Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Faithful citizenship: sharing the blessings as well as the burdens

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the Oct. 23, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

The election season is winding up to full speed. It’s been on the fringes of the news for months. Now it’s earnest.

As in years past, the U.S. bishops have released a reflection – a lengthy essay, really – about Catholics and their participation in the political process. This year’s statement is titled “Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility.”

“Faithful Citizenship” is not a call to partisan party politics. This may disappoint some who would accuse the bishops of trying to appease, more than challenge.

Even a cursory reading of the bishops’ text, however, identifies key points. This section is particularly striking:

“Politics cannot be merely about ideological conflict, the search for partisan advantage, or political contributions. It should be about fundamental moral choices. How do we protect human life and dignity? How do we fairly share the blessings and burdens of the challenges we face? What kind of nation do we want to be? What kind of world do we want to shape?”

We honestly do have a responsibility as citizens of this country to take an active, informed interest in the political landscape. To care enough to learn about the candidates and the issues – to move past the simplistic rhetoric, to examine the track records of politicians and their organizations. To bring the answers of our faith tradition to the questions of cheap slogans.

It’s not just during election years – as the bishops rightly point out, it’s about “politics in this election year and beyond” which “should be about an old idea with new power: the common good.”

Government and politics have an enormous impact on our life as a society. There is so much that is good – and so much potential for greater good. There is also so much that is wrong, and is badly directed, and getting, it seems, worse.

We all stand as participants in this society. We all stand as members – Catholic members, with a sense of purpose and a set of values that go beyond simple profit, simple taxation, simple us-versus-them. We are all united as one. What benefits the least benefits us all.

As the bishops say, “The central question should not be, ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’ It should be, ‘How can “we” – all of us, especially the weak and vulnerable – be better off in the years ahead? How can we protect and promote human life and dignity? How can we pursue greater justice and peace?’”

One way is by being involved. By being informed. By living what we believe, in the pew and in the voting booth.

(More information on “Faithful Citizenship” can be found on page 10 of the Oct. 23, 2003 edition of the Inland Register. The text of the bishops’ statement can be found on the web site of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.)

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