Friday, November 2, 2012

Catholic Calvinism

John Calvin, a patron saint
to some of us Americans
We’re Protestants, you and me, American Catholics.  We might like to think that we are faithful Catholics but we are so conditioned by our culture that we just don’t get the “Catholic thing.”  One example of what I mean is how we look at justice.  Like our neighbors coming out of the Calvinist tradition, we see justice as punitive, but that is not how our Catholic tradition understands justice.  Justice, in our Catholic heritage—whether it be based on the Epistles of Saint Paul or the patristic tradition or even Saint Thomas—is not about punishment due to sin, crime, or other wrongs, but it is about the Divine Order.  It is about each of God’s children having his or her share of creation that God has willed for that particular child of his to have.  This does not mean that we should all have the same.  And it doesn’t mean that we should all have our “fair” share—that is another misconception: that life should somehow or other be “fair.”  But it does mean that God wants the creation he entrusted to us collectively to be distributed equitably.  Of course I have no idea how “much” I should have, much less how “much” you should have.  But I do believe this: that God wants each of his children to have sufficient share of creation to live healthily and with dignity.  And when we talk about how human society should be organized, we Christians—if our faith is real—know that we must make this sort of justice the guiding principle of our actions and our choices.  Thy kingdom come: thy will be done…  God’s will is not being done when some of his children are hungry and others of us have so much more than we need. God’s will is not being done when some of his children are homeless and others own two and three homes.  God’s will is not being done when some of his children are left without medical care and others of us are indifferent to their plight.  A Calvinist would see that my surplus is a sign of God’s favor on me.  A Catholic knows that my surplus is God entrusting me with a responsibility for those who have less than they need.  Of course, good Calvinists and bad Catholics call that “socialism.” 

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