How has your Catholic faith formed the way you look at your roles and responsibilities in the political process? For some Christians, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, voting is forbidden- other faith traditions have guidelines regarding conscientious objection. The Second Vatican Council has lots to say about the Catholic’s responsibility as a member of the body of Christ to influence the social order for the common good. Gaudium et spes, Vatican II’s declaration on the Church in the modern world, says this:
“All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community. It is for them to give an example by their sense of responsibility and their service of the common good.
In this way they are to demonstrate concretely how authority can be compatible with freedom, personal initiative with the solidarity of the whole social organism, and the advantages of unity with fruitful diversity.” (75)
How has your Catholic faith shaped your understanding of your role in impacting the culture for Christ? Has it given you new insights into the dignity of the human person? Has it caused you to become more active in causes that are important to you? Have you become more attuned to moral issues facing our culture than you were before?
Here’s what some of our members and readers had to say on the topic:
“It would be no exaggeration to say that Catholicism had a revolutionary impact on my political philosophy. It was coming into contact with Catholic social teaching, directly in the form of the encyclicals of Leo XIII and Pius XI and indirectly through the distributist ideas of Chesterton and Belloc, which enabled me to break from my naïve belief that big government was the solution to the world’s problems and not a large part of its cause.”
-Joseph Pearce, Director, Aquinas Center for Faith and Culture
“I could probably answer this question in a hundred ways… I think for me, I felt that there were partisan divides in the culture on significant issues that didn’t seem to match up with logic and reality. I felt like political discussion in our country was filled with false dichotomies, and nobody seemed to ‘get it.’ I couldn’t seem to find a word for the dark and deceptive thing that I knew was infecting society- until I ran across a phrase used so often by Pope St. John Paul II: ‘the Culture of Death.’ Suddenly, it was like a light bulb went on- exploring the Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person seemed to give greater depth and clarity to what I believed on pretty much everything, and synthesize issues that our political rhetoric so often fractured. Previously, I knew in my gut what was wrong, but didn’t feel like I had the moral or intellectual ammunition to fight it adequately. Now, I felt like a soldier in a huge and triumphant army. I remember thinking to myself, ‘how come nobody else seems to know about this?’ And then I realized that plenty of people had- for some 2000 years.”
Matt Swaim, Communications Coordinator, The Coming Home Network International
“Before becoming Catholic, I was an Evangelical Protestant, which meant I had a lockstep party-line political philosophy. After becoming Catholic and reading more deeply the Catholic view of politics, I came to see that the Church gives the laity great liberty to determine the proper means to establish a more just society. There is no one-size-fits-all ‘Catholic’ solution. We are tasked with properly forming our consciences and then advocating for what we believe is the best means to order society. This is a great compliment to the human intellect – and a great responsibility for us all!”
Eric Sammons, author, The Didache Series: Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue
My faith has everything to do with me being an Independent… I now follow the logic that Human Dignity is the hinge on which a door comprised of Common Good, Subsidiarity and Solidarity must open. If my politics can fit through that narrow opening then I’m good with my voting decision as a Catholic. However, neither major party can do that. It’s time for a true Third Way politically that the majority of Catholics, and Christians in general, can embrace.
Leo Brown, founder, Breadbox Media
“As someone who has shifted my beliefs from a very liberal atheism, to a more conservative atheism and then into the Church, I have found both convergence and divergence in this. What I had found to be true I found in the Church. Oddly, instead of getting more dogmatic in my political opinions I have become less so. The magisterial authority of the Church is what I find certain, and my prudential applications of it quite fallible. I have always found the Church right where I was wrong, and where I was already in agreement, I came to a deeper understanding.”
Jeff Miller, The Curt Jester
“As a recovering politician, I have, over the years, found myself in very controversial and bitter fights with others as I expounded upon – sometimes boldly, sometimes more subtly – the ‘correctness’ of my own opinions. Obviously, so the storyline went, I was right and “they” were wrong. Simple. In 2013, after coming back to the Church after 41 years away, I found myself in a place both familiar and strange. There was much to re-learn; and there was an overwhelming amount to learn for the first time.
I adopted as my guides through this strange new territory great modern day saints (and likely saints-to-be) such as Pier Giorgio Frassati, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II. Then something happened. Opinions that had once been so solid, so convincing to me, no longer easily withstood the thorough examination of conscience and faith that I was undergoing. Many of my previous “knee jerk” responses, I began to find, had resulted only in kicking myself into a form of “political correctness” that was not conducive to any sort of meaningful discussion with others. I had intentionally cut off all debate. That was not helpful; it was, in reality, mostly based in fear. And it certainly was not engaging with love.
Now, that’s not to say that I was wrong in every case – some opinions have actually been strengthened and fortified – but only that I could no longer take for granted the rightness, the correctness, the – if you will – Godliness of those opinions until after I had spent some real time and real attention and real prayer with them. I thank God for that because 2016 has, for me at least, been an election year from hell. But I know that I can no longer afford to engage in knee jerk reactions. And so I have now entered into a period of deep reflection and thought and prayer, and will soon cast my ballot based upon having taken time to do so. I am therefore grateful for the likes of my spiritual mentors who have taught me to consider not only the things of this world, but those of the one yet to come.”
Tom Zampino, CatholicConspiracy.com
“Simply by adhering to Church teaching, the choice is clear for me. When we value all stages of life as a nation (as a basic starting point), other political issues take on a more relative perspective…. It is much easier for me to separate politics from God’s laws now. We obey God first and foremost, though we are to obey the laws of our nation, where they do not conflict with God’s laws. We are at a tipping point where we will have to choose God over our nation, even at personal risk… Even though we are facing disastrous moral trends, and potentially the most critical election in US history, I find great comfort in knowing our Church and faith has fulfilled Christ’s promise that even the gates of hell would not prevail against it, and will continue to stand firm until His return.”
DedricT, CHNetwork Community Forum
What about you? How has your study of Catholic social teaching influenced the way you approach your responsibility as both a child of the Kingdom of God, and a citizen of the United States? Please share in the comments below- and be sure to join the ongoing conversation in our Community Forum!