You’re probably going to Hell if you support the sweeping tax reform package that passed the Senate in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday.
At least, that’s what some Catholic leaders would have you believe.
Jesuit Father James Martin tweeted on Saturday that those who support the bill will “face consequences” and be “judged.”
“Those who voted for it will face consequences later, when they are judged,” Father Martin wrote bitterly. “Do you think Jesus’s words about being judged on how we care for the poor don’t apply? Think again.”
Massimo Faggioli, a Catholic theologian at Villanova University, asserted that the tax bill makes “a mockery of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching.”
Sister Simone Campbell claimed that the bill “violates the moral fiber of our country” because it gives tax cuts to the wealthy.
Just as media bias has become unmistakable in the Trump era, many of our Church leaders have promoted divisive political messages rather than focus on core Catholic teachings. And as Catholic scholar Samuel Gregg tweeted in the midst of the heated rhetoric surrounding the tax reform bill:
One of Liberal Christianity’s (many) incoherences is the way that (1) it absolutizes the prudential and (2) prudentializes the absolute.
— Samuel Gregg (@DrSamuelGregg) December 4, 2017
While faith leaders are welcome to their own political opinions, some of them have been clouded by such anger and bitterness that they believe their political opponents to be evil just for disagreeing with them prudentially. They can’t imagine that someone with a different view of governmental policy could be misguided–let alone correct.
Despite popular Leftist narratives, the tax bill doesn’t raise taxes on the poor and actually has several measures aimed directly at struggling groups–such as the doubling of the standard deduction and an increase on the child tax credit.
More generally, Left-leaning Catholic leaders tend to demonize any move to cut government spending or programs. The tax bill, for example, eliminates subsidies to insurance companies. Conservatives support these measures not because they hate the poor and want them to die–rather, they see government programs as inefficient and corrupt and want to focus on more effective ways to help the poor.
This hypothesis is backed up by statistics, as conservatives are much more charitable than liberals with their time and their money. George Will wrote in 2008 that although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than conservative families, the conservative families give, on average, 30 percent more to charity.
Even more striking, people who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give four times more on average than people who accept that notion.
The premise from the aforementioned Catholic leaders that government programs are the only way to help the poor is mistaken, and serves only to vilify those who disagree with their proposed policy solutions. It may be useful as a clever political trick, but it should have no place among Christians who genuinely care about helping the poor.
Catholic leaders must resist divisive politics and seek to understand the motivations of conservatives. Political debates are normal and to be expected. But condemnation and judgment only alienate people who truly have the best interests of the poor at heart.