US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Tea, Wall Street, and Catholicism

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

By now, you’ve probably read or heard enough commentaries about why Occupy Wall Street is both the best and worst thing that could happen in America. In fact, this week at U.S. Catholic we’ve had blog posts by Meghan Murphy-Gill and Kevin Clarke that discussed the movement, and both posts led to various pro and con arguments about the occupiers and their agenda.

Though some hesitate to make comparisons between OWS and the Tea Party, the argument that has surrounded them in Catholic circles is strangely similar. Just about a year ago, when many Catholics were gravitating toward the Tea Party movement, some were saying that the Tea Party’s ideals were at odds with Catholic teaching, which others felt the two were wholly compatible. Now we’re hearing a lot of debate over the spiritual side of Occupy Wall Street, and whether their actions are an affront to religious groups or an extension in some way of Catholic beliefs. And inevitably, those whose political leanings disagree with the sentiment of whatever commentary they’re reading will also bring up their usual opponents, be it the Republicans or Democrats, and point out just how anti-Catholic they are, too.

These kinds of debates can sometimes be amusing or fun to participate in. They can also be enraging, especially when someone will quote (or more often, misquote) from the Bible in an effort to show that religion and God are on their side. But even if we can often find some justification in our church’s teachings for our political choices, whatever they may be, that doesn’t mean there’s one party that’s more or less Catholic than any other.

So is the Tea Party Catholic? Sorry, but no. Does that make Occupy Wall Street Catholic? Nope. Same goes for the Republicans, Democrats, or any other party you might support along the spectrum. All probably have some ideals that can be found to be in agreement with Catholic teaching, but all parties and their members have flaws, too. It isn’t too hard to find examples of church teaching that shoot holes in any party’s beliefs or actions, just as you can find examples to support a party’s platform. Plenty of people even spend their time shooting holes in Catholic institutions, finding ways to point out why they aren’t Catholic either.

At the end of the day, there’s only one leader out there who really embodies Catholic teaching without any flaws, holes, or missteps, and that’s Jesus. And as he reminded us, his kingdom is not of this world. So until we get to that kingdom, we simply need to do our best to vote for and support those who we think will do the best job of bringing about the kingdom of heaven on earth. No one party or politician can do it, but we can hope for someone whose vision--whether it be about taxes, the economy, health care, or any other issue--gets us a little closer. Our faith as Catholics is meant to help us in our voting choices, not match them to a T.

And as much as we believe in the party, protest, or political movement that we agree with (and as much as we don’t believe in the ones we disagree with), our attempts to label them as Catholic (or anti-Catholic) will be always be flawed as well. Try as we might, we’ll never really wrap our heads around what Jesus tried to teach us, or what the kingdom of God truly looks like. After all, we’re only human.