Politics Is Noble

I get tired of the use of "political" as a perjorative, "politics" as a diminutive, as in "just politics." I understand it, even do it myself occasionally, but it still irks me.

Therefore, it's a delight to find Chaput the Great discussing the political vocation in an address at U. Toronto on Monday. I'll leave you to RTWT to get the scope of his argument, but here are some highlights.

On how "tolerance" misunderstood destroys liberty:
A healthy democracy requires vigorous moral debate to survive. Real pluralism demands that people of strong beliefs will advance their convictions in the public square -- peacefully, legally and respectfully, but energetically and without embarrassment. Anything less is bad citizenship and a form of theft from the public conversation.
He hadn't even heard Obama's speech to Congress when he said this:
in democracies, we elect public servants, not messiahs. It's worth recalling that despite two ugly wars, an unpopular Republican president, a fractured Republican party, the support of most of the American news media and massively out-spending his opponent, our new president actually trailed in the election polls the week before the economic meltdown. This subtracts nothing from the legitimacy of his office. It also takes nothing away from our obligation to respect the president's leadership.

But it does place some of today's talk about a "new American mandate" in perspective. Americans, including many Catholics, elected a gifted man to fix an economic crisis. That's the mandate. They gave nobody a mandate to retool American culture on the issues of marriage and the family, sexuality, bioethics, religion in public life and abortion. That retooling could easily happen, and it clearly will happen -- but only if Catholics and other religious believers allow it.

On why decent people can't "get past" abortion:
Catholic social teaching goes well beyond abortion. In America we have many urgent issues that beg for our attention, from immigration reform to health care to poverty to homelessness. The Church in Denver and throughout the United States is committed to all these issues. We need to do a much better job of helping women who face problem pregnancies, and American bishops have been pressing our public leaders for that for more than 30 years. But we don't "help" anyone by allowing or funding an intimate, lethal act of violence. We can't build a just society with the blood of unborn children. The right to life is the foundation of every other human right -- and if we ignore it, sooner or later every other right becomes politically contingent.
On Christians being the problem with the world --but not for the reason today's atheists think. Citing Bernanos' essay imagining an atheist being allowed to preach a homily:
"Dear brothers," says the agnostic from the pulpit, "many unbelievers are not as hardened as you imagine. … [But when] we seek [Christ] now, in this world, it is you we find, and only you. … It is you Christians who participate in divinity, as your liturgy proclaims; it is you ‘divine men' who ever since [Christ's] ascension have been his representatives on earth. … You are the salt of the earth. [So if] the world loses its flavor, who is it I should blame? … The New Testament is eternally young. It is you who are so old. … Because you do not live your faith, your faith has ceased to be a living thing."
While in Toronto, the Archbishop also spoke to a group of businessmen, an equally wonderful address about the intersection of character and circumstance --and the real solution to our financial problems, which are ethical more than economic in nature. Corruption is everywhere, and markets depend on honesty.