I’m sure that liberals do this to some extent too, but I’m always fascinated by how conservative intellectuals can find ways to take whatever the basis for their beliefs is — free markets, Burkean bells, Catholicism, you name it — and turn it into down-the-line support for Republican policies and opposition to Democratic policies. This is Robert George, the Princeton professor whom Andrew Sullivan claims would outlaw masturbation if he thought it was feasible:
Last spring, George was invited to address an audience that included many bishops at a conference in Washington. He told them with typical bluntness that they should stop talking so much about the many policy issues they have taken up in the name of social justice. They should concentrate their authority on “the moral social” issues like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex marriage, where, he argued, the natural law and Gospel principles were clear. To be sure, he said, he had no objections to bishops’ “making utter nuisances of themselves” about poverty and injustice, like the Old Testament prophets, as long as they did not advocate specific remedies. They should stop lobbying for detailed economic policies like progressive tax rates, higher minimum wage and, presumably, the expansion of health care — “matters of public policy upon which Gospel principles by themselves do not resolve differences of opinion among reasonable and well-informed people of good will,” as George put it.[….]
Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he wrote an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal arguing that the attack was not necessarily unjust and might even be a moral obligation. “On the evidence that Hillary Clinton voted for the war on and George Bush went to war on, I thought it was justified,” he told me.
The “rights” to education and health care are another matter, George told his seminar. “Who is supposed to provide education or health care to whom?” George asked. “Health care and education are things that you have to pay for. Resources are always finite,” he went on. “Is it better for education and health care to be provided by governments under socialized systems or by private providers in markets or by some combination?” Those questions, George said, “go beyond the application of moral principles. You can get all the moral principles dead right and not have an answer to any of those questions.”
But the argument for banning abortion and embryo-destructive research is “straightforward,” George told me several times.
Catholic bishops want to support Republicans because they themselves are conservatives. So they find some supposed intellectual luminary, some Daniel Plainview Chair of Christian Ethics, to cook up some high-minded clap-trap about why reproductive rights and stem cell research and teh gay are awful but the death penalty is okay, war is okay, and fucking the poor is okay.