Saturday, October 17, 2020
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Anyone blindly loyal to a party — or to an ideological position — will be upset with the Church when she or her shepherds disagree with them. And since the Church has no “party,” she will disagree with one side or the other, or both, on any number of issues. The English man of letters, G. K. Chesterton, once quipped about the partisan divisions of his own country: “The progressives want to keep on making mistakes; the conservatives don’t want to fix the mistakes already made.” Such an attitude can deafen partisans on either side of the political divide to the Church’s voice.
Nevertheless, the Church will continue to speak out — no matter what the outcomes of the November elections are — for once elections are decided we do not abdicate our responsibilities as citizens or as Catholics to shape the public debate in ways that enhance respect for human life and dignity and advance the common good.
The common good can never be adequately incarnated in any society when those waiting to be born can be legally killed at choice. As the 2020 campaign (as well as the battles for the confirmations of new Justices) have shown, legalized abortion is still at the fault line of our culture and our politics. 47 years after Roe v. Wade, abortion is not “settled” but continues to be “unsettling”; and America’s collective conscience will remain uneasy until Roe v. Wade is reversed and every human being — from the moment of conception till natural death — is welcomed in life and protected by law.
With the 2020 elections, a new chapter in our much-envied American experiment in democracy will begin. How this chapter will be remembered in history will depend much on the continued engagement of America’s Catholics in the great issues of our day. For at the heart of much political debate today is how we understand the truth of the human person. The tendency to moral relativism in our culture today is perhaps the greatest threat to the continued success of our American experiment in democracy. Pope St. John Paul II said: “Detached from the truth about the human person, freedom deteriorates into license in the lives of individuals, and in political life it becomes the caprice of the most powerful and the arrogance of power.” (UN 1995)
Thus, the Church does have a distinct and valuable role to play in the political order. Much of what the Church says can be organized under several key themes: the life and dignity of the human person; the call to family, community and participation; rights and responsibilities of citizenship; an option for the poor and vulnerable; dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity and caring for God’s creation.
The Church properly analyzes issues for their social and moral dimensions — anything regarding the human person and his dignity is certainly within the purview of the Church, who rightly measures public policy against Gospel values. Informed by Catholic social teachings, we wish to share with our fellow citizens our understanding of the common good and of the conditions necessary for human flourishing in our society. To accuse bishops of “meddling in politics” when they speak as teachers seeking to form consciences certainly violates both the spirit and the letter of the First Amendment.
Far from “meddling in politics,” the Church’s shepherds wish to offer the faithful and all people of good will a service of love — and to fail to speak with courage and coherency would be to fail in the charity we owe our neighbors.