Faithful Citizenship

We bishops insist in our statement called, Faithful Citizenship, that when Catholics bring our moral convictions into public life we “do not threaten democracy or pluralism but enrich them and the nation. The separation of church and state does not require division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life.’ We do well to remember this during a political season when some would suggest that only Catholics who “check” their values and convictions at the door have a right to participate in our nation’s political life and public debates.

Informed by faith, we must initiate a dialog with our fellow citizens as together with them we seek to build a world in which the value and the rights of every human person is promoted and protected. Our dialog is not about seeking to impose a creedal definition on any citizen; but, we do offer a proposal towards a fuller understanding of the truth about the human person and of his God-given dignity and freedom. That fuller understanding implies a commitment to the dignity and right to life of every human being from the moment of conception till natural death.

This understanding is born of faith but it is not unknowable to human reasoning. We can offer our contemporaries a view of man which is certainly in conformity with our founding fathers’ belief in nature and nature’s God. We can offer a view of man that would allow us and our fellow citizens to build a society more worthy of man – a society in which the weakest find protection, a society that supports marriage and the family, a society in which freedom is more than license or the caprice of the powerful to do as they please.

The stakes are high. For the convinced Christian today, flight from the world or surrender to the world cannot be options. For if we flee from the world – including the world of politics – we would just relegate ourselves to second class citizenship. But when we enter the world on politics, we must do so as Christians. To make our faith “private” – without consequence for our public positions – is to surrender to the world.

In doing so, we lose our identity as Christians – not to mention our immortal souls.

Though, on pilgrimage to an Eternal City , as a people of faith, we are called to be – not against the world, not of the world, but for the world. As Catholic Christians we are committed to making the world a better place. The proud tradition of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy carried on by the Church for two millennia is testimony to this commitment. We believe that our earthly life is not a dead end; but, a road that leads somewhere. We commit ourselves to maintain that road – so that the obstacles place along that road by sin – personal and structural – do not keep us or our fellow human beings from arriving at our eternal destination. And this is why as Catholics we must take seriously our vocation to “Faithful Citizenship”.