(WSJ) Nicholas Hahn: Is Tax Policy really the Purview of Preachers?

The bishops might have been promoting a strictly Democratic line, but U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black was more ecumenical. Amid the shutdown, Rev. Black offered a daily prayer in the Senate chamber asking God to “save us from the madness. We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness, and our pride.” Later he condemned the “hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.” His listeners in one party no doubt assumed he was talking about the other side.

It is one thing to spiritually shame politicians, as Rev. Black did. Trying to do their jobs is another. The bishops and other clergy in the Circle of Protection go well beyond their competencies when they make such policy prescriptions. Speaking about the moral issues of the day is certainly within their pastoral purview, but the bishops’ calls to raise revenues (aka taxes), for instance, or eliminate “unnecessary” military spending are not.

Bishops routinely assert their authority as “pastors and teachers,” as Bishops Blaire, Gomez and Pates did, but according to the tradition of their own church, they have no teaching authority when it comes to politics.

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3 comments on “(WSJ) Nicholas Hahn: Is Tax Policy really the Purview of Preachers?

  1. Dan Crawford says:

    It may come as a surprise to the WSJ but the desires of American capitalism and the desires of faithful Christians do not always coincide.

  2. Charles52 says:

    We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness, and our pride.”

    Maybe he acknowledged those things, but the powers-that-be clearly did not. It was a power play, without religious overtones of any kind.

    As to the bishops, I tend to agree – they need to focus on moral aspects of policy – care for the poor and overweening militarism are moral issues. Specific policies, not so much, and Catholic doctrine specifically assigns those prudential decisions to lay people. On the other hand, sometimes (as with abortion), there is no distinction between moral precepts and policy, though tactics may vary. Poverty, on the other hand, admits to a variety of policies, which should be judged on their effectiveness.

  3. Luke says:

    Well, the way I see it, God gave us life; anything that affects the life He gave us comes under the watchful eye of his ministers.

    I don’t know if any who read this know that Chaplain Barry Black retired as Rear Admiral, the U. S. Navy’s Chief Chaplain. He’s probably got his head screwed on pretty tightly, and, as would any Admiral, he understands politics. Doesn’t mean he’s not involved in principle.