Many ways exist for Catholics to have a voice on issues

| Jessica Zittlow | June 18, 2012 | 0 Comments

“Political participation, at its best, is an expression of faith.”

Our Catholic faith is our life, not merely a Sunday morning hobby. As a church, we have a long tradition of living our faith through works of mercy, such as feeding the hungry or clothing the naked. We also bring hope to our communities by supporting policies in the public square that align with the Gospel — the same teachings that inform our works of mercy, in fact.

The church expresses its official position on public policy matters nationally through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and locally through the Minnesota Catholic Conference. But in today’s political climate, it is not enough for our Catholic bishops to voice their position on an issue; it is necessary for the lay faithful to join the bishops by speaking up themselves and taking action.

Parish activities

The church has a right and responsibility to weigh in on public issues. Her role is to remind legislators and the public of those truths and principles that serve human dignity and the common good and are accessible to all people through reason.  The church only proposes; she imposes nothing.

To that end, parishes and church organizations may participate in a variety of political activities without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status, including:

  • Advocacy for or against ballot initiatives such as constitutional amendments.
  • Advocacy for or against legislation.
  • Distributing materials related to specific issues that do not reference candidates or parties.
  • Participating in non-partisan voter registration efforts or get-out-the-vote-drives.
  • Organizing issue-specific letter-writing campaigns or lobby day events.
  • Sponsoring public voter education forums on specific issues.

Individual activities

As individual citizens, we are called to be informed voters and to encourage our elected officials to act on behalf of the common good. How do you do this as a Catholic?

1. Educate yourself about both the policy challenges and legislative issues at the local, state and federal level. Both the MCC and USCCB have numerous resources you can use to educate yourself about important issues facing the community.

2. Email or phone your local and state officials. Sign up for the Minnesota Catholic Advocacy Network  (MNCAN) at http://www.mncc.org to receive advocacy action alerts that include simple, quick emailing and calling instructions on your advocacy areas of interest.

3. Write letters. Send them not only to your local and state officials, but also to the editorial department of your local and state newspaper. Are you thinking: “What’s the point? They are biased and only cover what they want to fairly”? Despite secular media taking very public positions on certain issues, the more letters they receive expressing a particular position, the more likely they are to print one. MNCAN offers a media guide through which you can connect to a paper’s editorial department.

4. Visit legislators at district offices.

5. Attend community events to talk to legislators and public officials.

6. Inform others in your parish about a public policy issue of concern. This includes social justice, pro-life, and marriage and family committees as well as Catholic women’s groups and Knights of Columbus, among others. If you don’t have one of these groups at your parish, start one!

7. VOTE! Encourage others to do the same.

More faithful citizenship resources and ways to get involved can be found under the “Take Action” and “Resources” tabs at http://www.mncc.org.

Jessica Zittlow is communications associate with the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

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Category: Commentary