The Common Good
ERRATA: The original version of this post asserted that Catholics for the Common Good were the organizers of the West Cost Walk for Life. This is incorrect. While CCG has certainly been a supporter of the event, the Walk for Life is organized by an independent organization that has no connection with CCG. The author apologizes for the mistake and has deleted the sentence in question from this post.–P.N.
I’ve come across two organizations of lay Catholics in the last year that both have the phrase “common good” in their name.
The first—a San Francisco based group—is known as “Catholics for the Common Good.” Taking a page from former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn (who appears to have some kind of advisory relationship to the group), they style themselves as “pro-life, pro-family and pro-poor.”
CCG’s web site advertises its commitment to the fullness of Catholic teaching, including service to the poor and vulnerable. I must say, though, that the e-mails I have received from the group this year have been almost exclusively around issues dealing with abortion, assisted suicide and homosexuality.
Now the other group I have come across is known as Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. They are committed to “promoting the fullness of the Catholic Social Tradition in the public square.” The group was founded in 2004 and appears to have connections to individuals and organizations concerned that a one-sided view of Catholic social teaching was being communicated to the public during the last presidential election.
As is the case with CCG, this group supports a number of things with which I have no argument. But I have to say I was caught a little off guard by their discussion of a key element of Catholic Social Teaching, the “dignity of the human person:”
Life does not end at birth; nor should our work to protect and preserve it. The Catholic Church believes that every human life – whether young or old, guilty or innocent, born or unborn – is both precious and sacred, thus making the preservation of human dignity of the utmost importance. It remains as the fundamental foundation for all principles and elements of social teaching.
Now there is nothing here that is, strictly speaking, objectionable. But it is hard to deny that the overall effect is to subtly mute the Church’s full throated defense of the unborn. The phrasing of the first line also reinforces the pernicious idea—repeated at every opportunity by abortion rights advocates—that pro-life people do not care about children after they are born.
So while I value many of the things done by both of these organizations, I wonder whether either will be able to build bridges across the political divide that seemed to have emerged within the Church. There seems to be little in CCG’s agenda that would trouble the conscience of a politically conservative person, just as there seems to be little in the Catholic Alliance’s agenda that would trouble the conscience of a politically liberal person.
Yet if the example of Jesus is any guide, one of the things that Christians must do is trouble the consciences of those closest to us. It is precisely those Catholics who have strong ties to contemporary political liberalism who most need to be raising their voices in defense of the unborn, just as it is those Catholics who have strong ties to contemporary political conservatism who most need to be advocates for the poor and vulnerable.