Forming consciences for Faithful Citizenship


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  • Welcome everyone, Introduce the Event and the Speaker. Let the audience know that the Catholic Church wants Catholics to responsibly participate in the political arena. To that end they offer as a resource the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”Forming our conscience towards responsible political participation means we must educate ourselves on the moral principles and social teachings of our Church, that is why we are here today to discuss. Perhaps you can remind them of the partisan environment that has transformed the political landscape and let them know that as Catholics the Bishops call us to transcend this unfortunate political environment.
  • Begin by reminding them that Vatican II calls the laity to be faithful citizens. Our Church has a document on the ministry (apostolate) of the laity and in it we are called to represent the principles of our faith within the social and political realm.You may want to inform them that Pope Benedict XVI also reminds us that Charity is an essential component of the living of the Gospel, as essential as sacraments and the Preaching the Word (Deus Caritas Est #22) and that Charity is very much defined as direct service and political advocacy (Caritas in Veritate #7).
  • Then let them know that this idea of faithful citizens is very much part of our Christian tradition and apostolic heritage. Remind them of the Apologist and the way that folks like Origen and Justin Martyr advocated for the Early Christian community to the political power of the Roman Empire.In this instance, an unknown apologist lets the early Christian community know that we transcend the political ideologies of all time. We transcend the law because we follow the Law of Christ (Divine Law)Catholics do not fit an ideological framework. We are neither socialist nor libertarians, neither liberals or conservatives, as Cardinal Francis George calls it, “Simply Catholic.” (The Difference God Makes)
  • Now Introduce Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (FC): Start by discussing the purpose of this document (as stated in the introduction above.)The Church will not tell you who to vote for. Do not look for easy answers because there are none. The purpose is to offer a formation of Conscience so that the lay person can be aware of the principles of our faith and with that information we can apply it within our civic obligations (which go beyond November 6th)
  • In this slide we want to emphasize two things.The Church must not seek to replace the state (We had, Christendom, not a good idea)As a moral teacher (Moral precepts flow from our faith (10 commandments, Beatitudes, Golden Rule)) Our Church is responsible for offering social principles and critiquing conventional laws based on our limited knowledge of Divine Laws (via natural law)
  • However it is our duty as socially responsible Catholics to participate within our social reality (political, economic, cultural) and to promote the principles of our faith within these social systems. As Vatican II tells us: This this our particular ministry, as laity.
  • Now let us go into the idea of formation of conscience, which is the purpose of FC. As a reminder let them know that an essential element to the sacrament of reconciliation is the “examination of conscience.” Our tradition tells us that Conscience comes from God and it is through our conscience that we have access to the first principles of divine law (synderesis). We are obliged to follow our conscience.However our conscience can be in error since it is a process (syneidesis) and our interpretation and experience may limit our understanding. So we must always evaluate and form conscience with the resources of our revealed faith and tradition (again, the purpose of the document)Extol the virtue of prudence. The way it is used in our tradition is not the way it is typically defined. In this case prudence is the virtue of ongoing discernment. Always reflect and be open to the social context.
  • Paragraph 22 in FC mentions this important word so lets discuss it.“There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor… These are called “intrinsically evil” actions… A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia.”Vatican II (Gaudium Et Spes (1965)) and the Papal Encyclicals have defined this term which is always broader than American Catholic usage so we should take some time to emphasize this authentic definition. The best definition was put forward to moral theologians in the Document Veritatis Splendor. Share these two paragraphs separately so on the one hand they promote the definition and then discuss the issues under the definition that had been spelled out with Gaudium Et Spes. Please note the breadth of issues that come under that definition. FC reminds us of this under paragraphs 24-29
  • Another element of consideration that has been developed and supported by the Papacy (Evangelium Vitae) and the U.S. Bishops is the concept that originated with Cardinal Bernadine of Chicago, the Consistent Ethic of Life (seamless garment). To be Pro-Life (which we most certainly are) is to adopt a consistent ethic on all issues that affect the dignity of life.“Whatever is hostile to life” “Whatever violates the integrity of the human person”“Whatever is offensive to human dignity”Certainly the concept of “intrinsically evil” acts does place a priority but it does not excuse the other issues of social concern. We are challenged to promote a consistent ethic for all life as this USCCB quote suggests.
  • Now let us go over the seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching. Go over the historical development of these principles (1891 Leo XIII’s RerumNovarum – 2009 Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate)Using the handout on the seven principle go over each one’s definition. Perhaps have readers read them out load to everyone. (give presenter a break)This is the lens of our Church’s moral principles from which our conscience is to be formed. Engage in a discussion using examples for each principle.This is the basis of our Catholic social teaching. Our best kept secret… no longer.The ensuing issues flow from these seven principles.Forming Conscience will organize the issue from these principles by constructing four categories:Human LifeFamily LifeSocial JusticeGlobal SolidarityAnd off we go…
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  • Very Important.How do we within our Catholic community (parishes) become agents of faithful citizenship. Our Church invites us to be engaged both individually and socially. Our parishes are asked to help organize this within an appropriate framework (remind folks earlier slide of what the Church is called to do and not do. Individually we can engage by participating in a variety of levels. But, as a public Catholic institutions our Parishes are to observe limitation based on our Church’s restriction (slide #6) and our tax exempt status.Note: If people ask, quote from the New York State Catholic Conference – “While we are aware that other tax-exempt organizations may not always abide by the law, we, as Church, are committed to obeying the law.”Go over each do’s and don’ts and explain.Offer Handout
  • Also Important.Especially in light of the partisan and divisive environment our Church challenges us to be communities of salt and light. Again, refer to Vatican II’s document on the lay apostolate to remind folks how we are to appropriately engage in our political responsibility.Share the ground rules (and handout from the USCCB).
  • Next Steps. Being a faithful CitizenBig reminder: Its not about November 6th. Think of Nov. 6th as a teachable moment. We are called to be faithful citizens 24/7Create a handout of resources and links. Hand that out and go over it with the audience.Remind folks about the March NYSCC advocacy in Albany.February Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in DC.
  • Forming consciences for Faithful Citizenship

    1. 1. U.S. Bishops’ Reflection on CatholicTeaching and Political Life
    2. 2.  In loyalty to their country and in faithful fulfillment of their civic obligations, Catholics should feel themselves obliged to promote the true common good. Thus they should make the weight of their opinion felt in order that the civil authority may act with justice and that legislation may conform to moral precepts and the common good.
    3. 3. THE APOLOGIST: A TRADITION OF ADVOCACY “[Christians] teaching is notbased upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely humandoctrine… They pass their daysupon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to thelaws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.” Epistle to Diognetus
    4. 4. • “In this statement, we bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote. Our purpose is to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God’s truth. We recognize that the responsibility to make choices in political life rests with each individual in light of a properly formed conscience, and that participation goes well beyond casting a vote in a particular election.” (2011)Introduction
    5. 5. The Church and Political Life “The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper….” Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est: #28 (2006)
    6. 6. The Church and Political Life  The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, they are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity. …The mission of the lay faithful is therefore to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility. Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est: #29 (2006)
    7. 7. FORMATION OF CONSCIENCE Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. #1783 - C a te c h i s m o f t h e C a t h o l i c C h u r c h ( 1 9 9 5 ) In forming one’s conscience please consider the following three principles  Intrinsically Evil Acts  Consistent Ethic of Life  Catholic Social Teachings
    8. 8.  The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: "Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of John Paul II: Veritatis homicide, genocide, abortion, euthan Splendor #80 (1995) asia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical Reason attests that there are and mental torture and attempts to objects of the human act coerce the spirit; whatever is which are by their nature offensive to human dignity, such as "incapable of being ordered" subhuman living conditions, arbitrary to God, because they imprisonment, deportation, slavery, p radically contradict the good rostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of of the person made in his work which treat labourers as mere image. These are the acts instruments of profit, and not as free which, in the Churchs moral responsible persons: all these and the tradition, have been termed like are a disgrace, and so long as "intrinsically evil" (intrinsece they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them malum): they are such always more than those who suffer and per se… injustice, and they are a negation of the honor due to the Creator".
    9. 9. CONSISTENT ETHIC OF LIFEAdopting a consistent ethic of life, the CatholicChurch promotes a broad spectrum of issues"seeking to protect human life and promotehuman dignity from the inception of life to itsfinal moment." Opposition to abortion andeuthanasia does not excuse indifference tothose who suffer from poverty, violence andinjustice. Any politics of human life must workto resist the violence of war and the scandal ofcapital punishment. Any politics of human dignitymust seriously address issues ofracism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care. Therefore, Catholicsshould eagerly involve themselves asadvocates for the weak and marginalized in allthese areas. - USCCB: “Living the Gospel of Life” (1998)
    10. 10.  Life and Dignity of the Human Person Call to Family, Community, and Participation Rights and Responsibilities Option for the Poor and Vulnerable The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers Solidarity Care for God’s Creation
    11. 11. Human Life • Opposing Abortion, Euthanasia, and the Death Penalty • Genocide, torture, targeting of noncombatants in war or terrorism • Concern with Biotechnology: specifically the cloning and destruction of human embryos • Promoting Peace and the avoidance of war, concern about the preventive use of military force, Disarmament
    12. 12.  Definition of Marriage Policies to strengthen the Family: services, taxes, work/wages, i mmigration (family reunification) Protection of children: human trafficking, contraceptive mandates, Education: Right to choose a school Media impact: offensive material and violenceFamily Life
    13. 13. Social Justice  Dignity of Work: Employment growth, just wages, unjust discrimination, right to organize, economic freedom.  Human Services: Poverty reduction programs, Tax Credits, Social Security, Affordable Housing, Affordable and Accessible Healthcare, Food security (eg. food stamps), Circle of Protection Campaign  Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Dream Act  Criminal Justice system reform  Ecological concerns: sustainable agriculture, global climate change  Discrimination
    14. 14. Global SolidarityAlleviate Global Poverty Increased development aid, equitable trade policies, debt reliefDefend Human Rights Religious Liberty End the use of tortureSupport UN programs and reforms tostrengthen international bodies and law.Provide Refugee AsylumInternational leadership In addressing regional conflicts Peaceful solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflictRespond to the Human Consequences of War inIraq and Afghanistan
    15. 15. Do’s and Don’ts For Parishes PLEASE DO NOT…!!!   PLEASE DO…!!!  Endorse/oppose Political  Endorse/oppose Legislation and Candidates Referendum  Homilies/Bulletin inserts regarding  Homilies/Bulletin inserts on moral specific candidates issues  Distribute partisan or candidate  Provide educational material on rating material on Church property public policy issues  Arrange Groups to work for a  Organize Prayer services/vigils or candidate Novenas encouraging Faithful  Fund or support Candidates, PACs Citizenship. or Party  Encourage local legislative district  Invite Candidates to address your meetings with their elected official to Church sponsored group or host advocate on issues and legislation political meetings on Church  Encourage letter-writing/emails or Property phone calls with elected officials  Conduct partisan voter registration regarding issues and legislation  Share parish mailing lists to political  Conduct a nonpartisan voter parties or campaigns registration drive on Church property
    16. 16. Civil DiscourseO Catholics should try to O Ground Rules: cooperate with all men O Make sure everyone has an opportunity and women of good will to to speak promote whatever is true, O Share your personal experience not whatever just, whatever someone else’s. holy, whatever lovable (cf. O Listen carefully and respectfully. Do not Phil. 4:8). They should play the role of know it all, convincer or hold discussions with corrector. Dialogue is not a Debate. them, excel them in O Don’t interrupt unless for clarification prudence and courtesy, or timekeeping and initiate research on O Accept that no group or viewpoint has a social and public practices monopoly on the truth. which should be improved O “Be more ready to give a favorable in line with the spirit of the interpretation to another’s statement Gospel. (Apostolicam than to condemn it.” Actuasitatem #14) O Be cautious about assigning motives to another person.
    17. 17. Being a Faithful Citizen VOTE… (Make a Moral Decision) but don’t stop there! Develop an ongoing relationship with your local, state and federal elected official:  Visit, Write/email, Call (take copies of our “Contacting Your Elected Official” handout. Vote with your money.  Be a conscientious consumer  Be a socially responsible Investor
    18. 18.  Organize Prayer or Faith Sharing Groups related to Catholic social teaching Develop or join a Parish advocacy/social justice Committee o Organize a Parish Voter’s registration where you offer resources from the USCCB or NY State Catholic Conference (NYSCC) o Promote upcoming advocacy events like the: • Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (sponsored by the USCCB in Wash. DC) • Catholics at the State Capitol (sponsored by the NYSCC in Albany) o Take part in advocacy campaigns that are promoted by the USCCB • Respect Life Program • Poverty USA • Justice for Immigrants • Religious Liberty • Catholic Mobilizing Network to end the use of the Death Penalty • Catholic Coalition on Climate Change • Catholics Confront Global Poverty