During the long decades of the Cold War, faithful Catholics looking for an answer to the question of how best to provide for the common good compared liberal democratic capitalism in the United States and Western Europe with the communist tyranny of the Soviet Union. The answer to which one did a better job was not hard to arrive at. Finding few allies outside the world of fusionist conservatism, the late Michael Novak and other Catholic neoconservatives who rose to prominence during the long pontificate of St. John Paul II began to equivocate between the norms of the liberal democratic order and the common good itself. For them, a given political order was worthy of approbation only insofar as it was liberal and democratic and capitalist — and in some cases utterly unworthy of it, as in the case of General Franco’s confessionally Catholic Spain, because they were not. It did not occur to them that there were other criteria for evaluating commitment to the common good.
This alliance between Catholics and American fusionist conservatives is coming to an end, I think — and soon. Young faithful Catholics who have come of age not during the Cold War but during the Great Recession recognize that tyranny comes in many forms, and that one of them is a corporate logo decked out in rainbow colors whose stock price and rights to exploit the poor of the developed world are backed by a drone army answerable to no one’s authority but that of the president. They find themselves asked to choose not between communism and some theoretically just capitalism, but capitalism whose only aims seem to be profits, spoliation of the natural world, alienation of the poor from their dignity, and the promotion of vice.
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