Today, few places are in more need of evangelization than the public square. Unfortunately, for many people politics is an activity and subject to be avoided at all costs. It is not uncommon in public policy advocacy work to hear comments such as, “my one vote doesn’t really matter so I don’t vote” or “my legislators don’t have any of the same views or values that I do, so I stopped communicating with them.”
As Catholics we are called to bring our voices, values and faith to the public square. Pope Francis reminds us that, “Politics, according to the social doctrine of the church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good.” In other words, when we have the right perspective about the possibilities and limitations of politics, we are more effective agents of the common good; we are able to affect real change that supports the flourishing of the human person.
Pope St. John Paul II once remarked, “It is no use complaining of the wickedness of the times. As St. Paul wrote, ‘we must overcome evil by doing good (Rom. 12:21).’ ... By doing so, not only will you keep real joy in your lives, but also you will benefit the whole of society, which needs, above all, consistency with the evangelical message.”
St. John Paul’s words are as relevant today as they were when he spoke them in 1978. If we want to change our culture and our communities then we must begin by living our own faith honestly and with conviction; if we don’t, then we cannot expect to change the public square.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia once said, “The worst enemies ... aren’t ‘out there’ among the legion of critics who hate Christ or the Gospel or the church or all three. The worst enemies are in here, with us, all of us, clergy, religious and lay, when we live our faith with tepidness, routine and hypocrisy.”
Although the responsibility that each of us has to be a faithful citizen can be daunting, the Catholic Church is an indispensable resource. Through the work of state Catholic conferences, people can learn about key legislative issues, communicate directly with their elected officials, and explore new possibilities for civic friendship and missionary discipleship.
We are privileged to be a part of the Catholic Church’s efforts to evangelize the public square. Every day, our jobs allow us to help others contribute to the common good guided by a spirit of charity and truth.
Jason Adkins '00, '03 CSMA and Jennifer Kraska '01, '05 CSMA are the executive directors of the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the Colorado Catholic Conference, respectively. State Catholic conferences support the social ministry of their Catholic bishops by working with political and community leaders to shape legislation that serves life, human dignity and the common good, as well as by educating and mobilizing their state Catholic communities.
Learn more at mncc.org or cocatholicconference.org.