Column: Citizenship starts with voting, culminates in advocacy

by Bill Scholl

I have it on good authority, meaning something I heard once somewhere, that once upon a time in this country some bishops would assign a priest to preach on hell.

This itinerant priest would travel to all the parishes and preach “fire-and-brimstone” at Mass, so the faithful would learn about the grave dangers to their
souls. But since he was an outsider, this priest would save the pastor the risk of alienating the parishioners.

Sometimes, outsider presenters can be more effective at reaching an audience. No prophet is accepted in his own country and such.

While the subject may not be so grim, the archdiocesan pro-life and social justice offices have teamed up to offer a similar service. “Forming Conscience for Faithful Citizenship” is the title of the talk we are offering this election season.

Voting in a morally responsible way is difficult and can sometimes be confusing. Many politicians and groups are claiming to hold Catholic positions when, in fact, they are contrary to church teaching. As well, because too few candidates support a full range of policies in conformity with all of Catholic social teaching, it becomes difficult as to how to prioritize. If your parish or church group would like information on how our faith helps us vote, contact Ron Kelsey in the pro-life office or me and we’ll be glad to come talk to your group.

Here’s what you can count on with this talk. First, the information given will be an authentic presentation of church teaching through the lens of Archbishop Joseph Naumann’s pastoral letters. Second, the information will be nonpartisan. We Catholics were nonpartisan before nonpartisan was cool, as our archbishop pointed out — since the time of the very first Catholic bishop in the United States. Third, this information will be challenging.

One of the reasons people get cynical about “Faithful Citizenship” is because they take what I call a “horse race” mentality. This mentality means a person approaches voting as if all one has to do is pick the right representative and then let them do all the work.

I think it is fair to say that this is precisely how we have found ourselves in an election where both Democrats and  Republicans are thoroughly dissatisfied with our government. “Faithful Citizenship” starts with voting but it culminates with advocacy, which means you talk to your representatives — no matter their party — and compel them to do the right things.

We have been blessed by God’s providence to live in this great country and have the power to vote. Jesus will hold us accountable for our stewardship of this power. So make sure you’re registered to vote and take some time to learn about what our archbishop and the church are saying about how to exercise this awesome power.

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