On this Wednesday, our subject was the Church and politics and it was as challenging of a discussion as you might imagine. In our discussion, we challenged each other to make voting decisions in races where the decision was not clear-cut: the mayoral candidate who was anti-abortion while also supporting the death penalty, the governor’s race where the environmentally-concerned, pro-life candidate had a marital affair and was running against a candidate with no strong opinions but was considered morally strong…the list goes on. Many of our participants thought it might be better to not vote. Yet, the Church teaches that “each, according to his position and role, participate in promoting the common good and that this obligation is inherent in our dignity as humans.” (CCC 1913)
We then attempted to frame some of these decisions by introducing Catholic Social Teaching . These topics include Social Justice, Marriage, Family, Economic Equality, and Global Solidarity. These are tough issues. They are confusing issues where the Catholic Church often stands apart from what we hear about and read about in the rest of our culture. Just because they are uncomfortable to consider does not mean that we shouldn’t discuss them. We may not always agree with what the Church teaches either. Our role as Catholics, especially if we disagree, is to learn more. Why does the Church encourage economic equality that seems counter to our democracy? What is the thinking behind the Church’s campaign for supporting traditional family structures? The CCC (2549) even tells us “it remains for the holy people to struggle,” yet God provides us with grace to carry on. Catholic social teaching allows that we can discuss individual positions critically and provide constructive arguments but encourages us to find the basis for our arguments in basic Catholic values.
As I consider politics and Catholic social teaching, am reminded that the Church also teaches us the 10 commandments. Thou Shall Not Lie seems to be the one commandment that trips me up. Not that I intentionally tell lies, but I have found myself bending the truth a bit when it saves me from trouble. The beauty of our Church teachings is that we are also taught that God always forgives. He always understands and takes us back in. It is often said that our Catholic faith is one that calls for constant conversion – conversion to Christ’s way. So when we lie, we seek reconciliation and forgiveness. When we wrestle with the Church’s social teachings, we do so in prayer and we seek reconciliation, forgiveness, and mercy again. It’s a process and we, the humans, are slow to learn. Christ gets that. He waits. He comes back and picks us up and shows us the teachings again and again. That is why it is important to discuss the church, politics, and what Catholic social teaching guide us toward. We can always learn, we can always proceed toward God, even when we don’t always agree.