The Gospel

Toward Effective Christian Witness: Making Room for the Gospel

by Dr. Jeff Mirus, Catholic Culture  |  published on January 9, 2014

The concerns most often expressed about my writings on the New Evangelization fall into two categories. I’ve emphasized the importance of apostolates of service, both for their own sake and to attract and open others to the Gospel. Given this emphasis, it would be rather disturbing if some Catholics did not wonder whether (a) Failure to continue what we call the “culture wars” would weaken our defenses against various forms of political restriction and coercion; and/or (b) Failure to witness consistently to today’s most contested Catholic moral values would be a betrayal of Christ.

Again, it would be extraordinarily disappointing if these very legitimate concerns were not raised, and raised strongly. I am very glad that some readers have raised them. They merit significant attention.

An Adequate Defense is a Strategic Defense

Concern about the political vulnerability of the Catholic community is clearly legitimate. But the key to dealing properly with this concern is to recognize that it is strategic, not moral, in nature. Certainly we are morally obliged to bear witness against immoral policies, whether these are policies that permit abortion or policies that permit persecution of Catholics. But this witness need be specifically political only to the degree that political involvement has strategic value. Thus, for example, nobody insists that all good Catholics fight politically to outlaw contraception, for we have no conceivable effective strategy for doing so. In the same way, the degree to which Catholics should feel obliged to engage politically in the fights against abortion, or gay marriage, or euthanasia, or the restriction of religious liberty is directly proportional to the possibility of strategic success.

This is very similar to the way we must treat the “how many babies must die” argument against Pope Francis’ emphasis on the full Gospel (see Abortion, the Death of the Soul, and Christian Strategy). The argument that we cannot take the time now to be more fully evangelical because it will cost the lives of unborn children is weak and confused on a number of grounds, but the first of these grounds is strategic. For the argument makes any sense at all only if, in fact, by striking hard and fast now in some more directly political way, we can actually achieve a significant and lasting reduction in the number of babies who will be killed. This is a strategic argument, not a moral one. And a moment’s reflection suggests that it is a severely problematic strategic argument, if not a very bad one altogether.

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