The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Blurred lines of Catholic Social Teaching

Mark Gianfalla | Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Didn’t think I could relate a Robin Thicke song title to the Catholic Church? Well, as a Catholic student at Notre Dame, I have been bombarded by a whirlwind of contradictory fiction regarding a term that almost everyone on campus has heard: “Catholic Social Teaching.” It is often used as a blanket to cover whatever argument someone is trying to make, but is it really that vague? Beginning with the decision to present President Obama with an honorary degree (there is a fundamental difference between the degree and an invitation to speak,) Notre Dame has been under fire for becoming less Catholic and more liberal. Where is this coming from and does Catholic Social Teaching (CST) cover these increasingly liberal University actions?

While attending the “God, Country, Notre Dame” speaker series in Morrissey, I asked Fr. Jenkins a question, “How does the University deal with retaining its Catholic identity while hiring an increasingly liberal academy and administration.” The answer that I received was surprising. “Many aspects of liberal policy are actually quite in line with CST.” With all due respect to the president of the University, I disagree!

Inspired by Bill O’Reilly’s interview of Notre Dame theology professor, Candida Moss, who claimed Jesus was a socialist this past week; I plan to clear up this issue of CST. Professor Moss’s point was the Bible often states the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor, but is the Bible really demanding that all possessions and wealth be turned over to the government for redistribution?

Socialism turns the government into a false God, with the power to give and take. Those who partake in charitable giving are obviously following in Jesus’s footsteps, but the Bible passages encouraging charity are not demanding redistribution of wealth. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, not what’s yours. The Bible parables are there to encourage charity and selflessness. In it’s time, wealth represented greed because many became wealthy by unfair ways. Today, being rich does not strictly mean you are a cheating tax collector or a thief. Many rich people are quite charitable. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation even financially supported Notre Dame’s efforts to eradicate neglected tropical diseases in Haiti. Jesus was in fact not a socialist after all!

If you take away the liberal argument for abortion, which I don’t think anyone would argue is in line with Catholic teaching, then what are you left with? The Admissions policy recently instituted to accept illegal aliens is often thrown under this blanket of CST as well. Fr. Jenkins, a Catholic priest, supported the decision, and when I spoke out against it in an interview with CBS, I was contacted by a University spokesperson who informed me that it was in line with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s teaching. Looks like CST strikes again, but in fact it does not condone illegal immigration.

The seven themes of CST outlined by the USCCB include “rights and responsibilities,” and the statement directly referring to the issue of immigration lays out two key duties. The first is to “welcome foreigners out of charity,” and the second is “to secure one’s border and enforce the law for the sake of the common good.” The Church supports welcoming of legal immigrants and legal immigration reform, not turning a blind eye towards illegal acts.

I was also informed by the University’s spokesperson that accepted students would have to have been granted a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals stay, but this is simply forgetting about the illegality of them being in the country to begin with in the first place. Even if they were brought here as children, there comes a time when you have to be responsible for your own actions.

The Catholic Church does not advocate ignorance towards or breaking of the law, plain and simple. CST is still the teaching of the Catholic Church, and not a blanket used to cover the increasing liberalization and secularization of many individual Catholics.

Mark Gianfalla
President, Morrissey Hall and Notre Dame College Republicans
Oct. 9