February 16, 2016 // Uncategorized

Politics and our Faith

Members of the working group for the Faithful Citizenship document are seen Nov. 17 during the 2015 fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Pictured are Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Conn.; Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori; San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone; Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron; and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami.

A few weeks ago, I attended a dinner in Indianapolis with the Catholic legislators of our state, along with Archbishop Tobin of Indianapolis and Bishop Doherty of Lafayette. It was an enjoyable evening, especially having the opportunity to greet several of the Catholic legislators of our diocese. In my remarks at the dinner, I reminded our elected representatives that Catholic social teaching sees politics as one of the highest forms of charity because it serves the common good. Though it may degenerate into something else, politics is meant to be a form of charity and a true service to the common good.

In my remarks, I also offered a prayer for our legislators. I remembered the words of Pope Francis: “A Christian who does not pray for those who govern is not a good Christian.” The Holy Father made that statement in light of the teaching of Saint Paul that we are to pray for those in public authority. Following Pope Francis, I prayed that our men and women in government may govern well, love their people, serve their people, and remain humble. I also prayed: “Help them to act always with honesty, integrity, and love for the truth, to serve and protect human life and dignity, the good of marriage and the family, and to have a special love and active concern for the poor and the needy in our midst.”

We are in the midst of the primary campaign season. Though the Indiana primary does not take place until May 3rd, I imagine you are following the various races, especially the contenders for the Republican and Democrat presidential nomination. I’ve watched several of the televised debates. There is an evident political polarization in our country. Political debate is healthy for society and can be helpful to voters, but, unfortunately, personal attacks and lack of civility too often detract from the substance of the debate and the discussion of important challenges facing our nation and the world.

For many years, the Bishops of the United States have sought to share Catholic teaching on political life through a series of statements issued every four years focused on “political responsibility” or “faithful citizenship.” We do so again this year. This past November, we approved a revised statement entitled, as before, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. It is not a thorough revision of the 2012 document, but an updated version of it in order to incorporate more recent teachings of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis and also to take account of recent developments in the United States in both domestic and foreign policy, listed as follows in the Introductory Note of the revised document:

• The ongoing destruction of over one million innocent human lives each year by abortion.

• Physician-assisted suicide.

• The redefinition of marriage — the vital cell of society — by the courts, political bodies, and increasingly by American culture itself.

• The excessive consumption of material goods and the destruction of natural resources, which harm both the environment and the poor.

• The deadly attacks on fellow Christians and religious minorities throughout the world.

• The narrowing definition of religious freedom, which threatens both individual conscience and the freedom of the Church to serve.

• Economic policies that fail to prioritize the poor, at home or abroad.

• A broken immigration system and a worldwide refugee crisis.

• Wars, terror, and violence that threaten every aspect of human life and dignity.

I encourage you to read prayerfully the document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, which can be found on the USCCB website. We bishops do not endorse particular political candidates. This is not our role. We do have the responsibility, however, to be teachers of the moral truths of our faith, the truths that should shape our lives and our political choices. There are many public policy issues being debated in our country that we should evaluate in light of the Gospel and the moral and social teaching of the Church, not just according to self-interest or expediency. Good moral discernment is required, discernment through one’s correctly formed conscience. Such discernment should focus on the dignity of every human being and on the pursuit of the common good. I encourage all to assess issues, political platforms, and campaigns in light of the moral truths known by faith and reason.

As Catholics, we should bring our convictions and concerns into public life. In fact, we have a responsibility to do so. Participation in political life is a moral obligation. The Catechism teaches: “It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person…. As far as possible, citizens should take an active part in public life” (#1913-1915). This includes exercising the right and responsibility of voting according to a well-formed conscience shaped by moral principles found in Sacred Scripture and Catholic moral and social teaching. This is part of truly faithful citizenship.

Besides reading and reflecting upon the document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, I also encourage you to pray for our nation during these months, asking for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us, our leaders, and our future leaders. May the Holy Spirit give us the courage to bear witness to our faith with truth and charity in the public square!


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