From the Archbishop
March 8, 2018
Catholic voices belong in the public square
You may recall that as I celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass last year, a group of Catholics unfurled a banner on the facade of our Cathedral stating: “Speaking up for unborn lives more than black and brown lives is white supremacy. Silence is sin.” Some of our brothers and sisters see the Church so consumed by our pro-life efforts and so “over[ly] vigilant on the single issue of abortion” that every other effort pales in comparison.
Fast-forward one year. As the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis joined in a “National Catholic Call-In Day in Support of Dreamers” organized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I have heard from an equally impassioned segment of Catholics: “Why not the same idea to end abortion?” “Are we saying that illegal aliens are far more important than 60 million dead babies?”
While some in our archdiocese have accused me of “partner[ing] with the Democrats on their pet projects,” others have written to tell me that they are concerned “about the rightward drift of the hierarchy and how it has contributed to the division within our country.”
As reflected in the breadth of those opinions, our diverse local Church includes Catholics all over the political spectrum, with a wide variety of political philosophies, perspectives and experiences. As was mentioned by the U.S. bishops in the document “Faithful Citizenship,” “Catholics may choose different ways to respond to compelling social problems, but we cannot differ on our moral obligation to help build a more just and peaceful world through morally acceptable means so that the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended.”
Those who would prefer that the Church not address political issues often mistakenly appeal to the so-called “separation of church and state” enshrined in our American political system. They misread our Constitution as requiring a division between personal belief and public action, or between moral principles and political choices. In contrast, the intention of our Founding Fathers was precisely to protect the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life.
The recent Call-In Day organized by the USCCB asked Catholics to act on their values by contacting their representatives in Washington to work for a “just and compassionate” solution for “Dreamers,” a distinct group of young people who had entered this country as children before 2007 without the necessary documentation, and who had applied for, and been granted, certain protections under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (see Immigrants, advocates navigating post-DACA-deadline landscape). Many of the Dreamers, through no fault of their own, had been brought here as infants or toddlers; the United States is accordingly the only home that they have known, and the prospect of deportation to an unknown country is devastating. Sadly, in spite of widespread support across party lines, they have for far too long been caught up in partisan infighting that seems to see them more readily as pawns in a political chess game rather than as brothers and sisters endowed with the dignity that comes from being created in the image and likeness of God.
For those of us who have come to know Dreamers as valued friends, colleagues, classmates and fellow parishioners, as well as for those who are guided by Catholic teaching on justice, on the dignity and legitimate aspirations of the human person, and on the importance of family life, the Call-In Day was a welcomed opportunity to encourage our lawmakers to address an issue of urgency. The initiative did not single out legislators of any one party and did not demand any one particular course of action.
Providentially, the Call-In Day coincided with the first of three “Capitol 101” workshops presented by the Minnesota Catholic Conference at the State Capitol to equip our lay faithful to engage in the political process. Within the Church, it is the laity who are called upon to “especially assist with their Christian wisdom” the shaping of the temporal order in order to both further the common good and prepare the way for the Gospel. That teaching comes from the Second Vatican Council’s “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity,” which went on to explain that: “In loyalty to their country and in faithful fulfillment of their civic obligations, Catholics should feel themselves obliged to promote the true common good. Thus, they should make the weight of their opinion felt in order that the civil authority may act with justice and that legislation may conform to moral precepts and the common good.”
I am grateful for the educational work of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, and I encourage participation in the remaining two workshops. You can consult mncatholic.orgfor details. All of us share the responsibility of striving to build a just community in which the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended. Let us pray for one another in undertaking this important work.