@ stilbelieve and @Pat,
Thank you for your comments. Stilbelieve, you wonder how Catholics can stay members of the “Pro-Abortion party”, including some clergy. For the record, I am a registered Republican but have never voted a straight party ticket.
Apparently you did not read the documents to which I linked above from The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. They correctly assert that Catholic Social (Moral) Teaching is not just the responsibility of individuals but also of government. (see Economic Justice For All, numerous sections, especially 6b and following. As Christians we live in community and Catholic moral teaching (affirmed in Vatican II) reminds us that we are to support “distributive economics”. Since some may not click on the link, here’s one section: (Numbered brackets refer to footnotes at the end of the document. Italics are reproduced as in the original document.
68. Biblical justice is the goal we strive for. This rich biblical understanding portrays a just society as one marked by the fullness of love, compassion, holiness, and peace. On their path through history, however, sinful human beings need more specific guidance on how to move toward the realization of this great vision of God’s Kingdom. This guidance is contained in the norms of basic or minimal justice. These norms state the minimum levels of mutual care and respect that all persons owe to each other in an imperfect world . Catholic social teaching, like must philosophical reflection, distinguishes three dimensions of basic justice: commutative justice, distributive justice, and social justice .
69. Commutative justice calls for fundamental fairness in all agreements and exchanges between individuals or private social groups. It demands respect for the equal human dignity of all persons in economic transactions, contracts, or promises. For example, workers owe their employers diligent work in exchange for their wages. Employers are obligated to treat their employees as persons, paying them fair wages in exchange for the work done and establishing conditions and patterns of work that are truly human .
70. Distributive justice requires that the allocation of income, wealth, and power in society be evaluated in light of its effects on persons whose basic material needs are unmet. The Second Vatican Council stated: “The right to have a share of earthly goods sufficient for oneself and one’s family belongs to everyone. The fathers and doctors of the Church held this view, teaching that we are obliged to come to the relief of the poor and to do so not merely out of our superfluous goods” . Minimum material resources are an absolute necessity for human life. If persons are to be recognized as members of the human community, then the community has an obligation to help fulfill these basic needs unless an absolute scarcity of resources makes this strictly impossible. No such scarcity exists in the United States today.
71. Justice also has implications for the way the larger social, economic, and political institutions of society are organized. Social justice implies that persons have an obligation to be active and productive participants in the life of society and that society has a duty to enable them to participate in this way. This form of justice can also be called “contributive,” for it stresses the duty of all who are able to help create the goods, services, and other nonmaterial or spiritual values necessary for the welfare of the whole community. In the words of Pius XI, “It is of the very essence of social justice to demand from each individual all that is necessary for the common good” . Productivity is essential if the community is to have the resources to serve the well-being of all. Productivity, however, cannot be measured solely by its output in goods and services. Patterns of production must also be measured in light of their impact on the fulfillment of basic needs, employment levels, patterns of discrimination, environmental quality, and sense of community.
72. The meaning of social justice also includes a duty to organize economic and social institutions so that people can contribute to society in ways that respect their freedom and the dignity of their labor. Work should enable the working person to become “more a human being,” more capable of acting intelligently, freely, and in ways that lead to self-realization .
73. Economic conditions that leave large numbers of able people unemployed, underemployed, or employed in dehumanizing conditions fail to meet the converging demands of these three forms of basic justice. Work with adequate pay for all who seek it is the primary means of achieving basic justice in our society. Discrimination in job opportunities or income levels on the basis of race, sex, or other arbitrary standards can never be justified . It is a scandal that such discrimination continues in the United States today. Where the effects of past discrimination persist, society has an obligation to take positive steps to overcome the legacy of injustice. Judiciously administered affirmative action programs in education and employment can be important expressions of the drive for solidarity and participation that is at the heart of true justice. Social harm calls for social relief.
74. Basic justice also calls for the establishment of a floor of material well-being on which all can stand. This is a duty of the whole of society and it creates particular obligations for those with greater resources. This duty calls into question extreme inequalities of income and consumption when so many lack basic necessities. Catholic social teaching does not maintain that a flat, arithmetical equality of income and wealth is a demand of justice, but it does challenge economic arrangements that leave large numbers of people impoverished. Further, it sees extreme inequality as a threat to the solidarity of the human community, for great disparities lead to deep social divisions and conflict .
75. This means that all of us must examine our way of living in the light of the needs of the poor. Christian faith and the norms of justice impose distinct limits on what we consume and how we view material goods. The great wealth of the United States can easily blind us to the poverty that exists in this nation and the destitution of hundreds of millions of people in other parts of the world. Americans are challenged today as never before to develop the inner freedom to resist the temptation constantly to seek more. Only in this way will the nation avoid what Paul VI called “the most evident form of moral underdevelopment,” namely greed .
76. These duties call not only for individual charitable giving but also for a more systematic approach by businesses, labor unions, and the many other groups that shape economic life—as well as government. The concentration of privilege that exists today results far more from institutional relationships distribute power and wealth inequitably than from differences in talent or lack of desire to work. These institutional patterns must be examined and revised if we are to meet the demands of basic justice. For example, a system of taxation based on assessment according to ability to pay  is a prime necessity for the fulfillment of these social obligations.
Furthermore, the document speaks of fundamental human rights which were:
systematically outlined by John XXIII in his encyclical Peace on Earth (Pacem in Terris). His discussion echoes the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and implies that internationally accepted human rights standards are strongly supported by Catholic teaching. These rights include the civil and political rights to freedom of speech, worship, and assembly. A number of human rights also concern human welfare and are of a specifically economic nature. First among these are the rights to life, food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and basic education. These are indispensable to the protection of human dignity. In order to ensure these necessities, all persons have a right to earn a living, which for most people in our economy is through remunerative employment. All persons also have a right to security in the event of sickness, unemployment, and old age. Participation in the life of the community calls for the protection of this same right to employment, as well as the right to healthful working conditions, to wages, and other benefits sufficient to provide individuals and their families with a standard of living in keeping with human dignity, and to the possibility of property ownership . These fundamental personal rights—civil and political as well as social and economic—state the minimum conditions for social institutions that respect human dignity, social solidarity, and justice. They are all essential to human dignity and to the integral development of both individuals and society, and are thus moral issues . Any denial of these rights harms persons and wounds the human community. Their serious and sustained denial violates individuals and destroys solidarity among persons. (Underlining mine.) This is, as the document states throughout, not just the responsibility of private individuals and religious or non-sectarian social service agencies but also of government because, in part, we live in community.
Many Catholic laypeople and clergy believe that despite a “pro-choice” position of the party, the Democratic Party’s policies and platforms are more just to the working person and more compassionate to the poor in light of Catholic Social Teaching. Unlike some, many of us—and I include myself—are not “single issue” voters and that’s how Catholics can be Democrats in good conscience. I am a Registered Republican, by the way, but I do not believe that many of the policies advocated by my fellow Republicans and the “Tea Party” people of whatever official party they belong to, properly reflect the emphasis of current and historic Catholic social teaching. You may not agree with the Bishops. That’s your right as an American citizen—Free Speech and all—but as a Catholic you’d be wrong! This is an area, by the way, which I have actually taught at the graduate level and I cannot be quiet when I see this being ignored or co-opted because certain popular “Christian” or “Catholic” candidates want to focus on a single issue—such as Right to Life—while ignoring the rest of authentic Catholic teaching or supporting any policies whatsoever that do not reflect the historic and correct principles as articulated in these and other relevant Church documents. That’s another reason why many can be Democrats while still being Catholic. According to authentic Catholic social teaching, one of the roles of government is to make certain that these fundamental human rights are maintained and to develop polices which reflect: “the common good demands justice for all, the protection of the human rights for all. ” (Economic Justice for All[i/] , Section 3 under Moral Principles of The Nation.
The document also states (referencing Scripture and Pope Paul VI):
The obligation to provide justice for all means that the poor have the single most urgent economic claim on the conscience of the nation.
The document goes on to say:
As individuals and as a nation, therefore, we are called to make a fundamental “option for the poor” . The obligation to evaluate social and economic activity from the viewpoint of the poor and the powerless arises from the radical command to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. Those who are marginalized and whose rights are denied have privileged claims if society is to provide justice for all. This obligation is deeply rooted in Christian belief. As Paul VI stated:
“In teaching us charity, the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due to the poor and the special situation they have in society: the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others” .
John Paul II has described this special obligation to the poor as “a call to have a special openness with the small and the weak, those that suffer and weep, those that are humiliated and left on the margin of society, so as to help them win their dignity as human persons and children of God” .
88. The primary purpose of this special commitment to the poor is to enable them to become active participants in the life of society. It is to enable all persons to share in and contribute to the common good . The “option for the poor,” therefore, is not an adversarial slogan that pits one group or class against another. Rather it states that the deprivation and powerlessness of the poor wounds the whole community. The extent of their suffering is a measure of how far we are from being a true community of persons. These wounds will be healed only by greater solidarity with the poor and among the poor themselves.
89. In summary, the norms of love, basic justice, and human rights imply that personal decisions, social policies, and economic institutions should be governed by several key priorities. These priorities do not specify everything that must be considered in economic decision making. They do indicate the most fundamental and urgent objectives.
90. a. The fulfillment of the basic needs of the poor is of the highest priority. Personal decisions, policies of private and public bodies, and power relationships must be all evaluated by their effects on those who lack the minimum necessities of nutrition, housing, education, and health care. In particular, this principle recognizes that meeting fundamental human needs must come before the fulfillment of desires for luxury consumer goods, for profits not conducive to the common good, and for unnecessary military hardware.
91. b.[u Increasing active participation in economic life by those who are presently excluded or vulnerable is a high social priority. The human dignity of all is realized when people gain the power to work together to improve their lives, strengthen their families, and contribute to society. Basic justice calls for more than providing help to the poor and other vulnerable members of society. It recognizes the priority of policies and programs that support family life and enhance economic participation through employment and widespread ownership of property. It challenges privileged economic power in favor of the well-being of all. It points to the need to improve the present situation of those unjustly discriminated against in the past. And it has very important implications for both the domestic and the international distribution of power.
92. c. The investment of wealth, talent, and human energy should be specially directed to benefit those who are poor or economically insecure. Achieving a more just economy in the United States and the world depends in part on increasing economic resources and productivity. In addition, the ways these resources are invested and managed must be scrutinized in light of their effects on non-monetary values. Investment and management decisions have crucial moral dimensions: they create jobs or eliminate them; they can push vulnerable families over the edge into poverty or give them new hope for the future; they help or hinder the building of a more equitable society. They can have either positive or negative influence on the fairness of the global economy. Therefore, this priority presents a strong moral challenge to policies that put large amounts of talent and capital into the production of luxury consumer goods and military technology while failing to invest sufficiently in education, health, the basic infrastructure of our society and economic sectors that produce urgently needed jobs, goods and services.
93. d. Economic and social policies as well as organization of the work world should be continually evaluated in light of their impact on the strength and stability of family life. The long-range future of this nation is intimately linked with the well-being of families, for the family is the most basic form of human community . Efficiency and competition in the marketplace must be moderated by greater concern for the way work schedules and compensation support or threaten the bonds between spouses and between parents and children. Health, education and social service programs should be scrutinized in light of how well they ensure both individual dignity and family integrity. “right-wing conservatives” do not reflect this value which authentic Catholic social justice demands. Underlined sections match where the document bold-faced type.
Once again, American religious and political conservatives do not generally promote policies consistent with authentic Catholic social teaching even if they focus on “anti-abortion” red herrings.
Patt, within historic and authentic Catholic Teaching on Social Justice, it is the responsibility of our government to provide programs to help the poor and downtrodden, those with disabilities and who are marginalized. It’s ALSO the responsibility of private charitable organizations and faith groups. So, to respond to your question at the end of your post above: If providing services to those who are poor or disabled is charity, then I suppose you could say that THAT IS ONE ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT within authentic Catholic Social Teaching.
Clearly abortion—killing of the unborn—is absolutely wrong! I say thst without hesitation, but in the light of ALL Catholic Social Teaching, those who are usually “on the right” and many of the objectives they have are inconsistent with authentic Catholic teaching and I would go so far as to say that many positions may even be immoral if they hurt or decrease any opportunity to those at bottom of the social-economic scale or hurt American workers while promoting accumlation of wealth by the wealthy or by businesses whose primary concern is their stockholders. I’m not misquoting Catholic Social Teaching here—nor is this “new”. Many of the values now articulated by secular social work, excluding it’s overwhelming “pro-choice” position come from Catholic social teaching and the historic work of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin and “The Catholic Worker Movement”. Before his death, Cardinal John O’Conner began the process of Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of Dorothy Day with full approval of The Vatican.
Cardinal O’Conner by the way was a strong supporter of unions and the working class, the poor and the disadvantaged while still maintaining an extremely strong anti-abortion stance and opposing efforts by the gay community to obtain certain provisions. Supporting social justice for the poor, which is more in line with most articulated “Democratic” positions does put one at odds with many of the “conservative” plans and policies, but it does not mean that one needs to accept abortion or homosexuality or whatever the other “liberal” causes du jour are.
Father Robert George