Faithful Citizenship 2006
Catholics are called to political responsibility by participating in public life
First in a Series
By Wisconsin Catholic Conference
"In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue; participation in the political process is a moral obligation.... Every believer is called to become an informed, active and responsible participant in the political process..." (Faithful Citizenship 2003)
Why should Catholics participate in public life?
Catholics believe that human beings are social by nature and that each of us realizes our potential in relationship with others. Thus, all of us are called to be involved citizens who take an active part in public life. As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the common good of society is most fully realized in the political community (#1910), therefore politics and participation in public life are noble undertakings.
Election years are "teachable moments" when citizens pay special attention to public policy issues and spend time talking and thinking about them. For their part, the candidates learn from voters they meet on the campaign trail, gaining better insights as to the needs and priorities of the people. This year, when our state elects its Governor and considers important referenda on marriage and the death penalty, Wisconsin Catholics have an important opportunity to share their values and perspectives on matters of public concern.
Bishops and Faithful Citizenship
Every four years since the mid-1970s, the Administrative Board of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has adopted a statement on political responsibility. Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility (2003) urges Catholics to be active participants in our nation's political life, outlines the appropriate role for the church in the political process, identifies policy issues with moral implications and invites Catholics and others to evaluate their choices as voters in light of these issues.
This series, grounded in the U.S. Bishops' statement and prepared at the direction of Wisconsin's Bishops by the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, invites Catholics to embrace their role as citizens, not merely as a duty and a privilege, but as an opportunity to witness to the fullness of the Gospel message.
Such witness enriches public debate and provides moral leaven for our society. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est, the church "is called to contribute to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of those moral forces without which just structures are neither established nor prove effective in the long run." (#29)
The Wisconsin Bishops call on all Catholics to become more informed voters in this election year and thoughtful, involved citizens in the years that follow.
Moral priorities for public life
Faithful Citizenship identifies four major priorities for public life:
Protecting Human Life. Human life is a gift from God, sacred and inviolable. Because every human person is created in the image and likeness of God, we have a duty to defend human life, in every condition, from conception until natural death.
Promoting Family Life. God established the family as the basic cell of human society. Therefore, we must strive to make the needs and concerns of families a central priority.
Pursuing Social Justice. Our faith reflects God's special concern for the poor and vulnerable and calls us to make their needs a priority in public life. This "option for the poor and vulnerable" does not mean we should pit one class of people against another. Rather, it teaches that the community as a whole is wounded by the deprivation and powerlessness of those who are poor. The extent of their suffering is a measure of how far we are from being a true community of people.
Practicing Global Solidarity. Life is not only sacred; it is social. Thus we are bound together regardless of race, creed or nationality. The threat of terrorism, the horror of war and the challenges of globalization and immigration invite Catholics and others to evaluate even local policies in light of their impact on people in faraway places.
Our faith tells us that true security can't be measured primarily in military terms. Nor should fear define our relationships with those in other nations. Rather, our vigilance must be accompanied by openness to other cultures. Our commitment to respect life and pursue justice at home must include respect for the lives and rights of those who share the planet with us. The peace we seek will be realized when we grasp the message of John Paul II that "all are truly responsible for all."
Faithful Citizenship series
The Faithful Citizenship series includes four articles that focus on each of the moral priorities and related public policy issues. The series concludes with materials on support for the constitutional amendment to define marriage and on opposition to the advisory referendum on the death penalty.
How can I use this series?
There are a number of ways in which these resources can be helpful.
1. After you read the series, keep it on hand as a resource when you research a candidate's position on an issue.
2. Ask candidates where they stand on the principles and the issues discussed in the series.
3. Sponsor a candidate forum in your parish or community; invite candidates who attend to speak to the issues in this series.