Mothering Theo-Political Ideology: Natural Law, Empirical Facts, and Discourse Politics

  • Jon Kara Shields


This chapter describes the teaching practice of CanaVox, a pro-marriage social movement, examining its relationship to Catholic teaching, particularly the discourse of the common good. Having established that CanaVox’s platform is an interpretation and extension of Catholic teaching on marriage, gender essentialism, and the role of women, it examines the moral warrants and methods of self-tutelage practiced by members through an examination of the group’s syllabus of literature and leader’s guide. This selection of readings offers a flattened, partisan politicization of natural law discourse, alienated from its religious roots. A highly selective appropriation of empirical research and personal testimony is discussed as corroborative evidence in a format which seems strategically aimed at affective conditioning through affirmation, rather than engaging the public controversy with an openness to rational disagreement. As such, CanaVox encourages its participants to strengthen their identification with a raft of unreflective, politicized values unmoored from their originating ritual community, its public virtues, and authorities. The chapter concludes by noting the obligations of Catholic moral theologians and Christian ethicists drawn from this example. Ethicists have an obligation to combat political vices of condescension and inoculation to critique through making plain the ideological quality of seemingly universal rules expressed in political discourse that are in fact rooted in particular historically religious commitments. They must press for greater caution and clarity in the use of empirical research to confirm theologically based presuppositions. Most expansively, they must educate ordinary religious practitioners in norms of just political engagement and evangelization in a pluralist society, using examples and authorities drawn from their own traditions.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon Kara Shields
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of TheologyUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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