I think one of the biggest challenges with being a leader in the Church at any level is balancing the need to speak out against injustice, the call to be prophetic, versus alienating certain groups of people within the Church or perpetuating divisions abroad. Though, it could safely be said that amongst many social justice issues ranging from the terrible events in Charlottesville to the general attitude towards migrants and refugees and now to the decision made on DACA. Where does our Church stand? Is there an unequivocal moral outcry on these issues? The thing about politics and policy in general is that it is not only a matter of opinion but also something that affects individuals, it is at this juncture that morality begins to meet policy. So while some folks say, the Church should just stay out of this stuff. The difficulty is that, when we involve people, moral choices are at stake. When moral choices are at stake, we must recognize that the Gospel in point of fact calls Christians to certain uncomfortable positions, attitudes, and beliefs. It sure would be easy to say, well the Church has to stay out of all politics; but again as previously stated, policy making now days just doesn't have that clean of a break from the moral implications that effect many many people. We aren't talking about theory in many cases but lives. Political theory is one thing, a real refugee faced with tortuous death or asylum is a reality that needs to be felt.
At the same time I am very reticent to share any information about my voting habits or making specific policy suggestions in terms of which party to support or not support, mostly because there is no party that fully represents everything that Catholics hold to in regards to moral teaching. If there was a party that does that, there are some, they often are tiny and have the same large potential problem for having their core values shift due to influence or growth as any party or human endeavor does. The real crux of this issue isn’t necessarily political party, for Catholics it ought to be the mission of informing the conscience of America and the world. There were never those days that you could blindly accept one party over another, Catholics are routinely called to use their informed conscience in determining the best course of action for the nation and the world.
How do we influence societal conscience? By enacting just laws that breathe with all factors considered, from the practical, to the moral, to the budgetary; each consideration as integral to the next. What that really requires is folks who can sit down and hold a conversation on how to make these difficult difficult issues flow together, a certain unity. What now seems like the impossible is actually very possible. It begins at home, by entertaining open dialogue that includes real listening to ‘the other side’. Being able to disagree amicably and focus on areas where we can agree. At the same time there ought to be no room for hate speech. Far from having a ‘safe space’ or a ‘snowflake room;’ common decency and the dignity of the human person shouldn’t even be a question that needs answer or a discussion worth entertaining. America is built on the principle that God creates with a certain inalienable dignity, and even if it didn’t our faith requires us to see all through the loving eyes of God the Father. While hate speech is being contended as ‘free speech’ as Christians we are not free to do as we please; God is our judge, even more then those that aren’t professed Christians, and we are held to a greater moral standard. Surely, we hope that all will believe in the Gospel and follow the higher standard but it is incumbent upon us to be especially aware of our conduct and our speech, that it always reflects the Gospel.
Ultimately here is a guiding principle behind many crises and moral quagmires that have happened as of late. In paragraph 369 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says that man and woman are created with an “inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their creator” (CCC 369). Furthermore, to confirm scripturally, you could begin look in Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 22 as God literally made Adam and Eve in ‘his image and likeness.' To go yet further it says in Acts 10:34 that “God shows no partiality” as all people have the same dignity as we are all made creatures in God’s image and likeness (CCC 1934; Cf. Rom 2:11, Gal 2:6, Eph 6:9). In Gaudeum et Spes, a document of the II Vatican Council it says that:
“True, all men are not alike from the point of view of varying physical power and the diversity of intellectual and moral resources. Nevertheless, with respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God's intent.” (Gaudium et Spes #29).
I can’t speak enough about the dignity of the human person and at times it seems like the risks or the devil’s influence of ignorance in this matter is just too great. But we cannot tire of preaching the precious news of Jesus Christ. That he found worth enough in humankind to come and redeem all humanity. Jesus, visited even the lowliest class and the lowliest treated among that class, a samaritan woman, not just to drink water from but to engage in a relationship of peace and joy. We must take care of the immigrants and the resident alien, just as much as the refugee and of course our own poor: not because they are or aren’t American but because they have a dignity beyond price or measure and that is what our faith calls us to.
We must be aware of the patrimony and the beauty of our faith and be able to express it in a beautiful way in these ugly times. Not with chants and rallies and violence of word or action but with simple peace, quiet resolve in knowing that Jesus has already won the war. All we have to do is carry the battle on in silent and holy stubbornness holding to the principles and values that our God has given us. The greatest among many things that Martin Luther King Jr. to whom I owe great respect and admiration for has done for our country is his example of peaceable witness and a voice of conscience. It is a terrible thing when that memory is lost and even greater terror when our voice of conscience is mixed with violence, as what we believe must be lived out to the extreme. The extreme of loving our enemy and loving our neighbor no matter who they are or what they’ve done. To speaking out for their protection and their dignity as human beings, created in the image and likeness of God almighty!
Before we can act we must inform our conscience, learn your faith! Learn the beatitudes, the commandments, the corporeal works of mercy, learn the story of our salvation well. Become involved in Bible Studies, book clubs, speaking events, involve yourself in lay ministries. Learn what the Church teaches in regards to work, to war, to human dignity. Become that beautiful soul, write, speak, listen; say only the good things men & women need to hear, for their edification in the good, noble, and beautiful (Cf. Eph 4:29).
"In the solitude and silence of the wilderness..., for their labor in the contest, God gives his athletes the reward they desire: a peace that the world does not know and joy in the Holy Spirit."
Husband & father of four, graduate from Quincy University and currently a grad student at Franciscan University. Director of Faith Formation & Youth Ministry for All Saints Parish since January 2012.