Writing as a pastor, not a politician

Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

In early June, I wrote a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Amy Koch and House Speaker Kurt Zellers about the present crisis over the state budget. Some commentators interpreted my message as favoring one party’s approach over another’s. That was not correct.

I took pains to express clearly and carefully the principles that should frame the budget discussions, namely, concern for the common good and providing essential services for the poor.

I wrote these letters not as a politician, but as a pastor — a pastor of 800,000 Catholics who operate small and large businesses in this archdiocese, who teach in our Catholic and public schools, who work on area farms, who staff government offices and who are unemployed.

I wrote as a pastor of a church that provides social and health services, wherein the effects of cutbacks in government support have a real and devastating impact.

Providing a framework

Our Catholic parishes and organizations meet payrolls for their employees and know firsthand the difficulties caused by rising costs, especially in the area of health care.  I, too, know of these difficulties firsthand.

But, even more importantly, I speak from the church’s age-old tradition of ethical analysis and moral insight that is found in our Catholic social teaching. From these teachings come principles which are applied using prudence and practical wisdom.

The church does not (as I did not in my letter) offer specific political or economic solutions, but rather proposes an ethical and moral framework in the hope of moving the discussion in the right direction.

The pursuit of the common good demands that power not dominate over justice, that the interests of partisanship not threaten the good of society as a whole, that the basic interests of the poor and most vulnerable not be ignored.

The church, of course, has a fundamental imperative from her Lord to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and shelter the homeless. But the state shares in these works as well in upholding the dignity of her citizens and thereby assuring the common good. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

“Those in authority should practice distributive justice wisely, taking account of the needs and contribution of each, with a view to harmony and peace. They should take care that the regulations and measures they adopt are not a source of temptation by setting personal interest against that of the community”  (no. 2236).

The church is always willing to partner with government in its service to society when that service is rooted in justice and the dignity of the human person. I believe such cooperation is in the best interests of all concerned.

The governor and state legislators have an important and demanding task. They need our respect as well as our prayerful support. I, for one, have pledged both to them.

God bless you!

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Category: That They May All Be One

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