Keeping our place at the public policy table

| October 27, 2011 | 0 Comments


Almost a decade ago, the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote a document titled “A Place at the Table.” Back then, the topic was poverty and the church’s recommitment to advocate for public policies benefiting the poor.

Today, if the bishops were to release a document by the same name, the topic might appropriately be the role of faith-based public policy advocacy itself.

Some increasingly vocal individuals and groups want to marginalize and sideline the church’s advocacy by arguing that it oversteps its bounds when it brings its principles and moral convictions to the public square to help shape laws and policies. What they are saying, in essence, is that there is no place at the table for the church when it comes to state and national political life.

Not just one issue

The current issue drawing most of their attention is the effort to pass a state amendment defending marriage as a union between one man and one woman — an initiative supported by Minnesota’s Catholic bishops, among others.

But marriage isn’t the only issue that routinely draws fire: The church often hears criticism for its advocacy on behalf of the life and dignity of the unborn, the poor, immigrants — legal and undocumented — as well as its positions on war, the economy and environmental policy. On each one of these topics, The Catholic Spirit has received phone calls, letters to the editor or online comments disagreeing — sometimes vehemently — with the church’s position on these issues. It’s not unusual for these critics to protest the church’s involvement in the political process altogether.

While the church’s position on any one of these issues may prove unpopular with some people, it’s simply wrong to argue that the church has no right to have its voice heard in the public arena and help shape the moral character of society.

Such participation is part of the church’s mission to protect human life and human dignity. It is participation protected by the Constitution, and it is a fundamental expression of religious liberty that must be protected.

In the end, the church works to educate Catholics and others about the implications of social policies and teaches Catholics how to go about forming their consciences as they prepare to participate in society as voters and citizens who are ultimately free to make their own choices.

As the U.S. bishops said in their latest “Faithful Citizenship” document: “Our nation’s tradition of pluralism is enhanced, not threatened, when religious groups and people of faith bring their convictions and concerns into public life.”

Despite what some may think or say or write, there is a place at the table for Catholics and the church when it comes to the political life of our state and country. It is a place that we must be diligent about maintaining in light of efforts by some to limit the seating.

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Category: Editorials