Catholic, conservative columnist and moralist extraordinaire, Joe Sobran, died last September. Perhaps I am a bit slow because it is just now that I am starting to recall how much I was influenced by Sobran's writing.
For many years I had no interest whatsoever in keeping up with politics, especially nationally, as it all appeared Machiavellian and otherwise disordered in a myriad of ways. Yet, there were changes; I am not referring to the nature of politics in D.C., but to the fact I developed an interest in practical politics and political philosophy.
I gained an interest in politics from reading of Joe Sobran’s Washington Watch column in The Wanderer (archived here). I found Sobran to be eloquent and knowledgeable about politics, ethical and social issues, and people in general. Sobran’s Washington Watch columns taught me how and what to think about politics and social problems, and they were an inspiration to significantly enlarge my understanding. With this motivation to learn, I continue to study America’s founding era, founding documents, pro-life issues, philosophy of government and political economy.
Sobran’s career in journalism was far from always being pleasant. Arrogant individuals falsely accused him of anti-Semitism. Yet Sobran kept his sense of dignity and charity. What distinguished Sobran from his detractors was his genuine goodwill. Goodwill is that indispensible trait that makes one truly human. Alas, present-day American society suffers from a shortage of goodwill.
Sobran’s political views changed over time. I did not agree with everything he wrote, specifically, his later support of anarcho-libertarianism. However, I could sympathize with his arguments against the state without accepting certain conclusions he drew from them. Nonetheless, it is difficult to find a home in modern politics when the conservative movement has degenerated into statism, Zionism and war-mongering. Sobran was morally, politically and economically right to denounce the welfare-warfare state.
The evils of modern government appear more clearly to a guileless spirit like Sobran. Sobran’s incisive criticisms of the Gulf War revealed his faithfulness to a correct understanding and application of traditional just war doctrine. Sobran’s anti-war stance was a breath of fresh air amid the throng of Catholic scholars whose fall from grace involved their active support for the corrupt political thinking of the times rather than the timeless thinking of the Church.
Sobran’s anti-war arguments reflect the consistent application of genuine pro-life ethics. Catholics, on the other hand, who are anti-abortion (as they should be) are profoundly inconsistent in their pro-life views by supporting unjust wars, all pro-Gulf War rationale notwithstanding.
Sobran’s journalism remains available online at Sobran’s. I always find it refreshing to drop in on the site and read more columns.