AN OPEN LETTER TO CATHOLIC ACTIVISTS
Deacon Keith A Fournier
(c) Third Millennium, LLC
November, 6, 2002
Dear Catholic Activist:
"Everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required..."
The Gospel of St. Luke 12:48
The results of the national elections on November 5, 2002 have totally shifted the playing field for our political participation and call to service.
They have also given us our moment as Catholic citizens.It is time for a new Catholic Action.
The 'religious right" (even though mostly well intended) was built upon --and thrived within --a "persecuted minority" model of activism. The term was used to marginalize and denigrate many well intended Christians who engaged in political activism out of good motives.
However, much of the movement was premised upon an "anti-" approach to effecting social, political and judicial change. Its emphasis was mostly on opposing the current problems and not on proposing alternatives. It spoke more often of what was wrong with the culture rather than proposing a better way and how to build a truly just social order with the principles derived from the social teaching of the Christian Church.
Some of the efforts associated with that movement were also built upon on a model of engagement with the "world" that was, at root, at odds with a Catholic worldview and founded on flawed principles of engagement.
The "principles of engagement" that motivated some of these efforts were limited at best and terribly flawed at worst. They had limited mobilizing potential. For example, the concept of "defending our rights" that permeated some of the efforts of sincere Christians, missed a deeper truth -we ultimately are called to give our rights away if it means bringing others to the Lord.
Then there was the call to secure a "place at the table". In fact, this is the model of political action that mobilized many Christians associated with the "religious right." Again, it was -at least times- well intended but limited and consequently often very ineffective.
Christians are not one more "interest group." We are, in the words of the ancient Christian manuscript, a "Letter to Diognetus" called to become the "soul of the world" We are called to carry on the redemptive work of the Lord by "going into all the word" and humanizing, transforming and elevating human society. Our purpose is to promote the common good. We serve the only eternal table, to which the entire human race is invited.
These limited visions of political participation were not only present among some of our evangelical friends. Many of the Catholic efforts at political participation were also rooted in them. Some of our efforts were first "conservative" movements which we figuratively "wrapped a rosary" around. We sometimes put proof texts from Church documents on our own political ideas.
This approach was often "outside in" rather than "inside out." It sometimes had the effect of trying to support "our" positions with the teachings of the Church. A catholic approach should first be to inform our political participation by our faith. It also should recognize the great truth of human freedom and the vast area within which prudential judgment can lead to otherwise faithful Christians disagreeing on matters of public policy. There is a hierarchy of values.
We need to always promote the truth as taught by the Church, no matter what it is "labeled" in limiting political parlance. As Francis Cardinal George said so well at his installation in Chicago, "The faith is neither liberal nor conservative, the faith is true". Things are true not BECAUSE they are Catholic; they are Catholic because they are true. And if they are true, they are true for all.
We must present a very different model. Our political participation is rooted in our baptismal vocation and geared toward serving the "common good" by promoting human life and dignity, the family, authentic human freedom and solidarity with the needy.
We must now present a redemptive model, a model of being the "soul" of the world.
We must now present a Catholic model of political participation.
THIS IS OUR MOMENT.
It is time for Catholic Christians to serve the common good and lead by proposing, modeling and building a better way.
We need to have our message and our mission clear at all times. Our spokespersons, our leaflets, our manuals, ...all must speak from the heart of the Church, be popular, understandable and defensible.
The entire framework of political activism is about to change with this election. I truly believe that this is why we have been raised up for this moment. We have ideas to PROPOSE that will advance the common good and can help to frame the future of authentic human freedom.
This is why our language, our issues, our talking points, our approach.... ALL must be unique and not a rehash of 'religious right" or simply "conservative" language and positions with Catholic clothes put over them.
The Lord has looked with mercy on our nation. Now He expects His people to reach into the world that He still "so loves" that He still "sends His only Son" through the mediation of the Church.
In this arena of politics and public policy that mediation is to be led by the lay faithful.
The mission of "Your Catholic Voice" is to "Cultivate Your Faith" and "Activate your Voice." Both are absolutely essential. It is a movement of lay Catholic citizens promoting the Common Good.
Now is the time for all faithful Catholics, other Christians and all people of faith and good will to double our prayer and roll up our sleeves of service.
Finally, we Catholic citizens have once again seen in this election the disturbing trend of unfaithful Catholics confusing the faithful and taking positions that are in error. Any public official who professes to be Catholic and takes ANY position that is at odds with the absolute truth concerning the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death is an unfaithful Catholic.
There is some also news concerning a possible reprimand of one such political figure by the Church. If it proves to be true, Catholic activists must have the right approach and attitude.
First, we must be concerned for the soul of unfaithful Catholics in public service. Their duplicity on this issue is unfaithful to their baptism, puts their salvation in jeopardy and causes scandal. We need to publicly encourage them to embrace the truth and be faithful to their baptism.
We should not be perceived as gloating or pointing the finger if they suffer a merciful rebuke from the Church. It is for their own salvation as well as essential to the promotion of authentic justice. However, the Church and her faithful sons and daughters are to be always looking for the one that has left the ninety nine. All correction is ultimately meant to lead to conversion.
Second, we need to follow this possibility very closely and be able to use it effectively to underscore the truth that the notion of a "Pro-choice" Catholic is an oxymoron. A "Pro-Choice" Catholic is an Unfaithful Catholic, period.
Some well intended Catholics have wanted to say publicly that these politicians are "Not Catholic".
That is not true.
They may be unfaithful Catholics, putting their souls in jeopardy and causing scandal by persisting in error and promoting it to others. This distinction is not about semantics, it reflects the way the Church always deals with these issues. Though active in the "temporal" order, we are sons and daughters of the Church first.
We need to pray that this action, if it occurs, and the process the Church follows, will be used by God to bring conversion to unfaithful Catholics in public life and then we should use it ourselves to bring conversion to thousands (millions) of errant Catholics, other Christians and all people of good will on this the most fundamental human rights issue of the age.
HOW we do this is vitally important. It should be done with firmness and charity. No finger pointing.
When you are entrusted with truth it ought not make you haughty but humble and magnanimous.
This is our moment. May we make it His. May we be faithful and fruitful! May we help to build an authentically just and human society where all men and women can find freedom, learn to live in solidarity and find the fulfillment of their high calling. May we serve the Church in the world by promoting the common good.
Rev. Mr. Keith A Fournier, the founder and president of "Common Good", is a constitutional lawyer. Long active in political participation, Fournier was a founder of Catholic Alliance and served as its first President. He is a pro-life and pro-family lobbyist. He was the first Executive Director of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice). He also served as an advisor to the presidential campaign of Steve Forbes. Fournier holds a Bachelors degree (B.A.) from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Philosophy and Theology, a Masters Degree (M.T.S.) in Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Pittsburgh and an Honorary Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.) from St. Thomas University. Fournier is the author of seven books on issues concerning life, faith, evangelization, ecumenism, family, political participation, public policy and cultural issues. He is a features editor for Catholic Online and the Co-Director of "Your Catholic Voice"
Your Catholic Voice
http://www.yourcatholicvoice.org CA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - Co-Director, 661 869-1000
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