The White House is getting ready for the September visit of Pope Francis to the United States, according to this AP article. The article includes the following comment by Vice President Joe Biden, who is a Catholic: “Pope Francis has breathed new life into what I believe is the central mission of our faith: Catholic social doctrine.”[Hat tip to JM]
Conservative Catholics will no doubt be tempted to use this remark as an occasion to take Biden to task for his own imperfect commitment to Catholic social doctrine. After all, religious freedom, the right to life, and the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman are very important points of Catholic social doctrine. Yet as a public man Biden has not been a defender of those principles.
But while this is an understandable and predictable reaction, it would overlook something also very important. Surely Biden errs in saying that Catholic social doctrine is the “central mission of our faith.” Catholic social doctrine is addressed to society, with a view to informing it how it can be more justly organized. This is indeed very important. But, as C.S. Lewis observes in one of his writings, societies, nations, communities don’t go to heaven or hell. Surely the “central mission” of the faith is not the construction of a more just social order–as important as it is to strive for that–but instead the proclamation of truth and the ministry of the sacraments in order to save souls. That is the Church’s highest and most urgent concern.
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Tuesday, September 08, 2015
"Joe Biden's confused Catholicism"
Carson Holloway, "Joe Biden's confused Catholicism" (Catholic Vote, September 8, 2015):