bishops (Toward the Future: Catholic Social Thought and the U.S. Economy).

Should They Speak Out?

Not a few have decried the bishops’ endeavor as “a politicization of Christian faith,” like that of many publications of the World Council of Churches. Others see in it a contemporary recurrence of traditional Roman Catholic disregard for the doctrine of separation of church and state.

Neither of these accusations hits the mark. Certainly Roman Catholic bishops have every right to address such issues as nuclear armament and poverty. Americans crave ...

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