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Monday, November 19, 2012

Post-Election Faithful Citizens

Now that the 2012 elections are behind us, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago may be tempted to put Faithful Citizenship on the back burner for four more years. 

Catholics are called, rather, to form their consciences as faithful citizens in an on-going and systematic way.  Conscience formation is a life-long project. 

While one can individually study Faithful Citizenship, going to Sunday Mass represents the preferred way for Catholics to form their conscience, for we go to Mass not as autonomous individuals, but rather as the People of God

Reading about the bond of friendship and mutual admiration that occurred between Republican Governor Chris Christie and President Barak Obama while assisting victims of Hurricane Sandy got me thinking about some challenges which will face Catholics as faithful citizens now that the elections are over.  It was refreshing to see these two men put aside their political differences and work together to provide public service to those in need.  Faithful citizens can find ways to work together for the common good.

It troubles me, however, when I hear colleagues at work despair about the future of our country simply because their particular candidate failed to secure office. Writing off elected officials ignores the fundamental principles of Faithful Citizenship and impoverishes one’s faith.   

Paragraph 14 of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizen addresses this issue systematically and with sharp clarity:

As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group. When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths. We are called to bring together our principles and our political choices, our values and our votes, to help build a better world.

The Bishops present a litany of ways Catholics can help build a better world through civic engagement.  Here, I name just three:

First, Catholics need to support and stand up for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).  CCHD addresses the root causes of poverty by providing community organizing and economic development grants.  In supporting CCHD, Catholics can make a difference because each and every funded group follows Catholic Social Teaching while fighting to overcome structural sin and injustice.

Second, sign up as soon as possible for Catholics Confront Global Poverty, (CCGP). Catholic Relief Services, the USCCB’s arm to end global poverty, does the Church a great service by researching domestic and international policy issues which could either benefit or harm millions of at-risk individuals both domestically and internationally with CCGP. After signing up for CCGP, you will receive action alerts and opportunities to communicate and influence your elected officials with the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

Finally, learn more and try to understand the important issues involving the Department of Health and Human Services Mandate and its implications for religious freedom. 

If you are interested in helping the Archdiocese make Faithful Citizenship a year-round program, please contact Thomas M. Howard.

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Comments

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 8:23 PM

Mr. Howard,
Thank you for the article. It challenges my beliefs, so I want to respond honestly to it. I can fully appreciate your challenge that Catholic citizens stay involved instead of being put off or marginalized on politics. However, stating that we can study, "Faithful Citizenship" by going to Sunday Mass and is the preferred way Catholics form their consciences is partly true. Faithful Citizenship flows out of the fruits of having the privelage in a free society to attend Mass. Our conscience is formed there but going to Mass is not a way to study "faithful citizenship." Through our churches, many different peer group activities are usually available and faithful citizenship might be best put into action there. For example, I am a Knight of Columbus and they are all about providing ample opportuinity for spiritual work that dually improves your faithful citizenship.
Your points on Governor Christie and President Obama are well taken. Hopefully their cooperation is something other lawmakers notice as their partisan politics often keeps our very own secular politicians from any type of faithful citizenship.
Your response to those you work with about the results of this election concerns me. I for one listened to my Bishops and prayed right up until voting time. I found I could not vote for a democrat after a lifetime of voting democrat. The reason being two democratic platforms go directly against Catholic social teaching. These being Marriage and the Sanctity of Life. Strangest vote I've ever had to cast because it was like choosing the lesser of the two parties opposed to Catholic social teaching.
The nation has spoken and we move on. Nothing ends here. So I agree with you on this that Catholics need to stay involved not only in our churches, but in the public square. We have a Catholic voice and its up to us to utilize it the best way we can right here in our beloved City of Chicago.

timothy c.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 6:30 PM

Thank you Tom for all the incredible information and resources you include in your blog. The information on Faithful Citizenship gives me hope that we are moving in the right direction and building upon our faith and compassion for the well being of our neighbor.

Carmen P.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 6:26 PM

Number One has to be educating Catholic voters on the non-negotiable issues. Life must never be compromised. Marriage must be understood and strengthened. The Church's social mission can only be carried out in the context of actual Catholic teaching.
Putting CCHD at the top of the list demonstrates a lack of recognition that eradicating poverty cannot happen unless we respect every human life. Some of the CCHD recipients do not share this Catholic value and therefore should not qualify as recipients of our donations.
Until all Catholic institutions embody respect for life, we will not succeed in building a culture of life, an absolute necessity if we are to save America.

Ann S.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 6:00 PM

Thanks for the thoughtful article. I'm sure that I was not the only one experiencing election fatigue! Being able to look at these issues through the eyes of your faith, rather than through the lens of a particular political party, is an important thing we can do to have important conversations moving forward.

Anthony V.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 5:05 PM

Thank you, Tom. I suspect your Archbishop must be happy to have you on his team. The Church needs all of us to be wholeheartedly engaged in significanat discussions of Catholic Social teachings. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Jan K.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 4:32 PM

I wonder that Mr. Howard's first suggestion is to support the CCHD. While many good programs receive CCHD grants, over the years and in dioceses across the country, money has been mishandled and has come dangerously close to supporting sinful means justified only by their good ends. It seems to me the first steps should be: to continue to form our consciences by reading the Catechism and listening to our priests and bishops; to engage in the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy; to give of our time, talents and treasure to the charitable work of the Church; to work to ensure just ends are met through just means, and if we find a compromise with evil therein, work tirelessly to set up alternatives.

Ania M.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 4:16 PM

At Sunday Mass the week before the election, we sang: IN CHRIST THERE IS NO EAST OR WEST.... I couldn't help but think of the divisiveness of the campaign and how it has affected our church and country, regardless of political affiliation. Reading this blog gives me great hope. Our church is a BIG church, embracing us ALL, in spite of our differences and calling us ALL to communion at one table. Kudos to anyone who challenges us to see beyond the horizons of east, west, red, or blue and get back to the work of servanthood in Christ.

Juliana H.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 3:41 PM

Thanks for highlighting what happens when we work together and how the trash-talking dissolves when we start focusing on the people who are in need! Solidarity and justice, compassion and mercy should be the true focus. Hurricane Sandy reminds people of this! Thanks for your voice and passion!

Amanda T.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 1:51 PM

While Mr. Howard does well to remind us that "our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth", I wonder if there is something misleading in his suggestions. In the introductory paragraphs of the document on Faithful Citizenship,the bishops lay out the summarize the spirit of the document:
"We are members of a community of faith with a long tradition of teaching and action on human life, and dignity, marriage and family, justice and peace, care for creation, and the common good. As Americans, we are also blessed with religious liberty which safeguards our right to bring our principles and moral convictions into the public arena. These Constitutional freedoms need to be both exercised and protected, as some seek to mute the voices or limit the freedoms of religious believers and religious institutions... The Church through its institutions must be free to carry out its mission and contribute to the common good without being pressured to sacrifice fundamental teachings and moral principles."
We would be blind to not recognize the trend to openly attack these traditions in our culture and to deride them in political discourse. By not recognizing these trends, we are allowing false anti-humanist values to take root. No political party is solely responsible for such trends, but we, as Catholic citizens, should be thinking critically about how to promote charity in truth and not be distracted by a desire for political unity at truth's expense.

Katie D.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 12:44 PM

I know you didn't exactly say this in your blog but I like how you are steering the focus away from the marriage debate and toward both local poverty and global poverty. It seems like a huge waste of resources (money and time) to focus on the marriage debate rather than using money and time to help fight poverty.

Ann H.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 12:22 PM

Tom, thanks for your comments. While I do not align myself or the Christian faith with any political party, which would be idolatry as Scott pointed out, I must, as a Christian, align myself against political parties that embrace intrinsic evils. There is no sugar coating the reality that the Democratic party now embraces positions on issues that no well informed Christian should support. Supporting a pro-choice, anti-marriage, anti-religious freedom candidate, like President Obama, is to materially (if not formally) cooperate in those intrinsic evils.

Nick C.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 11:23 AM

The CCHD is involved in funding a number of organizations that support abortion, birth control, and homosexuality. As Mr. Howard points out, we are first and foremost faithful citizens of God's Church. Thus, we defend God's rights. We defend human life at all stages of development. We pray for conversion from contraception. We uphold the Christian family. As the Bishops say, we must be guided by our moral convictions, and those moral convictions must be formed by God's law - which is clear in matters of abortion, contraception, and homosexuality. If we wish to build a better world through civic engagement, I suggest following the model of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who always remained in line with Catholic social doctrine.

Johanna M.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 11:11 AM

I agree that we Catholics must continuously strive to form our consciences. But if we continue to ignore the defense of the most important moral truths of life and liberty, how can we truly claim we are properly forming our consciences? There is no specific political party that represents the Catholic faith perfectly. And I am all for working together for the common good but let’s call a spade a spade- the party of Obama is a party seeking to destroy the Catholic Church and all that it holds to be good, true, and beautiful. (I purposefully use the phrase “party of Obama” because I know that all democrats are not on board with his vision). Tom, I am concerned with your obtuse understanding of the ramifications of the elections. This election should be a wake-up call for all Catholics, whether they supported Obama or not. Hiding our heads in the sand or in CCHD will neither restore our religious liberty nor bring about a greater dignity for human life in our political discourse (and CCHD may even be subverting our efforts). I am not afraid and I am not despairing. I am more firmly committed to spreading the truth and love of God. I believe this will be a time of great purification for the Catholic Church in America and pray for the conversion of those who, like the pharisees, distract from the truth.

Mary F.

Monday, November 19, 2012 8:15 PM

Tom Thank you for your message of hope and encouragement amidst all the fear tactics used when a prefered party loses... We all need to continue to seek information on issues and stay in conversation with legislators. I most recently signed up for occasional newsletters from the CCI (Catholic Conference of Illinois and also Catholic Charaties USA as a way to stay better informed. Thanks for your guidance

Karen W.

Monday, November 19, 2012 5:38 PM

This article couldn't be more timely. I saw this exact same bipartisan negativity on social media, so this article is a breath of fresh air. This should serve as a great reminder that faithful citizenship and our religious/moral obligations aren't a product of a particular person holding office, our duty to serve the greater good should be a constant.Catholicism isn't a party it's a way of life!

Enrique S.

Monday, November 19, 2012 4:24 PM

A nice piece that challenges chicago catholics to not back down from, "faithful citizenship." I really agree with the point that is dangerous for catholics to invest in any one secular candidate of either party because truly no political candidate is aligned with our values. I think, however, many catholics this election felt impelled to go against the democratic party because they are fully behind gay marriage and fully support the rights to abortion. Following out of this, we want to support our bishops and join them in what they seen as attacks on religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Hopefully through our engaged dissent, our catholic values will carry a little more weight in future discussions with moral implications in this country.
I don't think writing off elected officials necessarily impoverishes one's faith but threatens to leave them isolated from a political process that is better off with their involvement. Thanks for the though provoking read.

timothy c.

Monday, November 19, 2012 3:09 PM

Mr. Howard offers a sound reminder for Catholics about the nature of faithful citizenship. I am reminded of the opening chapters of St. Augustine's City of God where he attempts to help his fellow Christians put into perspective the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410. We, indeed, must remind one another that "our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth."

However, I wonder if there is something misleading in his suggestions. In the introductory paragraphs of the document on Faithful Citizenship, in a single voice, the bishops of the United States lay out the underlining thesis:
"The statement lifts up our dual heritage as both faithful Catholics and American citizens. We are members of a community of faith with a long tradition of teaching and action on human life, and dignity, marriage and family, justice and peace, care for creation, and the common good. As Americans, we are also blessed with religious liberty which safeguards our right to bring our principles and moral convictions into the public arena. These Constitutional freedoms need to be both exercised and protected, as some seek to mute the voices or limit the freedoms of religious believers and religious institutions. Catholics have the same rights and duties as others to participate fully in public life. The Church through its institutions must be free to carry out its mission and contribute to the common good without being pressured to sacrifice fundamental teachings and moral principles."
We would be blind to not recognize some of these traditions coming under open attack in our culture and openly derided in political discourse. I would argue that without sound evaluation of these trends, we are allowing false anti-humanist values to take root. No political party is solely responsible for such trends, but we, as Catholic citizens, should be thinking critically about how to promote charity in truth and not be distracted by a desire for political unity at truth's expense.
Additionally, like the poor widow, who gave all she had, we are called to live out charity with no limits. For this reason, I wonder that Mr. Howard's suggests to first support the CCHD. I know many good organizations and programs receive their grants, but over the years and in diocese across the country, money has been mishandled and has come dangerously close to supporting sinful means justified only in the purposed aim of accomplishing a social good. Again, these missteps are on all our shoulders, as Catholics. It seems to me, the first step would be then: to continue to form our consciences by reading the Catechism and listening to our priests priests and bishops; to engage in the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy; to give of our time, talents and treasure to the charitable work of the Church; to work to ensure just ends are met through just means, and if we find compromise therein work tirelessly to set up alternatives.

Katie D.

Monday, November 19, 2012 2:59 PM

Thank you much, Tom, for your encouraging and thoughtful post. I've heard it said that true democracy is the work that takes place after the votes are cast. The notion that a Catholic agenda is achieved through the election of a particular candidate or party is simply misguided. A truly Catholic approach to governance is one that brings people of all parties and social groups around the table to create a polity rooted in the inherent human dignity of all persons. Thus Catholic "politics" is not rooted in party but in perspective -- it is the witness of our faith by other means.

Gregory D.

Monday, November 19, 2012 2:44 PM

Faithful Citizenship and the New Evangelization compliment one another. We should see Sunday Mass for what it is an opportunity to be sent to people and persons different from us.

Van B.

Monday, November 19, 2012 2:20 PM

The fact that neither of the major political parties fully conforms to all of the teachings of the Church should not cause us to neglect the political process. As Tom points out in his quote from FCFC “our participation should help transform the party to which we belong” We should continue to be active participants in the political process also.

John B.

Monday, November 19, 2012 1:26 PM

Thank you for the reminder that Faithful Citizenship must become a constate state of awareness that helps us make choices everyday.

Nancy P.

Monday, November 19, 2012 1:09 PM

At the same time, let's not be arrogant in dismissing the concerns of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Rather, let's work hard to understand the causes of their concerns, and work hard to remedy those causes. that is true collaboration for the common good, and broadens our own perspectives as well.

Mary-Louise H.

Monday, November 19, 2012 11:41 AM

An excellent point. As Catholics we stand for issues championed by both parties so we shouldn't align with either - but with the issues.

Chris W.

Monday, November 19, 2012 11:29 AM

Great job, Tom! FCFC definitely has to be a 24/7/365 activity! Prudence and conscience are most-definitely a life-long work and unless we cultivate them in our daily lives we will not be able to put them at the service of our civic participation. I, too, am frustrated by some of the post-election rhetoric. I think as Americans we can be tempted to take elections out of their proper context and elevate them to cosmic (even apocalyptic) importance. Elections are important, but we do not - cannot - put our ultimate trust in a political process, candidate, set of laws, or party platform. To do so is to commit idolatry, plain and simple, and can only lead to despair. Our hope can only come from the God who created and sustains us in love, revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ and remains with us in Spirit and sacrament. Keep up the great work, OPJ!!!

Scott M.

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