A Political Home for Progressive Catholics

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Michael Gerson ["Open-Arms Conservatism," op-ed, Oct. 31] is a shrewd strategist, but he doesn't understand the history of Catholic social teaching or the nature of the modern Republican Party.

Mr. Gerson argued that Republicans should drop their emphasis on a harsh, anti-government philosophy and adopt something akin to Catholic social teaching with its emphasis on preferential treatment for the poor and support of the common good.

However, Catholic social teaching is inherently progressive, not conservative. Pope Leo XIII's seminal encyclical in 1891 on capital and labor, "Rerum Novarum," sought to find a humane path for capitalism, affirmed the right of state intervention on behalf of citizens, endorsed unionization and affirmed property rights. It challenged the social Darwinism of the late 19th century associated with Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner, the same philosophy that drives the dominant libertarian wing of the Republican Party today.

Mr. Gerson's philosophy would find a better home within the progressive movement, not the Republican Party of President Bush. After all, Mr. Bush denied millions of children basic health care in order to make a point about the specter of government intervention. There's nothing in Catholic social teaching to support this position.


Senior Fellow

Center for American Progress


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