Economic justice and the election

I’m one of those “political junkies” who stays up on election night to hear the results, no matter what they are. This year, the experience was a downer.

But what disturbed me most came the next day when polls released by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life showed that 54 percent of Catholic voters went Republican this year, a 12-point shift to the right from 2008.

Now, of course, I don’t believe God is a Democrat or a Republican. And a good Catholic can be a member of either party in good conscience.

But the central messages of many Republicans this year called for less government, the reversal of health care reform, repealing the financial regulation of Wall Street, and extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Where, I wonder, is any sense of economic justice in all this?

In Catholic social teaching, the government is part of the solution to economic ills. It’s not perfect, of course. But only the government can legally regulate financial markets, guarantee that just about everyone has health care, and spread the tax burden equitably.

Granted, none of this legislation is perfect, or perfectly just, but it is a giant step in a positive direction. We certainly can disagree on the specifics of any of this, but the overall thrust of this anti-government message, and the apparently positive response of many Catholics, raises a lot of questions about when and where lay Catholics learn about the social teaching of the church.

Maybe it’s time that all those Catholic preachers who think the only public issues worth their time in the pulpit are abortion and gay marriage get acquainted with the teachings of the church on economic justice.

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