Catholic YES, political NO!
By Hugh McNichol
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, On the Apostolate of the Laity, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on November 18, 1965).
The promulgation of Paul VI echoes loudly and clearly in the new millennium as Catholics struggle with the manner of solidifying their spiritual identities in the pluralistic world of 2007. Perhaps, the phrase from Apostolicam Actuositatem, "continuous exercise of faith, hope and charity" is best isolated to describe the continuous goal to which all Catholics aspire.
When the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council applied their widely encompassing directives in these documents, they intended to construct a guideline for activities of the laity, which, they did so with a true sense of theological and pastoral consistency. Their words while over forty years old are just as relevant to the Catholic in 2007, as they were in 1965. Very clearly, our human participation in all activities is a participation in the activities of God's plan of creation.
The American Catholic's participation in all activities is firmly rooted in the pursuit of faith, hope and charity in the same manner in which we covet the enigmatic …life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. With regularity our Catholic sensitivities often come to odds with the democratic ideals we hold so venerable as Americans. At times, the Catholic identity is a stumbling block to political appropriateness or correctness.
As a result, there are American Catholics that possess a dualistic approach and choose selective Catholicism. The convictions of religious belief are frequently sequestered from the exercises of our American democracy, and this results in a Catholic of schizophrenic tendencies. This division of faith and the inability to integrate our Catholic beliefs, with our social and political appropriateness is further exacerbating a real living of the Gospel message.
Frequently one hears faithful Catholics preface their remarks and political comments with phrases like…"Well personally I am against __________, but politically I think people have the right to choose __________."
The inability to faithfully admit belief in Catholic values such as the wrongfulness of prochoice and abortion rights is a theological abomination that should be loudly denounced. Catholic values and beliefs are not subject to personal preferences, political inclinations or social conventions…they are formed by a desire to follow Providence's plan of creation.
Philosophically and theologically, politically and socially, always and everywhere our Catholic beliefs are nonnegotiable to contradictory social or political views. Simply said, Catholics are called to a participation in the Church's ministry that is ontologically impossible to separate from our daily lives.
To be Catholic means an acceptance of all of the rules, the theological nuances, the possibility of political incorrectness as well as the openness to risk popular isolation and scorn. It is strictly a matter that relies on the correct formation of Catholic identity through proper Catholic education and participation in the Sacraments.
Forty years plus since the promulgation of the documents of Vatican II, there is a mistaken appreciation that Catholic identity involves moral and ethical pluralism regarding the Church's teachings. This erroneous inclusion of a misappropriated sense of democratic idealism is not Catholic. There is no "personal" stance applicable to "moral" issues. Developmental life and the correct practice of Catholicism demands observation of ALL of the Church's teachings, not just the particular ones we choose to observe with personal selective, "a la carte" choices.
The Holy Father rightly calls Catholics to examine their political and social views. This examination of personal theological integrity is not intended as a "papal political "statement, but rather a clear reiteration of Catholic theology. Frequently heard throughout the secular press is a concern that Benedict XVI might be trying to politically influence American Catholics as they contemplate their candidates of for the upcoming political events. Anyone that understands the true complexity of Catholic beliefs and the integral incorporation of those beliefs in the Catholic psyche…understands Benedict's purpose.
Benedict's purpose throughout his pastoral travels is to call American Catholics…rather Catholics…to stir up the theological embers of Catholic belief. Such stirring is intended not to influence…but rather to teach Catholic believers that our manifestation and expression of faith is a metaphysical and theological lifestyle that calls the believer to a full integration of our beliefs…not just those we choose as politically convenient.
Benedict's words loudly and clearly call all Catholics to continue the mission of Vatican II as well as practice our Catholic responsibilities as determined by Divine Providence.
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Hugh McNichol - Author, 302 6339348
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