April 15, 2016

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Gabriela Ross

Faithful citizenship: A call to evangelize

We get so fired up about politics. Particularly in a presidential election year, we want to tell everyone who to vote for, who not to vote for … and we can’t help but feel a sense of urgency, an understanding that our actions (or lack thereof) will effect change.

Catholics understand that we have been set apart by baptism, and because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our life is markedly different. As disciples of Jesus Christ and faithful citizens, our passion for politics presents not only a civic duty, but also a call to personal conversion and an opportunity for evangelization.

So, how do we share the good news of the Gospel in the political sphere? How do we challenge our peers to rise above, all the while recognizing our own need to grow in our understanding of Church teaching in the area of political participation?

An excellent resource called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States” offers guidance on the political responsibility of Catholics. This document, revised in 2015, challenges us to make our Catholic faith the lens through which we experience citizenship and engage in public life.

“Some question whether it is appropriate for the Church to play a role in political life,” the U.S. bishops write. “However, the obligation to teach the moral truths that should shape our lives, including our public lives, is central to the mission given to the Church by Jesus Christ. Moreover, the United States Constitution protects the right of individual believers and religious bodies to participate and speak out without government interference, favoritism, or discrimination” (#11).

In addition to encouraging political participation, the document also brings up situations in political life that may pose challenges to the Church’s mission and should be given particular care. One example is legislation in the area of human life and dignity.

To paraphrase the U.S. bishops: There are two ways that political involvement can weaken the Church’s mission to promote human life and dignity:

One way is by viewing every situation as having the same ethical weight, and treating issues of human life and dignity as one among many concerns, promoting a sort of “all our issues are equally important” mentality.

The second is by making one important issue the only focus of political attention, to the point of ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity.

As faithful citizens, we are responsible for promoting human life and dignity in all its facets, and supporting one another in our efforts to reach out as one community of faith, even as we discern the best ways to achieve that goal. (#27-29)

Want to know more about engaging in public life as a faithful citizen? Check out the Archdiocese of Indianapolis web page dedicated to “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” at www.archindy.org/faithfulcitizenship. Take time to become an informed and faithful citizen, and when those conversations about faith and politics inevitably come up, you’ll be ready!

(Gabriela Ross serves as coordinator of catechetical resources for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in the Office of Catechesis. She can be reached at: gross@archindy.org.)

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