Saturday, July 21, 2012

Taking Another Look at the Church and Politics

This article appeared in a recent parish bulletin:

Taking Another Look at the Church and Politics

by Father Louis J. Cameli


Is the Catholic Church to political? Or, is it not political enough? What exactly is the relationship between the church and politics. If Catholics depend on ordinary print and broadcast media for their information, they will not have a complete or accurate take on this important relationship. On the other hand, official church documents can be daunting to comprehend and digest. Besides the difficulty of getting accurate information, there is another important and practical complication. Many Catholics, even very traditional ones, have a very negative reaction to any hint that someone including a bishop or a group of bishops is going to tell them how to vote. American Catholics are very American in their sense of independence as citizens and as participants in democratic processes.

In the swirl of theoretical and practical issues, we do well to step back and identify a few simple principles and facts.

Is there a Catholic vote?

Pollsters and sociologists like to identify "the Catholic vote." In fact, there is no shared or prescribed Catholic vote for a specific candidate or on a specific issue. There is, however, a Catholic vision of the world rooted in faith, a vision which shapes or ought to shape how Catholics participate in a democracy as citizens and as public servants. The heart of that vision centers on the God-given dignity of each individual, our connection or solidarity with each other, in our shared commitment to fostering life, justice, peace, and reconciliation among all people. The Catholic vision of humanity is especially sensitive to those who are vulnerable, marginalized, and neglected. The Catholic vision often appears to be contrary to many currents of contemporary culture, because it assumes the great dignity and high destiny of all human beings from conception to natural death. The Catholic vision is different because it looks at the world critically both through the lens of faith and the lens of reason.

What, in fact, does the Catholic Church want when she proclaims her social teaching and vindicates her rights in American society?

In a word, the Church wants freedom, just as other groups and individuals want and have a right to freedom in this nation. That freedom, in the context of us Catholic social teaching, has a threefold direction:

·         The freedom to profess the faith and offer worship;
·         The freedom to practice faith or, in other words, live it out in the world;
·         The freedom to contribute to the good of society in various ways, especially as this has taken shape in the United States primarily through education, health care, and social services.

What is the fundamental assumption that Catholics hold as they participate in the life of the nation?

The fundamental assumption is that faith shapes life, not just a portion or a compartment of life but the whole of life. Catholics cannot bracket their faith, scratch that. It is an indispensable source of social values and social vision. Their commitment as believers and as citizens is an integral and integrated commitment.

Following the words of Jesus, Catholics want to be salt, light, and eleven in this world.

No comments: