Monday, April 26, 2021
Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
There are Catholics in all professions and trades. Fortunately, there are also Catholics in politics. In a pluralistic and democratic society such as the United States, the Catholic politician faces perplexities when it comes to reconciling the postulates of his faith and morals with certain morally objectionable laws. The subject requires further study.
A Catholic is not born, but made. It all begins with baptism. There the baptized, generally an infant, receives a new identity, that of a child of God in the supernatural sense and that of a member of the eschatological and definitive people of God, the Church.
But just as the newly baptized will grow physically, his new Christian-Catholic identity will also have to develop thanks to the good words and better examples of his parents. Catechesis for the other sacraments of Christian initiation, namely first confession, first Communion and confirmation, will also help. This will be followed by youth groups, adult catechesis, premarital courses and spiritual retreats.
Those who, in addition to knowing the doctrine, experience it through an intense spiritual life, will mature in their Catholic identity. Catholics in the full sense of the word are not those who know the most about theology, but those who live most closely united to God through prayer, the sacraments and good deeds. These could be called mystics in the broad sense, that is, people who experience the reality of God and his message. They would even be capable of martyrdom. A Catholic martyr is not a person who dies for something, but for Someone.
Unfortunately, not every baptized person reaches the fullness of his or her Christian identity. Due to lack of formation or interior life, or by misuse of freedom, many remain nominal Catholics. They often say: "I am Catholic in my own way." Or again, "I am a Catholic, but not a fanatic."
These are also known as cafeteria Catholics, because they do not feed on doctrine as a "combo," a set of revealed truths that form an indivisible totality. Rather, they choose what they like, as one does when browsing in a cafeteria to selectively help oneself. Such "Catholics" generally choose the sweet, the devotional, and discard the demanding, that which calls for much faith, as well as much self-denial and sacrifice.
Returning to the scrutiny of the politician who claims to be Catholic, he is exonerated from imposing on all of society certain characteristics of Catholic life. It would be ridiculous for him to demand that all citizens attend Mass on Sundays and abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent.
But he must be firm on matters of justice rooted in the Natural Law. The Catholic leader must be a standard-bearer for the poor, the sick and all the vulnerable. He knows that the precepts of the Decalogue express universal duties, such as not to kill, not to lie, not to steal and not to fornicate; they do not bind only believers in the Judeo-Christian world.
As for the burning issue of protecting human life from conception to its natural outcome, thus ruling out abortion as well as euthanasia, it should be clear to him that this protection is based on sound reason enlightened by science, and not only on the magisterium of the Church.
This article was first published in Spanish in the April edition of La Voz Católica.