Can Catholics Support the Tea Party?

58% of Catholics sympathize with the Tea Party.

Michael Gerson reminds us that Catholic social teaching and the tea party are often at odds.  He wonders how politically conservative Catholics will respond to this tension.

Here is a taste:

But though it is hard to identify a distinctive Catholic voter, there is certainly a distinctive Catholic teaching on politics – a highly developed and coherent tradition that has influenced many non-Catholics, myself included. Human life and dignity, in this view, are primary. The common good takes precedence over selfish interests. Local institutions – families, churches, unions, religious schools – should be respected, not undermined, by government. The justice of a society is measured by its treatment of the poor and vulnerable.

These distinctive commitments have created tensions with liberal Catholic politicians who elevate autonomy and choice as the highest political values – higher even than the rights of the weak. But the Catholic tradition also challenges elements of conservatism, particularly when it comes to Tea Party excess.

Some of this challenge is tonal. A revolutionary populism has seldom been the Catholic style – especially since Catholics have often been the victims of such populism in American history. Catholicism asserts the value and dignity of duly constituted authority, both religious and political, which cannot be dismissed as “elites.” Further, in a direct assault on the spirit of the age, it teaches that genuine freedom is found in submission to just authority. The alternative is the “freedom” of a fish liberated from the sea. Neither radical individualism nor disdain for government is an option.

But the tension is also substantive. Catholic social teaching is simply not libertarian. Neither, of course, are most conservatives. But where Republicans veer toward libertarianism, they will run smack into the bishops.