Wed. Oct 21st, 2020

As Catholics we should have a particular way to think. I don’t mean we should all think the same thing, but I do mean that we should think the same way. We are people of “both and.” If we reflect on the history of the Church we can see this in many theological disputes. I will give one example. In the fourth century the Church was struggling with the question, “Is Jesus divine or human?” The Church answered by thinking in a “both and” kind of way. Heresy and error is so often an inability to hold two things that seem at odds in a dynamic tension, like the question of whether Jesus is God or man?
This is why typically a Catholic should not really be a good Republican or a good Democrat. We don’t think that way. We seek truth wherever it can be found. Our culture has become polarized. We must fall into one camp or another. We cannot like anything someone from the other camp does. We cannot believe anything said by a member of the other camp. We cannot question or criticize anyone from our own camp. This is dangerous and not how we Catholics traditionally have thought.
We currently see this playing out over the question of whether to reopen businesses. There are two camps, pick a side. If you are in camp 1, you want businesses to open. It seems if you are in this camp you will be demonized by camp 2, which think it is irresponsible to open at this point. It is likely those from the other camp will think you put profit ahead of human life.
If you are in camp 2, you think we shouldn’t be opening businesses yet. It seems if you are in this camp you will be demonized for being too cautious and maybe having the nefarious motive of destroying America.
Can’t we think in a Catholic way for a minute? There is a “both and” here. We simply cannot continue the lockdown indefinitely. We have to be very careful about how we reopen. The sad fact is that we are a year or more from developing a vaccine for COVID-19. We are going to have to live with this virus in the meantime.
Can we work together to balance the two realities that we must open and that as we reopen we must do so carefully as we are likely to cause an acceleration in the spread of the virus? Can we keep our eyes wide open to all of the consequences of public policy? Can we disagree about specific policies without presuming nefarious motives from those who hold a different position than do we?
I hope so.
— Pat Arensberg is the Director of the Office for Evangelization and Family Life. Email him at
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