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By: Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, L.L.C.


“Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life”

“It is a question of the lay Catholic’s duty to be morally coherent, found within one’s conscience, which is one and indivisible. “There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called ‘spiritual life’, with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called ‘secular’ life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture.

The branch, engrafted to the vine which is Christ, bears its fruit in every sphere of existence and activity. In fact, every area of the lay faithful’s lives, as different as they are, enters into the plan of God, who desires that these very areas be the ‘places in time’ where the love of Christ is revealed and realized for both the glory of the Father and service of others. Every activity, every situation, every precise responsibility – as, for example, skill and solidarity in work, love and dedication in the family and the education of children, service to society and public life and the promotion of truth in the area of culture – are the occasions ordained by providence for a ‘continuous exercise of faith, hope and charity’ (Apostolicam actuositatem, 4)».[25]

Living and acting in conformity with one’s own conscience on questions of politics is not slavish acceptance of positions alien to politics or some kind of confessionalism, but rather the way in which Christians offer their concrete contribution so that, through political life, society will become more just and more consistent with the dignity of the human person.”



This morning I opened my oldest prayer book. It is the day after the Holy See released its long anticipated instructions to catholic politicians and catholic citizens on political participation.

There it was, still wrapped in the saran wrap that my mother had placed it in. She did so to “preserve it for generations” she said when she gave it to me. “It” was a “holy card” that bore the image of “John Fitzgerald Kennedy.” These words were inscribed under the image: 35th President of the United States, Born May 29, 1917, Inaugurated January 20, 1961, Died November 22, 1963”.

On the back of the card is a passage attributed to St. Ambrose “We have loved him during life, let us not abandon him, until we have conducted him by our prayers into the house of the Lord”. Then there follows these prayers “May Jesus have mercy on the soul of John Fitzgerald Kennedy” and “Incline Thine ear, O Lord, unto our prayers, wherein we humbly pray Thee to show Thy mercy upon the soul of Thy servant JOHN, whom Thou hast commanded to pass out of this world, that Thou wouldst place him in the region of peace and light, and bid him to be a partaker with Thy Saints. Through Christ our Lord. Amen”

I vividly recall that fateful day, November 22, 1963, when the nation stood still. I was an elementary school student at St. Matthews Catholic School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. I was in my morning class when the announcement came over the P.A. system “President Kennedy has been shot”. We were all shocked and many began to cry.

Sister led us all, hands folded in prayer, across the parking lot to the Church. As we walked we prayed the customary “ejaculatory prayer”, an older Catholic custom of repeating short phrases praising or imploring God’s help and asking for the intercession of the saints. We dutifully kept our eyes focused on Sister, as she led us in prayer and helped us maneuver across the parking lot. Once inside the beautiful old Church sanctuary, the cries were growing louder, emanating from the students already assembled. There we joined the entire school, local parents and our pastor, in heartfelt prayer for “our” President.

That is how we all viewed the late President. After all, he was “ours”, the first Catholic President in American history. We were rightly proud. That day we were devastated when the dreadful announcement came informing all of us that “President Kennedy is dead”

That defining moment forever changed my personal life. I believe it also changed American history, particularly for Catholics. To this day my mother still keeps the “scrapbook” I made where I kept all of the pictures of the motorcade and of the unbelievable events. I resolved to do all I could to be a good citizen and a good Catholic. This man was a monumental figure, a symbol, for a whole generation like me.

Unlike some contemporary Catholic cultural commentators, I am not a former Baptist or an evangelical Protestant convert to the Catholic faith. I am a ...

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