Saturday, December 18, 2010

Colbert and O'Reilly: Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

Without Stephen Colbert, I wonder how American culture would ever hear the authentic voice of Catholic social teaching these days?  Lord knows, not from our bishops, who are too intent on kissing up to Republican CEOs bashing artists dying of AIDS as they produce anguished, probing meditations on the meaning of the crucifixion.  As they remain totally silent on significant social justice issues like the growing disparity between rich and poor.  Or the bullying of teens to suicide because God made them gay.

Speaking of those Republican CEOs and their neo-conservative Catholic apologists: I'm always interested in the ability of this wing of Catholicism to swallow the camel while straining the gnat in their strange fixations on sexual morality (well, the sexual morality of others) as the end-all and be-all of Catholic ethical thinking, and on what's supposedly natural or unnatural in the area of sexual behavior.

You hear lots and lots of talk about the need to toe the natural law line in Catholic ethics--when it comes to sexual morality, that is.  But, curiously, we never seem to hear from these same defenders of natural law any mention of the longstanding teaching of fathers and mothers of the church that natural law dictates that what one owns in excess of one's needs belongs to those who have nothing.

As Aquinas states, Summa Theologiae II.II, 66, art. 7:

Those things which some possess in excess of reasonable needs are owed by natural law to the sustenance of the poor.

It would be refreshing to see Bill O'Reilly tangle with that Catholic teaching, for a change.  Or to see him even try to make sense of it, with his worldview of Jesus helping those who help themselves.

The illustration is a contemporary Madonna and child by photographer John McCabe, in Ken Kimmelman's film about homelessness, "What Does a Person Deserve?"

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