This article is the first of a series that will match Catholic teaching to current events and political discourse that is taking place in the USA.
The topics that will be discussed include, but are not limited to, migration (e.g. the situation taking place on the Southern Border), critical race theory, the right of self-protection, fiscal policy, etc. These articles intend to advocate for action concerning these issues in the public square (e.g., civil dialogue with those that want to engage in dialogue). Our action is especially needed at the ballot box.
Gauss—arguably the greatest mathematician of all time—once said that mathematics is the queen of all sciences. Gauss was pointing out that mathematics without an application, like engineering, is no more than an intellectual art form. Synonymously, the Catholic faith, without influencing our actions during our daily lives, is also reduced to an intellectual art form.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: "Prayer leads to Faith; Faith leads to Hope; Hope leads to Charity. It is clear that Charity—which are actions taken for the love of Christ—are good works performed."
In short, the Catholic faith is not to remain simply an intellectual art form but an action-oriented faith. Moreover—as Catholics—our actions are to be guided by the Church’s teaching of faith and morals. Scripturally, we can easily see in the Gospel of Matthew 25: 31-46 we are called to act, for example. St. James makes this even clearer when he wrote: “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2: 17)
Concerning the “Public Square” (i.e., politics), many today would argue that there is a separation between Church and State. However, there is nothing in our Constitution, Declaration of Independence, or any other federal document that supports this claim. This concept came about in a letter that Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. Jefferson wrote:
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”
In short, Jefferson is stating that the Government has no authority to establish a State-mandated religion. This makes sense since the founders of our country left England that had mandated the Church of England. Associatively, The first clause in the Bill of Rights states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This is known as the Establishment Clause. In essence, the Establishment clause protects the Churches.
There does not exist any prohibition of Catholics from bringing the teachings of our Church, faith, or moral reasoning to the political sphere, and so we should. In short—in the USA—we are free to be Catholics first, and USA citizens second. God is sovereign over all nations of the earth, and all people.
Currently, I am a member of a county Sheriff’s Posse, and when we wear our uniforms, the only pin that can be placed above that American Flag is a pin for the Church. It is my understanding that this is true in the military as well. This situation reflects the Judeo-Christian beliefs that the country was founded upon and recognizes the sovereignty of God over the USA. An excellent documentary/movie on the subject is called “Monumental: In Search of America's National Treasure.”
The founding fathers of the country expected citizens to have faith in God and established an educational system that would yield a knowledgeable populous to vote prudently in support of the newly established form of government. In fact—and many people may be surprised to find out—the very first Bill ever passed by the US Congress was for the purchase of Bibles that were to be placed in every school in the country.
As other examples, please read the Thanksgiving Day proclamations of George Washington and the other early Presidents of the United States. These proclamations are moving and amazing in recognizing God’s sovereignty over the USA!
Concerning the “Public Square” and the Catholic Faith, the CCC states the following:
2239 It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one's country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community.
2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country:
Pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
[Christians] reside in their own nations, but as resident aliens. They participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners. . . . They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws. . . . So noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it.
The Apostle[St. Paul] exhorts us to offer prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who exercise authority, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way."
However, the CCC also states:
2242 The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." "We must obey God rather than men…"
Concerning the Church and the political arena, the CCC states:
2246 It is a part of the Church's mission "to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it. The means, the only means, she may use are those which are in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all men according to the diversity of times and circumstances."
The term, “The Church” is not simply meaning a building or human institution. The Church is the body of Christ, and we are the body of Christ. The body of Christ is the Church—scripturally—as referenced in Ephesians 1:22-23, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Romans 12:3-5, and Colossians 1:24. Scripture also tells us we enter the Body of Christ is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Galatians 3:27. In short, all of us compose the mystical body of Christ which is the Church.
A well-meaning Priest once told me that during these turbulent times, we need to remember that Christ is King. This—of course—is true. However, meditating on King Solomon’s Temple, or on King Herod the Great who was credited with being an ambitious builder (e.g., built the Temple, a temple to Ceaser at Caesarea Philippi) it was not these individual men that cut or placed the stones. The stones were cut and placed by subjects that followed their Kings’ directions. In the same vein, we are subjects of Christ, our King, and follow and execute His direction. The Saints understood this concept well as evidenced in a Prayer given to us by St. Teresa of Avila:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
— St. Teresa of Ávila (Doctor of the Church)
Recently, my wife and I watched the documentary/movie entitled, “Roe V. Wade.” One description of the film reads, “Dr. Bernard Nathanson and Dr. Mildred Jefferson square off in a national battle in this untold conspiracy that led to the most famous and controversial court case in history” (2021, Directed by Cathy Allyn, Nick Loeb. With Jon Voight, Nick Loeb, Stacey Dash, Jamie Kennedy).
While several truths about the case were revealed, one of the striking concerns of the Pro-Choice advocates at that time was their fear of the Catholic vote. Catholics voted their Church taught faith and morals (i.e., voted with an informed conscience) at that time. The Pro-Choice advocates knew that they would never get the votes in the Legislative Branch of the government, so they used the Judicial Branch.
Today, in looking over the 2020 election results, it appears that there is no reason for politicians to seek or coddle the Catholic vote anymore because the Catholic Vote is very similar to the general secular vote. Why? Bishop James Golka, at his installation Mass on June 29, 2021, said it well.
Bishop Golka said, “I think we admit that, for much of our culture, we cannot assume any more they all know the story of Jesus. In our Catholic tradition, we cannot assume that they know their Catholic faith, nor that they practice it. So in a sense, we are sent into mission territory—an apostolic mission to somehow proclaim who Jesus is, for me and my life and for you and yours.” (The Colorado Catholic Herald, Volume 42-Number 12, July 9, 2021, pg.3) For more information on Catholics knowing their faith, please see a previous article I wrote in 2018 entitled, “Mass Attendance is Down…Proper Catechesis is Part of the Solution.”
I am a strong advocate of prayer. However, and assuming a person is physically and mentally capable, I have mentioned to a Bishop and a couple of Priests, “Prayer without sweat isn’t worth spit.” We who are physically and mentally capable pray for graces and guidance to perform works that are in accord with God’s will. We are loyal subjects of our King and strive to follow our King’s direction in all we do out of love for Him. May we sweat in the public square for our King as Catholics.