Don't Abandon Politics
George Sim Johnston (“Follow the Bright Young People from Politics to Culture,” Register, Jan. 31 to Feb. 6) advises young Catholics to “give politics a break and get to work at the grass roots … reclaim[ing] this culture one person, one family, one neighborhood at a time.” While we must eliminate the culture of death at every level of society, to advise Catholics to get out of politics is a profound mistake.
If “the culture” means the attitudes of average American citizens such as the soccer moms he speaks of, then it was not “the culture” that gave us abortion, it was the political order.
When the Supreme Court imposed the abortion license on our nation in 1973, ordinary cultural opinion did not agree. Indeed, even now most Americans oppose abortion on demand and don't know that this is what the Roeand Doeopinions legalized.
It was not “the culture” that privileged homosexual lifestyles; a majority of Colorado citizens tried to eliminate such privileges, but it was the Supreme Court that rejected Colorado's referendum and constitutionalized homosexual privileges.
It is not “the culture” which is pushing “same-sex unions,” or which stripped the Ten Commandments, Christmas crèches, prayer, Bibles, and other religious symbols and practices from schools and other public spaces. In every single case the courts bent to the political demands of rich extremist legal interest groups.
“The culture” did not demand access to pornography, freedom of obscene speech, flag burning, teaching of deviant lifestyles in public schools, and on and on. All these radical changes came through the political order, corrupting America's morality and culture.
The Holy Father has never come close to suggesting that Catholics should march out of politics in order to change the culture. He never stops praising the “high moral vision” of the United States Constitution. Ancient Catholic tradition, reflected in the new Catechism (sec. 1884), is that politics is a providential ministry meant to imitate “the way God acts in governing the world.” The Second Vatican Council (in Gaudium et Spes,75) urged “those with a talent for the difficult yet noble art of politics, or whose talents in this matter can be developed, [to] prepare themselves for it, and, forgetting their own convenience and material interest, they should engage in political activity.”
It is a counsel of exhaustion to abandon “politics” to the restless power seekers who will not rule according to the common good. All the good cultural work will not eliminate the culture of death unless the political order is governed by men and women courageous enough to privilege families, protect education, support religious faith, and foster healthy civic character.
Our Constitution embodies the highest vision of character ever proposed for a whole polity; yet our politics have become a cesspool. Isn't this the call to a great cleansing of our political house? Isn't this the time for young Catholics with great hearts and large ambitions to respond to the Holy Spirit's vocation to practice the “noble art of politics?”
- February 14-20, 1999