National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Faith First, Then Politics

Facts of Life

BY The Editors

October 7-20, 2012 Issue | Posted 9/28/12 at 11:19 AM

 

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia wrote about the importance of faith in public life Sept. 15 at CatholicNewsAgency.com:

"For Christians, the trinity of virtues we call faith, hope and charity should shape everything we do, both privately and in our public lives. Faith in God gives us hope in eternal life. Hope casts out fear and enables us to love. And the love of God and other human persons — the virtue of charity — is the animating spirit of all authentically Christian political action. By love I don’t mean ‘love’ in a sentimental or indulgent sense, the kind of empty love that offers ‘tolerance’ as an alibi for inaction in the face of evil. I mean love in the Christian sense; love with a heart of courage, love determined to build justice in society and focused on the true good of the whole human person, body and soul."

"We can never accept a separation of our religious faith and moral convictions from our public ministries or our political engagement," he said. "It’s impossible. And even trying is evil because it forces us to live two different lives, worshipping God at home and in our churches and worshipping the latest version of Caesar everywhere else. That turns our private convictions into lies we tell ourselves and each other."

He went on to emphasize: "Religious faith sincerely believed and humbly lived serves human dignity. It fosters virtue, not conflict. Therefore, it can be vital in building a humane society."

"Christianity is not mainly about politics," he stated. "It’s about living and sharing the love of God. And Christian political engagement, when it happens, is never mainly the task of the clergy. That work belongs to lay believers, who live most intensely in the world. Christian faith is not a set of ethics or doctrines. It’s not a group of theories about social and economic justice. All these things have their place. All of them can be important. But a Christian life begins in a relationship with Jesus Christ; and it bears fruit in the justice, mercy and love we show to others because of that relationship. … The skills of the Christian citizen are finally very simple: a zeal for Jesus Christ and his Church; a conscience formed in humility, love for the truth and rooted in Scripture and the believing community; the prudence to see which issues in public life are vital and foundational to human dignity and which ones are not; and the courage to work for what’s right."

"As I’ve said many times before and believe just as strongly today: Abortion is the foundational human-rights issue of our lifetime," he said, going on to point out, "The way we lead our public lives needs to embody what the Catholic faith teaches — not what our personalized edition of Christianity feels comfortable with, but the real thing: the full package; what the Church actually holds to be true. In other words, we need to be Catholics first and political creatures second."

For, as he said, "The only king Christians have is Jesus Christ. The obligation to seek and serve the truth belongs to each of us personally. The duty to love and help our neighbor belongs to each of us personally. We can’t ignore or delegate away these personal duties to anyone else or any government agency."

"Law and politics shape the course of a nation’s future," he added. "Very few vocations have more importance or more dignity when they’re lived with humility, honesty and love."

"All of us who call ourselves Christians share the same vocation to love God first and above all things and to love our neighbor as ourselves," the archbishop concluded. "We’re citizens of heaven first; but we have obligations here. We’re Catholics and Christians first. And if we live that way — zealously and selflessly in our public lives — our country will be the better for it. And God will use us to help make the world new."