Whenever the Holy Father speaks out on the role and obligations of Catholics in the public square, his words should be attended to very, very closely. His Holiness is deeply committed to promoting a sense of vigorous Catholic identity among the disciples of Christ, and to inspiring us to work to bring the Gospel to the world in all arenas of life.
So, when Pope Benedict addressed the Pontifical Council for the Laity last week, his comments were definitely worth noting. Among his remarks, he said:
The Church concentrates particularly on educating the disciples of Christ, so that, increasingly, they will be witnesses of his presence, everywhere. It is up to the laity to show concretely in personal and family life, in social, cultural and political life, that the faith enables one to read reality in a new and profound way and to transform it; … that the fundamental principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church, such as the dignity of the human person, subsidiarity and solidarity, are very timely and of value for the promotion of new ways of development at the service of every man and of all men.
It is of the competence of the faithful also to participate actively in political life, in a way that is always consistent with the teachings of the Church… Christians do not seek political or cultural hegemony, but, wherever they are committed, they are moved by the certainty that Christ is the cornerstone of every human construction.
This obligation is uniquely that of the Christian laity — to bring the teachings of the Church into the public arena so that the world may be transformed in light of the Gospel. All too often, Catholics compartmentalize our lives, and put our faith on the shelf when we step into “politics”. But this is not consistent with authentic discipleship. When people look at us, even when we are in the public square, there should be no doubt that Christ is indeed the cornerstone of our lives and our political positions.
Of course, this is not easy. the world is deeply hostile to the Gospel, and the temptations are ever-present to compromise, compartmentalize, and marginalize our faith. The Holy Father is all too aware of this:
The times we are living in place us before great and complex problems, and the social question has become, at the same time, an anthropological question… The spread of a confused cultural relativism and of utilitarian and hedonist individualism weakens democracy and fosters the dominance of the strong powers. A genuine political wisdom must be recovered and reinvigorated… A real “revolution of love” is necessary.
And so, it is all the more upsetting when we see the sad sight of ostensibly Catholic public officials who are deeply immersed in the cultural relativism and individualism of which the Holy Father speaks. It is all too common for politicians who were baptized as Catholics and raised in Catholic families to take positions that are thoroughly at odds with the teachings of the Church — for instance, the fundamental obligation to respect the dignity of every human person, and to respect and defend authentic marriage.
We now are faced with the sad spectacle of Andrew Cuomo, who is running for Governor of the State of New York and who was baptized a Catholic, yet is completely committed to the regime of legalized abortion, who is an ardent supporter of same-sex “marriage”.
The meeting to which the Holy Father delivered these remarks was entitled, “Witnesses of Christ in the Political Community”. He was calling all Catholics to be witnesses, to bring the teachings of the Church to bear on the difficult problems of our age.
Sadly, all too many men decide to be candidates, and not witnesses.