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By Keith A Fournier

4/17/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

We do not check our faith at the door of our participation in the stuff of real life, whether that be art, entertainment, culture, economics, or even politics.

After Rick Santorum suspended his Presidential campaign I received numerous E-Mails.This comment worried me and prompted this article, "Politics saves no one.  My focus will return to the religious/spiritual." We are called to integrated Christian lives of moral coherence.


By Keith A Fournier

Catholic Online (

4/17/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: vote, catholic vote, faithful citizenship, common good, solidarity, subsidiarity, Right to life, abortion, religious freedom, free exercise, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Catholic Action, Political participation, Keith A Fournier

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - In the wake of Rick Santorum's decision to suspend his Presidential campaign I have received numerous E-Mails and calls expressing deep disappointment. I understand it quite well - in fact I share the sentiment.

Those who have read the many articles I wrote on the Santorum candidacy know of my friendship with - and admiration for - the former Senator and his family. I finally felt we had a morally coherent candidate running for the US presidency at a crucial time in our national history.

However, the following comment in an E mail from a man who, partly due to my articles, involved himself deeply in the Santorum campaign worried me and prompted this article. He ended with these words, "Politics saves no one.  My focus will return to the religious/spiritual."

I responded, "Yes, you are right, politics saves no-one. However, it is a part of culture and we belong in that turf in our participation in the continuing mission of the Lord entrusted to His Body, the Church, of which we are members.

"If there was ever a need for Catholics in the public square, this is it. Please remember that faith is meant to inform culture and our very ability to share this faith in the public square requires us to exercise our faithful citizenship."

On Thursday, April 12, 2012, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released an outstanding letter defending the First Freedom, Religious Freedom, entitled "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty"

Under the courageous leadership of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Designate William Lori and all the US Bishops, we have been mobilized like never before. Catholics in the United States are rising up in a Tide of Resistance to the unjust actions of the Obama Administration. We are protecting a fundamental human right, religious freedom.

We know that the most fundamental right, the Right to Life, has been denied to over fifty million of our youngest neighbors as a result of the scourge of legal abortion in the United States.

Any Nation which allows the intentional killing of its young in the first home of the womb and calls that intrinsically evil action a "right" has lost its soul and jeopardizes its future.

The Natural Law, written on every human heart and available through the exercise of reason, confirms that it is wrong to take innocent human life. Medical science confirms what our conscience has confirmed, the child in the womb is one of us, our neighbor, and it is always wrong to kill our neighbor.

We witness a growing loss of recognition of the dignity of life in a dehumanized culture where persons are treated as property throughout the continuum of life - from the earliest embryonic stage into the senior years.

We witness a growing threat to marriage and the family and society founded upon it. The truth about marriage is also confirmed in the Natural Law. The effort to force us to call what can never be a marriage to be a marriage under threat of punitive sanctions is another example of the rise of tyranny.

We are faced with global threats to peace, an escalation of violence around the world and many other pressing social and global concerns. We cannot - we must not - withdraw into some form of religious ghetto.

We are living under what Pope Benedict XVI called a "Dictatorship of Relativism". There  is a wholesale effort to deny the existence of anything objectively true which can be known by all and form the basis of our common life. This leads to the loss of true freedom. In fact, as a result, we are teetering on the brink of anarchy.

The effort to paint our moral positions as "religious" and force us to stay behind our Church doors is virulently anti-Christian and unconstitutional. The Catholic Christian by virtue of Baptism is called to a life of Participation. The faith is not something we "put on and off" like clothing depending upon which sphere of life we are in. It is to inform all of our lives - to change the way we view reality and the way we live it!

We do not check our faith at the door of our participation in the "stuff" of real life, whether that be art, entertainment, culture, economics, or even politics.Catholics could determine the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election in the United States. That is if we act in a manner which, in the words of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is "morally coherent."

That poignant phrase, "morally coherent", was used in an instruction released in 2002 entitled a "Doctrinal note on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political life". 

This Letter was directed to "the Bishops of the Catholic Church and, in a particular way, to Catholic politicians and all lay members of the faithful called to participate in the political life of democratic societies." The phrase is also found in the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" sections which pertain to the political participation of Catholics. (See, e.g. #565-574):

"The social doctrine of the Church is not an intrusion into the government of individual countries. 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".

"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."

The Catholic Church as an institution does not endorse specific political candidates. However, the Church does call her members to inform their conscience and then exercise their faithful citizenship in a morally coherent manner.

We must not remain silent as the Nation we love continues down the wrong path. American culture stumbles, drunken on the false notion of freedom as giving some people a "right" to kill the innocent, divorced from norms to guide the exercise of human choice and govern our behavior. In addition, the culture denigrates the beauty of marital love as it turns people into objects of use in the name of "sexual freedom".

I do not consider myself first a "conservative". I am certainly not a "liberal" or "progressive", within the current meaning of those terms. I am a Catholic. I affirm the classical Christian assertion that there is a law written on every human heart which can be known by the exercise of reason and should inform our positive or civil law. It is the foundation upon which a truly free society must be built.

We Catholics also affirm another existential and objective truth; human persons are by nature social. We cannot be truly happy, pursue happiness, or even be fully free without one another. We were made for relationships. This has implications in every area of life, including economics and the market.

We have an obligation in solidarity to those in need. It is elevated in the face of growing threats to their wellbeing. We are also aware of the struggles faced by our fellow citizens as the economic life of our nation teeters in a growing financial crisis and we must act as a result.

We insist that economics is not in the first instance about capital, it is about human persons. A truly free economic system recognizes that freedom is a good of the person. Only human persons can be free because we are capable of making free choices.

That is the reason recent social teachings of the Church have extolled the potential of the market economy and the free market system; it has the better chance to promote human flourishing and open the door to human advancement. That is if we recognize that the market was made for man and now man for the market.

We really are our brother and sisters keeper. We have an obligation to one another. That is what is meant by solidarity. How that truth works its way into public and economic policy leaves room for the application of prudential judgment. It must also respect the principle of subsidiarity. 

We also insist upon the primacy of moral values at the foundation of our life together in human society. The notion of separating "social" or "moral" issues from "economic" issues reveals a failure to recognize the moral basis of any truly free society. 

Catholics are not anti-government. We arrive at smaller government, bottom up government, not because government is bad, but because government begins with the family and moves out from there.Good government should support the family as the first government and defer to it. Government  should also take place first at the level closest to the need and any government beyond that should provide assistance. This is how the principle of subsidiarity should operate.  

All government should respect human dignity, foster ingenuity, provide incentive, promote and reward creativity and innovation, expand participation, provide for private ownership, promote mediating institutions and foster human flourishing and advancement. In other words, serve the common good.

Many Catholics were deluded by the candidate Barack Obama in his last campaign. In his rhetoric he used language which sounded as though he agrees with Catholics on some of these issues - in particular, our obligations in solidarity with the poor. However, his administration has acted in a manner which proves the opposite.

The most egregious example is his failure to hear the cry of the children in the womb, the poorest of the poor. However, there are many more, including his denial of religious freedom and his failure to defend marriage and the family and society founded upon it.

This Presidents actions in office have demonstrated that this administration will continue to promote a rapidly expanding Secularist State which fails to respect fundamental human rights including the Right to life and the Right to Religious Freedom. In the Wake of Santorum: Catholics Must Not Retreat From Political Participation.


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