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Leaving Christ on the Capitol Steps

by Fr. Robert J. Carr

One of the greatest lies in politics today is that a Catholic has the right to dismiss his faith in the political arena. Today, some bishops are excommunicating elected officials for not voting their baptismal beliefs. Superficially, the politicians may seem right and the bishops may seem wrong, but the reality is the opposite is true.

Jesus called us to the vocation of being light to the world and salt of the earth. Indeed, he made it clear that we are useless if we do not heed his words. This means more than being a good person who goes to church on Sunday. Rather it is a realization that there is truth and we have found that truth in Christ. Acting on that truth is the fruit of picking up our cross and carrying it in His footsteps. St. James (James 2) in fact, warns us that if our faith does not display itself in our actions, it is dead. He even calls anyone who rejects that teaching an 'ignoramus.' (James 2:20)

When we consider our faith something that one can easily dismiss, then we do not really consider it truth. Therefore, the perspective that someone can leave his Catholicism at the bottom of the Capitol steps is as silly as a biologist politician saying he does not believe he needs to bring his understanding of the body into the political arena; he then moves to disband the FDA.

Our tolerance of those who walk that middle ground of living a lukewarm faith in Congress and in our respective state political arenas has led us down a deadly path. Here in Massachusetts, judges appointed by an Episcopal Governor, William Weld, and later a Catholic, A. Paul Cellucci, demand gay marriage. Cellucci in fact is an alumnus of Boston College. Ironically, this is in the same state where many hold judges who demanded court-ordered busing in the lowest of esteem.

We as a race can never afford to reject the law of God for long. Yet, now as a country we are in serious danger because we have tolerated those who rejected this same law. We allowed ourselves to commit the Catholic act of two-stepping. Two-stepping is a term coming from the anonymous movements where someone does the first of twelve steps, acknowledging he is powerless over his addiction, and the last step, seeking to invite others to meetings. He ignores the other ten steps. The process for him becomes ineffective.

We invite people to be Catholic while tolerating their rejection of Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. We do that to our own peril individually, as a church and as a nation.

The Bishop who turns to a Catholic politician and demands he either bring his faith to the political arena or he stop practicing his faith is not strong arming the elected official. He is, rather, calling him to understand that there is a certain truth and if he does not live it, he will make choices that will bring this nation down. He is calling him off the Catholic fence.

Further, when the politician fails to bring his faith to this democracy he, by default, silences the voice of the Catholics in the democratic sphere. Democracy does not work if the electorate does not understand truth. Leaving the teachings of Christ at the door means you enter the room carrying falsehood.

Sailors will tell you of two types of navigational systems--relative and true bearing. Relative bearing is that which is strictly based on the ship. 000 degrees relative is the bow and 180 degrees relative is the stern. Navigate using only relative bearings and you will go around in circles until you run out of fuel. The other system is true bearings. 000 is true North and 180 true South, this system alone can navigate you across the sea.

The Catholic politicians who reject their faith are like the captain who navigates using relative bearings. He will endanger and eventually sink the whole vessel; others will see him as a fool.

The Catholic who believes he can live his faith outside of congress and reject it inside is the lukewarm believer whom Jesus spews from his mouth.(Rev. 3:16) He does not truly believe; he does not follow Christ. He is neither hot nor cold. His faith is dead. He is not serving anyone well, including the living God and the body politic.


Fr. Robert Carr is presently the Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. A United States Navy Veteran (Sonar Technician), he is also a published writer and a former radio producer and announcer. Ordained in 1993 he serves both the English and Spanish speaking populations in Boston.

Fr. Carr is from a writing family, he is the son of the late Boston Globe writer Robert B. Carr. His brother Brian is an Executive Editor for Lycos.

He resides and ministers in Boston at the Cathedral Rectory. Currently, he is working on a book of spiritual reflections based on his spiritual journey at the mother Church of the Archdiocese of Boston, the hardest hit diocese in the sex abuse crisis.


Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston  MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - parochial vicar, 617 542-5682



Catholic Politicians

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