Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Radical, Counter-Cultural Role of Serious Catholics in the Public Square

Tonight I had to give a class on Catholic Social Teaching to a mixed group of High School students and adults. Although I always take time to prepare well in advance of the class, when it comes down to it, I talk about the major principles of CST and tailor what I cover in accordance with the issues that must be brought up at that time. Clearly, the emphasis changes a little with each class.

Given that the election is less than a month away, tonight I spent a little time emphasizing the role of Catholics in society, and our obligation to live our faith and bring our faith to every aspect of society, especially in politics and law.

I directly pointed out tonight that we often hear political candidates or Catholics approaching the voting booth that they "believe this" but refuse to vote in accordance with our Faith. Why? Well, they say, "I don't feel I should impose my belief on all of society."

Naturally, I have a few things to say about that ridiculous philosophy! 

First of all, tonight when I spoke about this (without naming any names), I pointed out that according to Catholic Social Teaching, it is our right and obligation - yes, obligation - to bring our Catholic beliefs into the public sphere, and YES, to "impose it on society."  We're talking about the common good here!

When I made this very direct proclamation, I saw a few raised eyebrows and surprised, maybe confused expressions in the crowd. Being a Catholic is radical business, y'all, and quite counter-cultural. Never is this so revealed than during election season. At no other time, in the eyes of society, are the sheep so obviously separated from the goats, and the wheat from the chaff.

Tonight, I asked the class about what happens if we stand down and remain silent, keeping our beliefs to ourselves. Is anyone ELSE doing that? NO! They're not! They're imposing THEIR views upon us, and making laws that actively oppress our free practice of our religion, so why are we supposed to stand down? The HHS Mandate is one of the points in question in that matter. Our religious freedoms are being whittled away because Catholics are taking the very un-Catholic perspective that we can't or shouldn't "impose our beliefs upon others."

For the love of God, we aren't imposing our core teachings and trying to force people to be Catholic! We are imposing the very beautiful teachings of our faith that uphold the sanctity of life, bring justice to the impoverished, respect to the worker, support participation of the marginalized stewardship for creation, reminding people of their rights and duties as citizens of this society, recognize the role and limits of government and empower the people.

This is a very simple concept: we cannot be silent!

We cannot take the cop-out view that we for some reason aren't allowed to impose our beliefs. All that would mean is that the beliefs of others will be imposed upon us instead. That has already happened, and unless we find our tongues and a bit of spine, it's only going to get worse.

In comboxes, in news articles, in Facebook Memes, I continually see people trying to "shout down" Catholics and our other Christian brothers and sisters when they gently bring up their faith in relation to societal issues. I continually see people demand that we Christians "keep our religion to ourselves."

I did not bring this up in the class tonight, but in the recent Vice Presidential debate, Vice President Biden said, "My faith is my life", then went on to cancel that out by saying he simply doesn't believe he should "impose it on the rest of society."

VP Biden does not understand his Faith, he does not understand Catholic Social Teaching, and revealed that he really does not have faith. If you do not publicly live your faith, and if in a position to do so, speak it clearly, then it is not "your life."  It is rendered a bauble to be taken out when it is convenient, but otherwise placed away like a dirty secret unacceptable in mixed company.

That is a completely unacceptable attitude in a Republic founded upon, in part, the freedom of religion.

If we are not free to vote in accordance with our Faith, if we are not free to speak our religious beliefs in the public square, if we are not free to use our religious and faithful values and morals to shape society, then we are not free at all. 

Think about it. 


makemeaspark said...

I must agree with most of what you seem to have presented. Although i am curious if you spelled out the grave difference between a moral evil, such as abortion and a guildline such as seeking "justice" for the poor in our midst.

As ArchBishop Chaput pointed out, as Catholics we don't necessarily have to vote that the government care for the poor, we can also take care of the poor through charitable institutions also.

I only mention this because of past misunderstandings over the USCCB voting guildlines.

Blessings on your efforts to spread the faith!

Julie Olson said...

Makemeaspark ~ this article is not a recap of what I spoke about last night. I only brought up for the purposes of this post a portion of what I emphasized.

So to assure you, I did speak at every single point of CST that the sanctity of life is primary.

As a basis for the talk I use a handout containing the 9 major points of CST and discuss each one.

If I tried to write out everything I said last night, you'd have been reading all night long! ;-)

John Bender said...

Thanks for teaching with vigor about Catholic Social Teaching and for taking a stand against issues that harm our faith and the way it is perceived. This will be my first Presidential Election and it has been crazy to see other Catholics object not to have a voice when decisions that go against our faith come up.

Thanks for your courage and your conviction!

Terry Nelson said...

I may be wrong but I think the Church "does not impose but rather freely proposes" - according to what Benedict XVI has stated.

Julie Olson said...

John ~ It's frustrating, isn't it? So many people are standing down when they should be speaking up! Unfortunately I couldn't emphasize EVERYTHING but hope the seeds I did plant take root. It's all up to the Holy Spirit now...

Terry ~ I totally agree, however, I carefully chose the word "impose" in this case because even our "freely proposing" is seen in our anti-Catholic culture as being an imposition. And since very immoral beliefs are being freely imposed upon us, I see no problem with saying it's time for us to do a bit of imposing with our "freely proposing". ;-)