Catholics & the Liberal Tradition

Still compatible

Over the last several years, many Catholics have lamented their state of political homelessness. They want to know where they belong in today’s debates over public policy and political philosophy. Those are the debates that, in John Courtney Murray’s phrase, shape "the growing end of history," by giving a renewed sense of overall direction and purpose to the workings of government in society. However politically homeless Catholics may feel in today’s politics, empirical snapshots show they are all over the lot. They can be found at the upper levels of all three branches of the national government. They represent a sizable presence in both political parties, with perhaps a slight tilt still lingering in favor of the Democrats, sometimes for reason of shared memories. They are prominent in the leadership of both liberal and conservative circles, and among the pundits as well. Nancy Pelosi and Henry Hyde, Ted Kennedy and Don Nickels, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Antonin Scalia, Pat Buchanan, William F. Buckley, and E. J. Dionne Jr.-all are members of the same universal church.

And then there is the pluralism inside the mind. Consider the following beliefs held by the two of us and perhaps others as well, but motley enough in their contents to provoke concern and accusations of inconsistency from many quarters in today’s political landscape.

Answering the litmus...

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About the Author

William M. Shea is professor of theology at Saint Louis University.