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. ...
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