Acton Institute Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, wrote a piece for The Catholic World Report yesterday talking about Catholics in an age of secular moralism. Often times, Catholics fall into a trap of reducing their faith to various political, economic, and social agendas, losing sight of what is at the core of true Catholicism. This is what Gregg calls secular moralism. Gregg explains this “new morality:”
Moralism, however, isn’t limited to the Christian realm. It has many secular counterparts. Prominent among these is morality’s reduction to my voracious support for particular causes. “I am a good person because I favor environmentalism, socialism, liberalism, unions, business, el pueblo, refugees, feminism, the United Nations, pacifism, an end to air-conditioning, nuclear disarmament, etc.”
In this world, other peoples’ badness is determined by the fact that they don’t identify with, or have significant reservations about, for example, the contemporary environmental movement, the European Union, or some of the absurd claims made today under the rubric of human rights. Such individuals are relegated to the outer realms of acceptability and assigned a label. This usually involves words like “hater” or the suffix “phobic.”
Gregg’s main point is not that people of faith should refrain from commenting on politics, economics, or social issues but that we cannot make Christ an optional extra. He explains:
Again, it’s not that attempting to realize any number of goals in the realms of politics, the economy, or civil society is necessarily wrong in itself. Even popes have lent the Church’s support to particular causes. One example is Leo XIII’s effort to alleviate the condition of employees in early-industrial capitalism. No one, however, would suggest that Leo XIII diminished the Gospel to promoting the well-being of industrial workers. He spoke ceaselessly, and far more often, of the Christ who lived, suffered, died, and who was restored to life: the Christ who is, as Saint John Paul II wrote in his first encyclical Redemptor Hominis, “the source of a new life that does not pass away but lasts to eternal life.”
“So how do Christians avoid reducing the Gospel to secular moralism while also fulfilling our Gospel-mandated responsibilities to our neighbor in need?” Gregg asks.
This is a two part answer and according to Gregg and those parts are to take Christ’s life, death, and resurrection seriously and to correctly understand the relationship of our free choices and actions to the world which is to come.
Gregg goes on to finish the article by explaining these two parts. You can read the full article at The Catholic World Report here.