January 21, 2012 by eneubauer
On Thursday night we began a series at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish called Faithful Citizenship – a Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. It was the beginning of a three part series on Catholic responsibility in the political process. Bishop Seitz was our speaker with Seton’s Justice Ministry, Catholic Charities and The Catholic Pro-Life Committee of North Texas all playing key organizational roles. It was a great evening during which we reviewed part 1 of the Faithful Citizenship document, enjoyed table discussions and then participated in a Q & A with the Bishop. The Bishop spoke with candor and encouraged the attendees to take time, learn about the issues (moral / political) and then reminded those gathered that participation in the political process is a ongoing process. It is not just about voting – it’s advocating as well. Again, faithful participation requires all of us to learn about the issues, reflect, discuss, vote and advocate – throughout the year. Without these steps in place we will not be able to influence the process.
Here are a my personal reflections about the evening and practical steps we can take to become people of influence.
First, it was nice to be reminded that we have a moral responsibility to become and stay politically active as people of faith. This idea, a moral requirement, reminds me of the fact that we are called to be a people of influence not simply people who are influenced (esp. by secular society / philosophy). We were encouraged to become + stay engaged! It’s our responsibility!
Second, I enjoyed the part about having a properly formed conscience. We were reminded that a “formed conscience” isn’t about, “if it feels good or right then it must be ok according to my conscience.” A properly formed conscience is our ability to hear “the voice of God resounding in the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good while shunning what is evil.” Again, “Conscience always requires serious attempts to make sound moral judgements based on the truths of our faith.” As we seek to form our conscience we must be prepared to link ourselves to others who are older and wiser (in the faith) to ensure we are on the right track. We must be prepared to spend time, on a regular basis, to (1.) study God’s word, (2.) review Church documents and (3.) read relevant / diverse news outlets in order to learn about pressing issues. Again, we MUST understand the issues that confront us and the corresponding (faith) principles that will help shape our thinking.
My third and final reflection is that people of faith actually have a constitutional / religious duty to remain active in the public square. We should remind ourselves of this fact. We cannot and should not cede our space nor our governing principles to a society that is quite secular in nature. We must remember that even secular ideas form their own type of cultural, religious philosophy that many (subconsciously) are strongly influenced by. Generally speaking, I believe people of faith intend to shape their conscience (& by default their decisions) through the lens of faith. However, in reality our decisions are often based on ideas formed by secular, political culture. The fruit of fact can be seen in political polarization, lack of substantial / lasting change, and the power of political incumbents. I like what the Bishop said on this issue – often we get the candidates we deserve rather than the candidates we would like to have.
Remember, the power to change the status quo is within our grasp.
The next two posts in my Faithful Citizenship series will come after the next two sessions. The next session will happen on Thursday, February 2, at 7 pm – St. Rita Catholic Church, Sweeney Hall. 12521 Inwood Rd. Dallas, TX. 75244.