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Faith In Politics: Our Catholic Responsibility. Tobin Lecture Archdiocese of Portland November 2,2012 John Carr, Executive Director, Justice Peace and Human Development U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Mixed Feelings. Honored… Tobin lecture: Happy Topic, Leaders

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faith in politics our catholic responsibility

Faith In Politics:Our Catholic Responsibility

Tobin Lecture

Archdiocese of Portland

November 2,2012

John Carr,

Executive Director, Justice Peace and Human Development

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

mixed feelings
Mixed Feelings
  • Honored…
    • Tobin lecture:
  • Happy
      • Topic, Leaders
      • Out ofout of Washington
        • Polarized and paralyzed…


  • Grandmother…warnings…“Religion and Politics”…would not come…
  • Not “Faith in Politics”
  • Faith in God, Jesus, Church, not Politics
  • Address Faith and Politics
  • Does your faith shape your politics or does your politics shape your faith?
  • Professional: USCCB…
  • Parish…
  • Political:
  • Parent …
      • grand
tobin lecture
Tobin Lecture
  • Mission ofFaith in Politics…

What it is and is not?

  • Context forFaith in Public Life…

What are we up against?

  • Catholic AssetsFor Public Life…

What do we bring?

  • Message: “Faithful Citizenship”

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

V. Directions and Dangers

What to do and not do…

  • What brings us together…

--Not politics, ideology..

    • Not “Democratic party at prayer” or “ the religious caucus of the Republican party
    • Word of God, teaching of His Church
  • A Church, not a lobby/interest group
    • Community of Faith, Not a PAC
  • Most counter-cultural…

In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in the political process is a moral obligation. No. 13

  • an essential part of being American, Catholic…believer and voter…
  • Mission statement?
  • Jesus' Mission

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.

The Lord has anointed me

to bring Good News to the poor,

liberty to captives,

new sight to the blind ,

to set the downtrodden free. ” ( Luke 4)

  • “This is being fulfilled in yourmidst”…

This mission is not NEW…

As old as the Hebrew scriptures …and prophets…

“Choose life …so that you and your descendents might live…”


Woe to you who enact unjust statutes and who write oppressive decrees…

Isaiah 10:1-


As central as Jesus mission on earth…

I have come to bring LIFE

and bring it to the full.John 10:10)


As clear as Matthew 25…

Last Judgment:

“Whatsoever you do to the least of these you do unto me…


As important as the message ofBenedict XVI at the White House:

The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate.

It also demands thecourage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate.In a word, freedom is ever new. April 17,2008

  • This mission is not optional, fringe, extra-credit…
  • It is integral, foundational, traditional…
  • Not for few, Archbishop, Social Ministry, …
  • Central part of who we are, what we believe…

Taking faith in politics citizenship seriously helps us not just do more, but be more…

  • More Christian, more Catholic…
  • More the Body of Christ, the People of God…in Portland, in Oregon
  • More the “salt of the earth and light of the world…”

Old and New Message:

“God is Love”

Benedict XVI and The Apostle John

good news deus caritas est
Good News: Deus Caritas Est

…Love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind is as essential to her as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel.

The church cannot neglect the service of charity anymore than she can neglect the sacraments and the word. Deus Caritas Est #21

god is love deus caritas est
“God Is Love-Deus Caritas Est”

Three things make Church the Church…core of “Catholic Identity”

  • Proclaim the Gospel
  • Celebrate the Sacraments
  • Care for and Stand with the “least of these”…the poor and vulnerable
deus caritas est
Deus Caritas Est
  • … charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as “social charity.
        • Deus Caritas Est #29
caritas in veritatae charity and the common good
Caritas In Veritatae: Charity AND the Common Good

“The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbor, the more effectively we love them.

Every Christian is called to practice this charity… This is the institutional path … the political path of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbor directly.” (7)

bxvi one teaching
BXVI: “One Teaching”
  • the unity of the Church’s social andmoral teaching,
  • making fundamental connections between charity and truth,

between the protection of life and pursuit of justice.

  • Benedict insists “there is a single teaching, consistent and at the same time ever new.” (CEV 12)
religion and politics
Religion and Politics
  • This kind of talk…
    • First Amendment protects…
    • Try to mute our voices…
  • Faith is important, but private…
    • Danger to faith and politics…
  • We have same rights, no more no less…
    • Neither favoritism, nor discrimination…
religion and politics1
Religion and Politics
  • When people bring their deepest convictions, enrich not diminish…
  • Otherwise, it’s can be just about power, money, ego
  • We contribute to the pluralism and participation …
faithful citizenship
Faithful Citizenship

What it is Not:

  • Religious Practices of Politicians
    • Recent questions: Mormon? Muslim?
    • Reagan and Clinton
  • Political Clout of Religious Groups
    • “The Catholic Vote”…don’t know Catholics
  • Pastors Telling Us How toVote
    • Don’t Need…Pastorally inappropriate… ecclesially divisive…theologically unwise… politically counter-productive… and … illegal.
benedict church and politics
Benedict: Church and Politics

Rather, the church wishes to help form consciences in political life

and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice

as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest.”

Benedict XVI …God is Love…Deus Caritas Est

context for faithful citizenship
Context for Faithful Citizenship
  • “Signs of the Times”
    • WWR…currents and rocks…
signs of the times
Signs of the Times

Tough Times

  • Challenged Church
  • Wounded Nation
  • Economy in Crisis
  • Broken World
  • Culture of Violence
  • Polarized/Paralyzed Politics
challenged church
Challenged Church
  • Affirmative Challenges…passing on faith, applying principles, leadership, identity
  • Scandals
    • Broken people and trust…
    • pastoral and financial costs – spiritual and moral credibility
  • Polarization
    • from politics to ecclesial life…
    • politics shape faith…?
      • some “Catholic Answers”…a certain kind of “Faithful America”…“Non-negotiables” and “everything is negotiable”…
wounded nation
Wounded Nation
  • Wounded by Terror…
        • 9/11…
  • At war…
        • wish they had listened…
  • “Going in wrong direction”
economy in crisis
Economy in Crisis
  • Most powerful, productive economy on earth… great stress
  • > 9% unemployment, growing poverty
  • Four economies in one nation
    • Pulling ahead…
    • Left behind…
    • Squeezed…
    • In the Shadows
broken world
Broken World
  • Remember: prayer after Mass…
  • Imagine…Baghdad, Bethlehem, Beijing…
  • Not just a safer world …better, more just, more peaceful..
culture of violence
Culture of Violence
  • Society in moral disarray…
  • Culture of Violence/Culture of Death
    • Abortion
    • Euthanasia
    • death penalty
    • war
  • Cycle of violence
de moral ized politics
De-moral-ized Politics

Washington: “De-moral-ized”

  • lost confidence, competence …
    • polarized, paralyzed
  • Shrill and Shallow…
political context
Political Context
  • Our values, priorities are often missing…
      • Where are the “least of these”
      • Unborn children.
      • Poor children…
      • Immigrants
      • Hungry
de moral ized politics1
De-moral-ized Politics
  • Too much of Two kinds of individualism
  • Some Republicans
      • “economic/ market individualism”
  • Some Democrats
      • “lifestyle individualism”
      • “choice”:What about our choice?
political context1
Political Context
  • Good News
    • Renewed Focus on religion/politics…
  • Bad News
    • simplistic, superficial.. Shallow and shrill….
    • Can be misused
      • “religious right”
      • “politically correct Christians”
political context2
Political Context
  • “Catholic Vote” : Vital…up for grabs (Mrs. O’Reilly…)
    • 8 out 9…
    • EJ: Not Monolithic, but important 40-40-20
    • Wrestle…What does it mean to be
        • Believer and Voter?
        • Catholic and American
political context3
Political Context
  • Catholic Political Realities…
    • Non-participation…
    • Vote party, class, ethnicity, economic interests, prejudices, affiliations…
    • Regular Churchgoers…
    • Open to moral dimensions of issues …not who or how to vote…
a new moment
  • new openness…
  • Fundamental problems are not just…political, economic, military, technical…
  • Moral, ethical, spiritual…
  • Life and death, war and peace, who…
bishops renewed politics
Bishops: Renewed Politics
  • Focused more on moral principles than on the latest polls
  • Focused more on the needs of the weak than on benefits for the strong
  • Focused more on the pursuit of the common good than on the demands of narrow interests

US Catholic Bishops Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

  • What we don’t bring to Public Life…
    • We don’t promise endorsements, comtibutions or votes…
        • (“Our Father”)
assets what do we bring
Assets:What do we bring?
  • Consistent Moral Framework
  • Everyday Experience
  • Leaders/people
assets principles
Assets: Principles
  • Moral Framework/Principles
    • Don’t make it up…
    • Not free
    • Not “trendy”…
  • “Without a vision……”
Not pious platitudes-Not bumper sticker solutions…
  • Politically Incorrect…Does not fit partisan/ideological framework…
  • Not WWJD
catholic social teaching
Rerum Novarum,1891

Quadregesimo Annos, 1931

Pius XII, Christmas Messages

Mater et Magistra,1961

Pacem in Terris,1963

Gaudium et Spes,1966

Populorum Progresssio, 1967

Octogesima Advenians, 1971

Justice in the World, 1974

Laborem Exercens,1981

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 1988

Centesimus Annus, 1991

Envagelium Vitae

Deus Caritas Est

Caritas in Veritate

Catholic Social Teaching

Another way of examining CST…

Catholic “AND”

catholic and
Catholic “AND”
  • Human Life andDignity…
  • RightsandResponsibilities…
  • Family and Community
  • Priority for Poor andVulnerable
  • Dignity of WorkandRights of Workers
  • Solidarity andSubsidiarity….
  • Care for the Planet and People
  • Common Good (all about and)
human life and dignity
Human Life and Dignity
  • Every person is precious…
  • Human Life AND Dignity
rights and responsibilities
Rights and Responsibilities
  • Right to life and those things which make life fully human….
        • Faith and family
        • Work and education
        • Housing and Health care
  • Responsibility…
    • Secure rights for selves and others…
solidarity and subsidiarity
Solidarity and Subsidiarity

Solidarity:JPII’s centerpiece

    • Sisters and brothers… one human family
    • “Love your neighbor” has global dimensions…


    • Relationships-- large and small
    • Don’t substitute, overwhelm mediating structures
    • What we can do ourselves… what we need to do together…
  • Katrina: best and worst…
common good
Common Good
  • The essential AND
  • Put the good of the entire community before the demands of few.
  • chain of life is only as strong as the weakest link….
  • We are in this together…
the catholic but
The Catholic BUT
  • All life is sacred, but not all issues are equal…
  • The Culture of life begins with the protection of unborn, but…
faithful citizenship1
  • Different Questions
    • not are you better off…. ?
      • life and death,
      • war and peace,
      • who moves ahead, who gets left behind…
  • Everyday Experience
    • Not just what we believe…What we do? Who?
    • Church: Largest non-governmental provider…
  • Leaders—Benedict XVI,JPII, Bishops
  • People: Just a portion of our potential
      • What would….
  • “Without a people…”

“If you got your act together you’d be dangerous”

  • About people and individual lives…

not just principles and ideas…

  • Faithful Citizenship is more than elections, more than voting
  • Use our voice, time, skills, money…legislative networks
  • Join with others…
circle of protection
Circle of Protection
  • Who
  • What
  • How
  • Reach out
    • Administration and Congress
    • Democrats and Republicans
    • Offer not a plan, proposal, but a principle
    • President: Matt 25
    • Chairman Ryan: Shared sacrifice
circle of protection1
Circle of Protection
  • As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare.
  • We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up—how it treats those Jesus called "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45).


circle of protection2
Circle of Protection
  • The nation needs to substantially reduce future deficits, but not at the expense of hungry and poor people.
  • Funding focused on reducing poverty should not be cut. It should be made as effective as possible, but not cut.
  • We urge our leaders to protect and improve poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance to promote a better, safer world.
circle of protection3
Circle of Protection
  • National leaders must review and consider tax revenues, military spending, and entitlements in the search for ways to share sacrifice and cut deficits.
  • fundamental task is to create jobs and spur economic growth. Decent jobs at decent wages are the best path out of poverty, and restoring growth is a powerful way to reduce deficits.
  • Conscience Protection
    • Cruel Paradox
      • Praise for faith based efforts
      • Ignore tradition of conscience protection
  • National
    • Health care
    • Human Trafficking
    • HIV-AIDS
faithful citizenship 2008
Faithful Citizenship:2008

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

A Call to Political Responsibility

from the Catholic Bishops

of the United States

church and politics
Church and Politics

“it is not the church’s responsibilityto make this teaching prevail in political life.

Rather, the church wishes to help form consciencesin political life

and to stimulate greater insightinto the authentic requirements of justice

as well as greater readiness to actaccordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest.”

Benedict XVI …God is Love…Deus Caritas Est

faithful citizenship2
Faithful Citizenship

“We are called to bring together

our principles and our political choices,

our values and our votes

to help build a society

more respectful of human life,

a more just nation and

a more peaceful world.”

FCFC 2008

proposed usccb plan for fcfc
Proposed USCCB Plan for FCFC
  • Domestic Justice
  • Doctrine,
  • Pro-Life,
  • Family, Marriage
  • Communications
  • Education,
  • Migration,
  • Cultural Diversity,
  • International Justice/Peace

Bishop Chairmen of 9 USCCB Committees:

  • are working together for 2012 plan.
fcfc 2011 introductory note
FCFC 2011: Introductory Note
  • Introductory Note does not extend, interpret or add to FCFC which :
    • represents the continuing teaching of our Bishops’ Conference and our guidance for Catholics…
    • We urge our Catholic pastors and people to continue to use FCFC to help them form their consciences, and to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue, and to shape their choices in the coming election
fcfc 2011 introductory note1
FCFC 2011: Introductory Note

Emphasizes religious freedom

  • the right and duty of Catholics to participate fully in public life
  • the rights of the Church as an institution to serve those in need without violating our consciences or moral principles.
fcfc 2011 introductory note2
FCFC 2011: Introductory Note
  • The Note also lists efforts of our Bishops’ Conference
  • some involve opposing intrinsic evil and some require positive action
    • protection of life
    • safeguarding conscience
    • defense of marriage
    • economic crisis/priority for the poor
    • comprehensive immigration reform
    • moral dimensions of war /violence.
fcfc 2011 introductory note3
FCFC 2011: Introductory Note
  • The Note does not modify, interpret or expand on the bishops’ earlier document
  • not a scorecard, voters guide or directions on how to vote.
  • warns against the misuse of the document to advance partisan or ideological ends.
  • It is an effort to form conscience.
faithful citizenship3
Faithful Citizenship
  • More Clear about purpose…
    • Forming consciences…not voter guide
    • Teachers, pastors…not political organizers…
    • Leave to conscience…but well-formed conscience…
  • Greater clarity and attention to distinctionsbetween issues… and links among them….
faithful citizenship4
Faithful Citizenship
  • Two Foundations:
      • Conscience
      • Prudence
  • Two Duties:
      • Resist Evil
      • Pursue Good
  • Two Temptations:
      • No Distinctions…
      • Nothing Else Matters…
faithful citizenship5
Faithful Citizenship
  • These decisions should take into account a candidate’s
    • commitments,
    • character,
    • integrity,
    • and ability to influence a given issue.
  • In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.No. 37
faithful citizenship 20081
Faithful Citizenship:2008
  • Catholic lay women and men need become more involved
    • running for office,
    • working within political parties,
    • communicating concerns to elected officials.
    • A ways to go…(Kelly)
faithful citizenship6
Faithful Citizenship:
  • “Political, Not Partisan”
    • Not cheerleader, chaplain, advocate, but challenge…
  • “Principled, Not Ideological”
    • Don’t give on fundamentals, but open…
  • “Civil, Not Soft”
    • Make our case, but don’t impugn motives respect/persuasion/justice/ charity
  • “Engaged, Not Used”
    • Our agenda.. Our turf…honors…relationships


  • Follow your leaders…
  • Directions and Dangers
do s and don ts do
Do’s and Don’ts: DO…
  • Distribute Faithful Citizenship materials…
  • Share church teaching on human life, human rights, and justice and peace.
  • Apply Catholic values to legislation and public issues.
  • non-partisan voter registration
  • unbiased candidate questionnaires
  • Check with diocese.
do s and don ts don t
Do’s and Don’ts: DON’T…

Endorse or oppose candidates for political office.

  • Distribute partisan campaign literature under church auspices.
  • Invite only selected candidates to address your church-sponsored group.
  • Distribute a biased candidate survey.
danger polarization
Danger: Polarization


  • Resist polarization…not factions or interest group… One family of faith
  • We can divide up the work, but we can’t divide the Church
  • Not everybody can do everything
  • Not chaplains to factions
  • “The Body of Christ”…
  • “It’s not my job”
          • I’m not….
          • No believer…
          • In our own small ways..
  • Change culture to change policies
    • Can’t prevail on isolated issues…
    • Deal with foundations/assumptions
    • Life is cheap/ people as things
      • Unborn as imposition
      • Elderly as burden
      • Immigrants as threat
      • Torture as necessary
      • Criminals are animals
      • Civilian casualties as collateral damage
    • All life deserves respect
    • Every person has God-given Dignity
2008 faithful citizenship moral challenges for voters
2008 Faithful CitizenshipMoral Challenges for Voters

Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. ….

A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position…

At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

faithful citizenship 20082
Faithful Citizenship:2008

There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons….

essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight ….

faithful citizenship 20083
Faithful Citizenship:2008

These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue.

faithful citizenship7
Faithful Citizenship
  • As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support.
  • Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.
faithful citizenship8
Faithful Citizenship
  • When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma.
  • may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.
the doctrinal note
The Doctrinal Note

“A well formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals…

The Christian faith is an integral unity and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine.

A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’ responsibility toward the common good.”

The Doctrinal Note on Catholics and Politics

faithful citizenship9
Faithful Citizenship
  • “A consistent ethic of life should guide all Catholic engagement in political life. This Catholic ethic neither
    • treats all issues as morally equivalent nor
    • reduces Catholic teaching to one or two issues.” FC 2008
consistent life ethic
Consistent life Ethic
  • Be consistent about the consistent life ethic…
    • Seamless garment is neither…
    • Not a menu, scorecard, escape, excuse
  • Consistent life ethic doesn’t give anyone a free pass, challenges all of us…Human life and Dignity
  • Example: PEPFAR
consistent life ethic1
Consistent life Ethic
  • Be consistent about the consistent life ethic…
    • Seamless garment is neither…
    • Not a menu, scorecard, escape, excuse
  • Consistent life ethic doesn’t give anyone a free pass, challenges all of us…Human life and Dignity
  • Example: PEPFAR
faithful citizenship10
Faithful Citizenship

Politically homeless… “disenfranchised”

  • More, not less engagement. “Mixed Marriage…”
  • A ways to go…(Kelly)

Resist Making “Political Homelessness” a virtue…a safe refuge…

  • resting place instead of launching pad
  • build a home or find shelter… … communities/caucuses within parties…
  • Stand on sidelines, wringing our hands, offering commentary.
danger polarization1
Danger: Polarization
  • Inside the Catholic Community
    • Good bishops and Bad bishops, Faithful and Unfaithful,
    • Elevate Differences in strategies, tactics into differences in principle and faith..
  • In the Public Square
    • Use Catholic Teaching, institutions to advance partisan, ideological agendas… Play bishops off against one another