"Rendering Unto Caesar: The Catholic Political Vocation"
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver delivered an address, Feb. 23, at the University of Toronto:
.... I think Catholics and I mean here mainly American Catholics need to remember four simple things in the months ahead.
First, all political leaders draw their authority from God. We owe no leader any submission or cooperation in the pursuit of grave evil. In fact, we have the duty to change bad laws and resist grave evil in our public life, both by our words and our non-violent actions. The truest respect we can show to civil authority is the witness of our Catholic faith and our moral convictions, without excuses or apologies.
Second, in democracies, we elect public servants, not messiahs. It's worth recalling that despite two ugly wars, an unpopular Republican president, a fractured Republican party, the support of most of the American news media and massively out-spending his opponent, our new president actually trailed in the election polls the week before the economic meltdown. This subtracts nothing from the legitimacy of his office. It also takes nothing away from our obligation to respect the president's leadership.
But it does place some of today's talk about a "new American mandate" in perspective. Americans, including many Catholics, elected a gifted man to fix an economic crisis. That's the mandate. They gave nobody a mandate to retool American culture on the issues of marriage and the family, sexuality, bioethics, religion in public life and abortion. That retooling could easily happen, and it clearly will happen but only if Catholics and other religious believers allow it. It's instructive to note that the one lesson many activists on the American cultural left learned from their loss in the 2004 election -- and then applied in 2008 was how to use a religious vocabulary while ignoring some of the key beliefs and values that religious people actually hold dear.
Here's the third thing to remember. It doesn't matter what we claim to believe if we're unwilling to act on our beliefs. What we say about our Catholic faith is the easy part. What we do with it shapes who we really are. Many good Catholics voted for President Obama. Many voted for Senator McCain. Both parties have plenty of decent people in their ranks.
But when we hear that 54 percent of American Catholics voted for President Obama last November, and that this somehow shows a sea change in their social thinking, we can reasonably ask: How many of them practice their faith on a regular basis? And when we do that, we learn that most practicing Catholics actually voted for Senator McCain. Of course, that doesn't really tell us whether anyone voted for either candidate for the right reasons. Nobody can do a survey of the secret places of the human heart. But it does tell us that numbers can be used to prove just about anything. We won't be judged on our knowledge of poll data. We'll be judged on whether we proved it by our actions when we said "I am a Catholic, and Jesus Christ is Lord."
Here's the fourth and final thing to remember, and there's no easy way to say it. The Church in the United States has done a poor job of forming the faith and conscience of Catholics for more than 40 years. And now we're harvesting the results in the public square, in our families and in the confusion of our personal lives. I could name many good people and programs that seem to disprove what I just said. But I could name many more that do prove it, and some of them work in Washington.
The problem with mistakes in our past is that they compound themselves geometrically into the future unless we face them and fix them. The truth is, the American electorate is changing, both ethnically and in age. And unless Catholics have a conversion of heart that helps us see what we've become that we haven't just "assimilated" to American culture, but that we've also been absorbed and bleached and digested by it then we'll fail in our duties to a new generation and a new electorate. And a real Catholic presence in American life will continue to weaken and disappear....
Lane Core Jr. CIW P Fri. 02/27/09 07:55:55 PM
Categorized as Political & Religious.