Now that the 2012 elections are behind us, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago may be tempted to put Faithful Citizenship on the back burner for four more years.
Catholics are called, rather, to form their consciences as faithful citizens in an on-going and systematic way. Conscience formation is a life-long project.
While one can individually study Faithful Citizenship, going to Sunday Mass represents the preferred way for Catholics to form their conscience, for we go to Mass not as autonomous individuals, but rather as the People of God.
Reading about the bond of friendship and mutual admiration that occurred between Republican Governor Chris Christie and President Barak Obama while assisting victims of Hurricane Sandy got me thinking about some challenges which will face Catholics as faithful citizens now that the elections are over. It was refreshing to see these two men put aside their political differences and work together to provide public service to those in need. Faithful citizens can find ways to work together for the common good.
It troubles me, however, when I hear colleagues at work despair about the future of our country simply because their particular candidate failed to secure office. Writing off elected officials ignores the fundamental principles of Faithful Citizenship and impoverishes one’s faith.
Paragraph 14 of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizen addresses this issue systematically and with sharp clarity:
As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group. When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths. We are called to bring together our principles and our political choices, our values and our votes, to help build a better world.
The Bishops present a litany of ways Catholics can help build a better world through civic engagement. Here, I name just three:
First, Catholics need to support and stand up for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). CCHD addresses the root causes of poverty by providing community organizing and economic development grants. In supporting CCHD, Catholics can make a difference because each and every funded group follows Catholic Social Teaching while fighting to overcome structural sin and injustice.
Second, sign up as soon as possible for Catholics Confront Global Poverty, (CCGP). Catholic Relief Services, the USCCB’s arm to end global poverty, does the Church a great service by researching domestic and international policy issues which could either benefit or harm millions of at-risk individuals both domestically and internationally with CCGP. After signing up for CCGP, you will receive action alerts and opportunities to communicate and influence your elected officials with the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.
Finally, learn more and try to understand the important issues involving the Department of Health and Human Services Mandate and its implications for religious freedom.
If you are interested in helping the Archdiocese make Faithful Citizenship a year-round program, please contact Thomas M. Howard.