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Catholics must be leaven in the world

A few months ago I spoke with some Catholics who told me that they had not voted in the last three elections because they had given up hope in politics. I was stunned, but not surprised.

This past week the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a survey that reported 72 percent of the public thinks religion is losing influence in American life. At the same time, the number of people who think that churches and other religious leaders should speak about politics and social issues has grown from 43 percent in 2010 to 49 percent.

This shows us that a growing number of people realize faith plays an irreplaceable role in public life.

We are just over 30 days away from our next election. This presents every Catholic with an opportunity to bring what our faith teaches us about the human person and God’s plan for our true happiness into the voting booth. It is also chance for us to respond to the Second Vatican Council’s call for Catholics to be leaven in society.

Catholics should be voting, but society needs the faithful to do more than that. It needs intentional disciples of Christ and his Church to run for office or be involved in some way with the political process.

It is easy to bemoan the state of politics and give in to despair about society. But this is not a Christian attitude. As believers in Christ, our faith should give us the conviction of hope, because we know that Jesus conquered sin and death. Our hope is not in politicians, political parties, laws or institutions. Our hope is in Christ, who is able to transform our society and its people, if we let him work in us and through us.

This means that if our candidate loses an election, if bad laws are enacted, or even if we are persecuted, our hope should not be shaken. Nor should we give up the battle. We can say this with confidence because Christ’s resurrection proves that, in the end, his faithful disciples will succeed. Indeed, Jesus promised Peter, “the gates of hell will not prevail” against the Church (Matt 16:18).

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With the election drawing near, I re-read a note that was put out in 2002 by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith on the topic of Catholics’ involvement in political life. Few of you are probably aware of the note and fewer yet have probably read it. Yet, the more I have thought about its contents, the more I have come to the conviction that all Catholics should read and reflect on it, as it contains important teachings about living our faith in the world and how we vote.

Every Catholic who is running for office or is presently an elected official should read and study the note. Too often, Catholics of either political party pay more attention to the ideology of their party and know more about that than the teaching of Jesus Christ and his Church. Catholics are called to be authentic disciples of Jesus Christ whose hearts, minds and consciences are continually formed by his teachings and not by a political party or someone’s opinion.

The Second Vatican Council teaches in “Lumen Gentium” that “the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity” (No. 31).

We have heard Pope Francis speak frequently on the importance of Catholics bringing Christ into the world. If every Catholic heeded the call of Jesus Christ, the invitation of Pope Francis and previous popes, and the invitation of the Second Vatican Council to go out into the world, it would be a much different place. I am confident that Catholic politicians and Catholic voters, when they prayerfully study the teachings of Christ and the Church they will vote with the heart and mind of Christ and help sanctify the world.

For that reason, sections of the note from the CDF will be printed in the Denver Catholic Register over the next three weeks, beginning with the introduction this week (see “On Catholics and politics” on this page).

I urge everyone to read this note and to examine your attitude about politics. Is it one of Christian hope? Do you see yourself called to sanctify the world? I also invite you to ask God what kind of involvement he is asking you to have in the political realm. How is he calling you to be leaven in our society?

The full note can be read at: http://ow.ly/C4CjI.

For information about Colorado politics, visit: www.cocatholicconference.org/.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
The Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila is the eighth bishop of Denver and its fifth archbishop. His episcopal motto is, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).

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