About a month ago, I participated in an online conversation about civility and talked about the growing polarization plaguing our society. Too often, fruitful debate and compromise are giving way to fanaticism and intolerance when it comes to addressing our nation’s most pressing problems. When hate and hostility smolder, they ignite violence like the kind we saw last week at the U.S. Capitol. When this occurs, something happens at an even deeper level: We begin to lose sight of the God-given dignity inherent in very human person. Hate and violence dehumanize our whole society.
This violence must be unequivocally condemned. It seems that we Americans need to relearn how to talk with one another, how to listen, how to disagree with respect and how to compromise for the good of all. This will only happen when we commit ourselves to solid principles instead of parties, platforms, personalities and the desire for power. It’s not naïve to believe that we Catholics can lead the way on this. Why? Not because we want the Church to impose its beliefs on others, but because we have a set of principles embodied in Catholic social teaching that promotes the dignity of every human person, no matter their color, creed or situation in life.
Catholic social teaching is rooted in Scripture. As the U.S. bishops explain: “It is a teaching founded on the life and words of Jesus Christ, who came ‘to bring glad tidings to the poor … liberty to captives … recovery of sight to the blind’ (Luke 4:18-19), and who identified himself with ‘the least of these,’ the hungry and the stranger (cf. Matthew 25:45). Catholic social teaching is built on a commitment to the poor. This commitment arises from our experiences of Christ in the Eucharist.”
The key themes of Catholic social teaching are:
- The sacredness of life and dignity of the human person
- The call to family and community participation
- Human rights and responsibilities
- Preferential option for the poor and vulnerable
- The dignity of work and the rights of workers
- Care for God’s creation
My plea to you, my fellow Catholics, is this: It’s time for our faith to drive our politics, instead of the other way around. Devote time to learning more about the principles of Catholic social teaching. You can read more about them and find educational resources through our Catholic Charities Office of Social Concerns.
Get involved in the debates and dialogue around public policy through the Minnesota Catholic Conference. Find out more about their Catholic Advocacy Network and the upcoming Catholics at the Capitol event at www.mncatholic.org. Be respectful when you engage lawmakers and other citizens. Speak the truth, but always with love, compassion, mercy and, when needed, forgiveness. How we treat others matters. We must practice what we preach.
Let’s move forward in 2021 with an unwavering dedication to these principles. We face so many important issues: racism, respect for life, poverty and climate change, to name just a few. Let Catholic social teaching be our guide as we strive to fulfill our call to be a Church of conversion, healing and discipleship with the common good of all in mind.