He told them with typical bluntness that they should stop talking so much about the many policy issues they have taken up in the name of social justice. They should concentrate their authority on “the moral social” issues like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex marriage, where, he argued, the natural law and Gospel principles were clear. To be sure, he said, he had no objections to bishops' “making utter nuisances of themselves” about poverty and injustice, like the Old Testament prophets, as long as they did not advocate specific remedies. They should stop lobbying for detailed economic policies like progressive tax rates, higher minimum wage and, presumably, the expansion of health care — “matters of public policy upon which Gospel principles by themselves do not resolve differences of opinion among reasonable and well-informed people of good will,” as George put it.Or in other words, fulminate, enact moral standards into law, but on poverty and justice issues--just empathize. This is utterly opposed to what a good friend of mine, a Deacon in the Episcopal Church calls "trench theology." And he has pretty good warrant for it, too. The Daily Office reading for Saturday, the same day I get the NYT Magazine? Matthew 25: 31-46:
31 'When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." 37Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?" 40And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."a 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me." 44Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?" 45Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me." 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.'The moral disjunction here seems pretty straightforward to me. George seems all too eager to focus attention that matters onto policing the morals not just of his co-religionists, but of his fellow citizens.
And George, who is a follower in his Natural Law beliefs of Aristotle and Aquinas, surely knows that Aristotle believed abortion to be permissible in the first three months of pregnancy and that Aquinas did not believe abortion was homicide until "ensoulment," post-conception, and that indeed the Roman Catholic Church itself did not hold his position until the early 19th Century. Thus, George is in the somewhat odd position of arguing that his position is the universal objective truth to be obtained by reason, despite the fact that neither of his two leading lights of Natural Law reasoning held the same position. Thus, we should adopt Aristotle and Aquinas's philosophical framework, but their specific failure to reach objective truth as George would have it does not undermine its universal quality. Yep. All clear and self evident. Meanwhile, on the actual Gospel imperatives? Nothing. Or rather, sound and fury, signifying nothing.