Cardinal Mahony's Baloney Sandwich

The public face of Catholic social teaching.

When evangelical intellectuals and activists meet, certain rituals are performed. There is for example the ritual lament that we evangelicals lack the rich tradition of "Catholic social teaching." Garments are rent, groans are uttered, and statements are drafted, resolving to do better. I have benefited enormously from Catholic thought, Catholic spirituality, and the personal influence of Catholic friends. But I think evangelicals are wrong to suppose that we would do well to imitate the public face of Catholic social teaching (in distinction from the richly nuanced and heterogeneous tradition of Catholic social thought).Consider for example the remarks by Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Los Angeles diocese, delivered at mass on Sunday, August 14, the day before Mahony was to give the invocation at the opening of the Democratic National Convention, as reported by the Associated Press. Our society, Mahony said, faces three principal threats: first, the threat to human life posed by abortion, capital punishment, and physician-assisted suicide; second, the threat to human dignity posed by the increasing gap between rich and poor and the lack of affordable housing, health care, and adequate education for those who are not affluent; and third, the threat to human rights posed by the exploitation of immigrant workers, by other forms of discrimination and racism, and by the failure to mandate a minimum wage that is sufficient to "support a family in dignity."What is immediately apparent about this analysis is the way that it substitutes slogans and bromides for genuine engagement with social realities. Abortion takes the lives of countless human beings every year. It is an unambiguous evil and certainly one of the great ills of our ...

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