Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Civic Responsibility is Not Just a Right, It’s a Responsibility for Catholics

Event attendees listen with interest as Eric Failing discusses the Faithful Citizenship document produced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This document is a guide on how, as Catholics, we should form our conscience and take an active role in politics.
Event attendees listen with interest as Eric Failing discusses the Faithful Citizenship document produced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This document is a guide on how, as Catholics, we should form our conscience and take an active role in politics.

Politics. It’s one of those topics we avoid discussing at social, and sometimes family, gatherings. It brings with it a seemingly endless cycle of television ads, postcards, phone calls, emails, text messages – and on and on. But as explained by Eric Failing, executive director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public affairs arm for the Latin rite dioceses and archdiocese, along with the Ukrainian and Byzantine Eparchies of Pennsylvania, practicing your civic rights by participating in the political process is a responsibility for Catholics.

During a presentation at the Diocesan Center on April 8, Failing said the first step in practicing faithful citizenship is to have a well-formed conscience.

“To practice faithful citizenship, the bishops, through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, tell us we must have a properly formed conscience…. If we fail to form our consciences in the light of the truths of the faith and the moral teachings of the Church, we can make erroneous judgements,” said Failing.

The Church will never tell us who to vote for, he added, but it has given Catholics the tools to make informed decisions. “Catholic social doctrine has no intention of taking power from the state, but simply to help purify reason and to contribute to the discernment of what is just. The Church is clear in stressing that she has an obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society as this is a requirement of our faith.”

Eric Failing, executive director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, answers questions during the recent Faithful Citizenship event hosted by the Diocese.
Eric Failing, executive director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, answers questions during the recent Faithful Citizenship event hosted by the Diocese.

This participation doesn’t mean just voting, but rather taking an active role in civic life.

“We are called to service, to help others and to honor our brothers and sisters. That doesn’t happen unless all of us as Catholics equate participation with citizenship,” said Failing. “As Catholics, we should be running for office; working within political parties; communicating our concerns and positions to our elected officials; joining our Diocesan social missions and advocacy networks.”

Failing then spoke about the Faithful Citizenship document from the bishops and how it is important for Catholics to have a properly formed conscience.

“We are not Republicans. We are not Democrats or Independents or Socialists or Communists or any other political label. We are Catholics,” said Failing. “We may like portions of a particular political party’s platform and dislike potions of the platform of another party, but we must never forget that at the end of the day, it is our Catholic morality that must guide our positions, not a political party’s platform. As the bishops of the USCCB remind us, ‘The Church cannot champion any candidate or party. Our cause is the defense of human life and dignity and the protection of the weak and vulnerable.’”

Kicking off the Q&A portion of the event was a question on the minds of many – how do you choose between two candidates, one with moral character that seems to be trying to help the weak and poor, but does not support the Church’s teaching on abortion, and one that has questionable moral character, but does follow Church teaching on abortion.

Failing reiterated that the Church will never tell us who to vote for or what candidates should not receive our vote. He added that with the information bombardment we face daily, it can be challenging to separate truth from untruth. “I think we need to turn them (cell phones) off and just listen (to God’s voice) more.”

Another participant in attendance, who asked not to be identified, proposed that the Church teaches we should have a well-formed conscience and not just for voting purposes. But when considering this and taking a step back, to have a well-formed conscience you need to have a firm faith and, in essence, be a disciple.

“I think it’s a lifelong process,” Failing said in response. “We talk about living a Catholic lifestyle and how to live it. But when we have that desire to be a disciple, we naturally have that closer relationship with God.”

Failing concluded the evening with a notice that the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference does produce a voter guide for the general November election. These guides include national and state races with a breakdown of how candidates responded to questions on topics related to Catholic teaching.

To learn more about the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and their work, please visit https://www.pacatholic.org.

(Photos by Rachel Bryson, The Catholic Witness.)

By Rachel Bryson, The Catholic Witness

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