A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Quote of the Day 2009.4: Catholics and the Public Square

"We need to be very forceful in clarifying what the words in our political vocabulary really mean. Words are important because they shape our thinking, and our thinking drives our actions. When we subvert the meaning of words like 'the common good' or 'conscience' or 'community' or 'family,' we undermine the language that sustains our thinking about the law. Dishonest language leads to dishonest debate and bad laws."

"Here's an example. We need to remember that tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty – these are Christian virtues. And obviously, in a diverse community, tolerance is an important working principle. But it's never an end itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of serious evil. Likewise, democratic pluralism does not mean that Catholics should be quiet in public about serious moral issues because of some misguided sense of good manners. A healthy democracy requires vigorous moral debate to survive. Real pluralism demands that people of strong beliefs will advance their convictions in the public square – peacefully, legally and respectfully, but energetically and without embarrassment. Anything less is bad citizenship and a form of theft from the public conversation."

"The 'separation of Church and state' does not mean – and it can never mean – separating our Catholic faith from our public witness, our political choices and our political actions. That kind of separation would require Christians to deny who we are; to repudiate Jesus when he commands us to be 'leaven in the world' and to 'make disciples of all nations.' That kind of radical separation steals the moral content of a society. It's the equivalent of telling a married man that he can't act married in public. Of course, he can certainly do that, but he won't stay married for long."

"Anyone who hasn't noticed the despair in the world should probably go back to sleep. The word 'hope' on a campaign poster may give us a little thrill of righteousness, but the world will still be a wreck when the drug wears off. We can only attain hope through truth. And what that means is this: From the moment Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life,' the most important political statement anyone can make is 'Jesus Christ is Lord.'"

You can read Bishop Charles J. Chaput's entire address, "Rendering Unto Caesar: The Catholic Political Vocation," here.

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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Your view of tolerance is undermining "religious freedom". But, then again, your quote is about Catholics and the public square, meaning that the Catholic formal stance on public policy is the one that is "right, good" and should be argued...I don't believe that religion should be a unified conviction of conscience about everything in life, this is a uniformity of viewpoint, that does not breed societies where everything from academic freedom, to one's views on contraception are varied and discussed in the public square. I don't believe that the Catolic Church has the "right" view on everything. But, what is "right" is a matter of discernment and personal values.

So, just because one does not subscribe to a religious tradition's formal position on policy, does not mean that the individual will not engage in public dislogue over issues which address the public good....

Anonymous said...

The good bishop speaks well. He is right about silence being confused with a polite response. It is good for every Christian to be involved in the political life of America. The country is diminished when any citizens abstain from the political process. We have too often surrendered Kingdom Faith for alliances with Egypt and Babylon. The cost has been huge. I espcially tire of hearing the party talking heads angling to get the Christian vote in an openly dishonest manner.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Yes, the good bishop reminds us that the lordship of Jesus Christ cannot be compartmentalized into public/private spheres nor separation of church and state.

Hi, Angie:

Actually, I think it is your view of tolerance that undermines religious freedom because you would insist that religious folks can only be involved in the public discussion in the way that you dictate-- that is, they have to leave their religious convictions on the shelf and participate in the public discussion as if their religious views do not really matter. That is a restriction on religious freedom.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I, in no way, believe that the religious should leave their convictions at the door. Convictions are what the policy discussion should be about. What I am adamant about is that there be no 'standardized "christian view", such as the Catholic Church's would be. Individual Christians should have the right and duty to express their opinion in the public square. The more the better..Separation of Church and State means that religion is free from State interference, so that individuals, churchs can determine how they will worship...