Faithful Citizenship in a Divided Nation: The Political Responsibility of Catholics

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The following is a talk given by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on September 24 at Holy Cross College, Notre Dame.

In this talk on faithful citizenship and our political responsibility as Catholics, I will begin with a look at the division, polarization, and extreme partisanship in our nation.  I will look at the political homelessness Catholics who are faithful to the teachings of the Church feel, particularly in relation to our two main political parties and their platforms. I will look at our political responsibility as Catholics, as faithful citizens, in the situation we find ourselves in today. This entails fidelity to Catholic social doctrine, the lack of which has sadly led to polarization among American Catholics. I will look at some of the main polarizing issues in the cultural and political debate and where Catholics should stand on these issues in fidelity to our rich social doctrine. Such fidelity would lead to greater unity among Catholics, thus enabling us to be truly a leaven in society for greater unity and harmony.

Faithful citizenship demands that Catholics hold fast to the teachings of the Church and not succumb to the temptation of adopting positions of either political party that are inimical to the truths of our faith.  In the United States today, being a Catholic and a faithful citizen does make us, in a sense, truly politically homeless. So how do we live and act and exercise our citizenship as so-called “resident aliens” or, as Archbishop Chaput calls us, in the title of his recent book, “strangers in a strange land”?  Of course, we should not be surprised to find ourselves in this position. Did not St. Paul teach us that “our citizenship is in heaven”? And does not the letter to the Hebrews say: “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come?” L