I spent several Thursday mornings this fall attending a class at our local Newman Center. The topic: the history of Catholic social teaching, taught by a Dominican brother. It was illuminating, to say the least. I had hoped to share more of what I learned, but it hasn’t worked out that way. But this morning, in honor of election day, I’d like to share four definitions that were either new to me or placed a familiar concept in a new light.
First: liberal vs. conservative. Depending on your chosen “flavor” of politics, both of these words are tainted, but in their origin they are both beautiful and praiseworthy goals:
conservative–having a desire to conserve the best of the past
liberal–having a desire to liberate humankind
Even more striking are two words I had never heard at all before: rigoristi and opportunisti. They are used to describe different approaches to faith and life. I was hoping to find some online references for these, but I couldn’t, so the singular/plural may be off here; my apologies. Still…
One who fits the category rigoristi will not compromise on principles: I want the Kingdom of Heaven, and I won’t accept any less.
One who is an opportunisti takes a more pragmatic view, saying in effect, I know I live in an imperfect world, so I’m going to focus my efforts where they can be most effective, and not beat my head against an impregnable wall. Our teacher used two examples:
St. Thomas Aquinas thought prostitution should be legal and regulated, because he didn’t think you could actually get rid of it altogether and it was preferable to keep it corralled and controlled in order to lessen its impact on humanity. My jaw dropped when I heard that, but here’s a link.
Pope John Paul II never tempered his words on abortion–except when he went to Poland. Poland had one of the highest abortion rates in the world, and yet when JP2 went there, he never addressed the subject, because he was focusing his efforts on undermining Communism. But on his first trip to Poland post-fall-of-Communism, he lit into them about abortion. It was a matter of timing.
Just some food for thought on Election Day. (My apologies to Brother E. if I have misrepresented anything he said!)