Speaker addresses conservatism and liberalism in light of Catholic teaching


Photo by: Lily Fitzgibbons

On Wednesday, Oct. 10, the Political Science Association hosted a lecture by department head Stephen Krason, who holds a doctorate in political science, evaluating liberalism and conservatism of the past and present according to Catholic social teaching.

Krason spoke to a full classroom of students and faculty on the topic of political ideologies and Church teaching, asking the question: is it still possible for a Catholic to line up with liberalism?

He credited his inspiration for the lecture topic – about which he has previously written two books – to an article from Catholic historian James Hitchcock in the 1970s entitled “Catholics and Liberals: Decline of Détente.” This article prompted Krason to look into the various political platforms and evaluate how liberalism and conservatism lived up to the Church teachings laid out in the catechism and various encyclicals.

In order to analyze various political platforms, Krason used the 2012 election to show the Democrat and Republican parties’ stances on certain issues. He outlined three positions: old liberalism, new liberalism and conservativism.

According to Krason’s analysis, new liberalism is the furthest from the teachings of the Catholic Church since it violates principles such as respecting the family, subsidiarity (a Catholic teaching that political actions should be taken at a local or familial level if possible, rather than by a central authority) and other aspects of the natural law. Old liberalism is slightly better but is still significantly different from the expectations of Catholicism.

Conservativism, Krason resolved, is the most in line with Catholic teaching since it agrees in almost all of the major areas of concern such as the environment, immigration, marriage and economics, and it is only contrary to Catholic ideals in smaller areas such as applications of capitalism.

“What I found most interesting was how (Krason) went into old liberalism and new liberalism and the difference, as well as how conservativism was connected to classical liberalism,” said junior Mari Velez. “Bringing attention to the smaller details of the different positions makes me want to look more into it.”

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