Calvin Freiburger

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Religious Left

Posted on November 12 2009 3:00 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.
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The phrase “Religious Right” is a common rhetorical trope these days.  But is there a Religious Left, as well?  Last night, Father Jonathan Morris joined Sean Hannity to discuss the Catholic Church’s position on universal health care:

The Catholic bishops in the United States have made a big splash in, uh, requiring, suggesting that nobody should support this health bill unless there’s an amendment that prohibits federal money going to abortion.  But what everyone’s said is, “now that that amendment has passed, now all the bishops support this bill.”  That’s not true.  What they’ve suggested, as I understand it, is that there is a universal right to have access to basic health care.  But that’s not saying that therefore, socialized medicine is the moral obligation of the government.  And that’s a very important distinction […] it’s not just a Catholic thing; it’s a Christian thing to take care of your neighbor.  But it does not mean, and Jesus never said this, that therefore it should be the government who should take care of all of our neighbors for us.

[The relevant passage begins at the 2:44 mark.]

Father Morris’ theology is dead on: helping the less fortunate is a clear moral obligation (and the truth about who really cares might surprise you), but it’s also an individual obligation.  There’s nothing moral about insisting that such care come via government if government can’t do the job, and using coercive force to make people give leads to problems with the commandment, “thou shalt not steal.”

However, he speaks too soon when he dismisses left-wing tendencies among modern Catholics (54% of whom voted for Barack Obama, despite his radical stance on abortion).  For instance, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ resolution on universal health care parrots the leftist caricature of American healthcare:

The existing patterns of health care in the United States do not meet the minimal standard of social justice and the common good. The substantial inequity of our health care system can no longer be ignored or explained away. The principal defect is that more than 35 million persons do not have guaranteed access to basic health care […] The current health care system is so inequitable, and the disparities between rich and poor and those with access-and those without are so great that it is clearly unjust.

The Conference demands “concerted action by federal and other levels of government,” which, as “an instrument of our common purpose called to pursue the common good, has an essential role to play” in “ensur[ing] a decent level of health care for all without regard to their ability to pay.”  They’re light on specifics, but redistribution clearly has a foot in the door:

When there is a question of allocating scarce resources, the vulnerable and the poor have a compelling claim to first consideration. Special attention must be given to ensuring that those who have suffered from inaccessible and inadequate health care (e.g., in central cities, isolated rural areas, and migrant camps) are first brought back into an effective system of quality care.

Nowhere in the document will you find skepticism as to government’s ability to provide universal healthcare, concern for the individual rights and personal freedoms that such an overhaul would violate, or awareness of the potential for market-based reforms to alleviate America’s health care woes, which the USCCB exaggerates.  The USCCB may not have endorsed ObamaCare yet, but unless Harry Reid and his pals dig in their heels on abortion funding, who’s to say they won’t in the near future?  After all, this is the same USCCB that has also urged Catholics to vote for amnesty and against preemptive war.

The intersection of Catholicism and liberalism isn’t limited to the USCCB, either.  Pope Benedict and the Vatican have a history of criticizing and meddling in America’s already-meager immigration enforcement efforts, and, most recently, the Vatican’s official newspaper announced that Karl Marx wasn’t so bad after all.  I kid you not.

This liberal reinterpretation of Christian theology has its roots in the works of early progressives such as Woodrow Wilson & Herbert Croly, who saw the task of modern democracy as building an entirely new society in which a proactive, unlimited government would work to bring about universal alleviation from any and all constraints on human happiness.  Progressives were all too happy to present this work as nothing less than the divine task of bringing about a sort of heaven on Earth.

As our forefathers did, most conservatives recognize the profound importance of religion to maintaining a free society, but these days, “Religious” and “Right” don’t always go together.  The modern Left has successfully hijacked many religious institutions, and conservatives do themselves no favors by denying the problem.

(Side Note: In the above video, Hannity apologizes for running misleading video during last week’s segment on Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s health care rally.  My Nov. 7 post on the rally has been updated to acknowledge the revelation.)


Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also blogs at the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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