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The ‘Catholic Vote’


by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

Beyond the election season, our Catholic faith should be a source of unity, reconciliation and renewal

Carl A. Anderson

Carl A. Anderson

IT HAS BEEN one of the most surprising election seasons any of us can remember. Among the many surprises was the disclosure by WikiLeaks of emails from within a presidential campaign organization that caused great concern about the disparaging language used to describe Catholics.

The disclosure prompted the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, to issue an unprecedented public statement about what he described as an attempt “to interfere in the internal life of the Church for short-term political gain.” He urged public officials “to respect the rights of people to live their faith without interference from the state.”

While the fact that these disclosures came from within a political campaign was troubling, more troubling still was that they were made by Catholics about other Catholics.

The episode points to a serious challenge for Catholics in the United States: America remains a deeply divided country, and those divisions are reflected within our own Catholic faith community.

The question that we should ask ourselves is: Will Catholics in America be a source of unity and reconciliation or a cause of further division?

The answer to that question will depend largely on what we think it means today to be a Catholic in America. In other words, what is fundamental to our identity as Catholics?

Pope Francis, in his book On Heaven and Earth, written while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, stated: “There are those that seek to compromise their faith for political alliances or for a worldly spirituality. One Catholic theologian, Henri de Lubac, says that the worst that can happen to those that are anointed and called to service is that they live with the criteria of the world instead of the criteria that the Lord commands from the tablets of the law and the Gospel.”

While the pope was specifically writing about the clergy, I think what he says applies to all Catholics.

As Knights of Columbus, we must strive to be a source of unity in our Church and society, and we must do this in a way consistent with our commitment to charity, fraternity and patriotism.

Many Americans, including many Catholics, are disheartened and frustrated by the recent political season. But this is precisely the time when Catholics need to step up and more fully exercise their responsibilities as citizens for the common good. It is time for more – not less – Catholic involvement in the life of our nation.

How are Catholics to do this? Pope Francis has already given the answer: by living more fully by the criteria that the Lord commands rather than by the criteria of the world.

In other words, we need to continue the renewal of our own faith community as Catholics if we hope to more effectively influence our national life as Americans. Specifically, we might focus on six areas:

• The renewal of parishes as true eucharistic communities, with a fuller appreciation of how the “the source and summit of the Christian life” is also the source and summit of our unity and charity as Catholics.

• The evangelization of the Catholic family as a domestic church, called to reach out in solidarity to other families as a source of unity, charity, mercy and reconciliation.

• A renewed devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary not only as the perfect model of the Christian life, but also as an unsurpassed model for understanding our responsibilities as citizens for the common good.

• A deeper understanding of those moral principles and issues that have “absolute value” (as Pope Francis has said the Fifth Commandment does) for us as a faith community and that are the basis for a fuller engagement with the social doctrine of our Church.

• A heightened commitment to Catholic education that is not merely abstract, but that seeks to form the entire person.

• A greater appreciation of the office of bishop as the source of unity for the local church – a unity that promotes a deeper communion among bishops, priests, religious and laity.

Other considerations could be added to this list. But if we begin thinking in this way, then a greater unity among Catholics may provide a road map for greater unity for our entire country.

And that would be a “Catholic vote” which would endure far beyond any election.

Vivat Jesus!