Print Edition: March 8, 2015
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BY RAYMOND L. FLYNN
conversation I had with Pope John Paul II in July of 1993 at his summer
residence at Castel Gandolfo,
he said something to me that I keep thinking as I watch in horror on TV, day
after day, the heavy pounding of Israeli missiles landing in southern Lebanon towns.
The Holy Father said to me, “The
future of Lebanon
is very troubling; much pain and much suffering. People should be able to live
in peace and practice their own religious beliefs in the Middle
East. Tragically, they are not able to. I’m troubled that many
innocent people will continue to be victims of intolerance and injustice. The
crisis in the Middle East can only be settled
with prayer and good will, not by bombs, hatred or terrorists.”
The Holy Father said two other
things to me that I believe are important today as we look for solutions to the
senseless killing in the Middle East.
His first point surprised me when
he said, “In any conflict, it is always the powerful that must give way to the
weak if justice is to be achieved.” His second point was something I’ve heard
him say before: “The voice of Catholics must be raised in the civic arena once
again. The moral strength of any democracy will depend on its ability to
protect freedom while at the same time providing it with the necessary ethical
foundations. Concern for the common good has the driving force behind the
notable involvement of America’s
Catholics in the life of their nation.”
Unfortunately, a lot has changed
with Catholics in America
since the Pope said these words to me in 1993. His call for faithful
citizenship and political responsibility has all but fallen on deaf ears.
Catholic elected officials
consistently vote and speak against traditional Catholic teachings and values,
but get rewarded by Catholic voters re-electing them to public office. Even
though Catholics are taught growing up that participation in the political
process is a moral obligation, too many Catholics are uninformed about how
their elected officials vote.
Forty percent of Catholics don’t
even vote. Even if they do vote, they often vote for party, not principle. They
unwittingly support politicians who are more concerned about what’s popular and
politically correct, not what’s morally correct and important to the values of
our country and society.
Deeply troubled with the lack of
moral and political leadership in our nation, I recently wrote a letter to Pope
Benedict XVI, which I would like to share with you. In the letter I wrote “that
the Middle East is in crisis. Thousands of
innocent Lebanese, Palestinians and Israelis are being killed and nobody has
been able to do anything about it. We are experiencing a complete breakdown of
moral order and international law.
“No political leader, party or
institution speaks for, represents or has the moral courage necessary to bring
peace and justice to the Middle East.”
I went on to respectfully urge
Benedict XVI “to reach out and appeal to faithful Catholics worldwide to become
active and vocal in this moral crisis. Catholics’ moral voices are not being
heard in the political arena. You must provide the moral leadership to restore
peace and stability in the Middle East. The
world community of faithful Catholics anxiously awaits and needs your message.
Only when the people of the region treat each other with dignity and respect
will peace come to the Holy Land.
“There are over 64 million
Catholics in the United
States and 1.2 billion worldwide. You must
lead us with one voice for peace and justice in the Middle
East. Your message will be listened to by all three great
religious faiths in the Middle East, Muslims,
Jews and Christians.”
Catholics in the United States
must also commit themselves to a new form of political participation focused on
moral principles, not on the demands of powerful special interests.
The U.S. government must not allow
foreign policy to be determined by political extremists or powerful special
interest groups. Benedict XVI should invite world religious leaders to Assisi, as Pope John Paul II so effectively did (I was
there) when he appealed for peace in Bosnia in the 1990s.
The Israeli military must stop its
brutal bombings and killing of innocent women, children and elderly in Lebanon. The
Catholic Church’s moral voice, rooted in its principles and values of the
dignity and respect for all God’s children, must be heard. Special interest
politics is driving American foreign policy. This is morally reprehensible and
damaging our reputation as an objective and fair participant on the world
The Pope must speak out, and
Catholics everywhere, especially in the United States must support him. It
is time for Catholics to accept the challenge of faithful citizenship.
Muslims, Jews and Christians must
be able to live side by side in Lebanon
and the Middle East. This must be the
cornerstone of America’s
foreign policy. The U.S.
government hunts this objective by consistently taking sides in the conflict.
Catholics must demand that our
political voice be no longer ignored. Catholics must begin to realize that the
moral and political voice of our faith and Church has been severely diminished.
Catholic political leadership has been weak, timid and ineffective. The voice
of Catholic values is ignored and non-existent in the media today.
Yes, there are plenty of Catholics
who are journalists and commentators in the American media, but their
profession requires them to be politically correct and poplar with those who dominate
and control both politics and the media today.
Catholics may be more than 64
million in number in the U.S.,
but our influence and political voice is growing weaker and weaker. Pope
Benedict XVI maybe the only hope for peace and justice in the world. Catholics
everywhere must unite behind him.
Author and commentator
Raymond L. Flynn is the former
U.S. ambassador to the Vatican,
and former mayor of Boston.
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