The impact upon me
In light my recent calls urging those who disagreed with JPII's teachings to recognize that these are the Church's teachings and try to prayfully consider them, I thought it would be good to briefly ennumerate those issues upon with JPII and the Church have impacted my views.
As those who either know me personally or read this blog know, I'm politically pretty conservative (yes, really!), and despite the hopes of one of my aunt's, I have been so since, well, elementary school (she thought I'd 'grow up' in college). However, my reversion and the reading it prompted forced me to reexamine some of my strongly-held views. For instance....
I used to be a strong advocate of the death penalty, but no more. Of course, I continue to believe that the death penalty is not wrong per se, but I see no reason why it needs to be used as much as it is in our country. With our prisons, there is little danger of criminals posing a threat to others, and hence there is no need to execute them. I think that my previous belief was dependent on a sense of justice which was inadequate in two ways: first, mistaking justice for vengence; and second, thinking that the punishment had to fit the crime in an overly-literal sense (we don't kidnap the children of kidnappers, do we?).
Another example: I used to be an advocate of completely doing away with a government-funded welfare system, but now I recognize that we have a duty not just as individuals but as a society to take care of the less-fortunate, and while this should happen at as local a level as possible (the principle of subsidiarity), and with as much private organization involvement as possible (churches, civic groups, etc.), there will always be people who fall through the cracks, and we need need to care for them. Hence, I do believe that there needs to be a social safety net of at least a minimal level.
Relatedly, I'm much less of an individualist; understanding the Church's teaching on human nature has led me to realize that I am intrinsically ordered to relationships with other people, and that these relationships are not merely "add-ons". I think that "rugged individualism" can have a proper understanding, but more often than not it has an improper understanding, which leads us to focus too much on ourselves ("my rights!") and not enough on others (my duties).
Another example: I'm not the laissez-faire capitalist I used to be. I've come to recognize that the free market system requires some government controls to ensure that human dignity is always respected. While I still hold many of the concrete policy views I used to, they have a new intellectual foundation which is more adequate to human dignity.
So, for those of you who wonder, JPII and the Church he led in Jesus' name have impacted my views on controverted issues of our time.