Why and how should Catholics be involved in the public sphere of influence? One of the reasons Catholics have been persecuted down through the ages is that they have insisted that the Catholic faith speaks on moral issues not just to Catholics, but to the whole human race. Our moral principles are not just a matter of personal religious belief. They are moral principles for the whole of humanity. Therefore Catholics have an obligation to speak out against immorality and injustice wherever and whenever it appears.
Do Catholics always do this properly? No. Do we sometimes makes mistakes? Yes. Do we make errors of judgement and offend people? Sometimes. However, there are principles of why we engage in debate on the public square and how we should do so.
Marcel Lejeune highlights a recent speech by Archbishop Cardinal Dolan of New York in which he very clearly and capably addresses the issue. Go here for an outline of the speech and the YouTube of Cardinal Dolan’s address.
This issue is one which every thinking member of our society should consider. It is all well and good saying one wants complete separation of church and state, but is that really what everyone wants? When people are upset that the Catholic Church speaks out against abortion or same sex marriage they should also remember that the Catholic Church speaks out against war, genocide, capital punishment, economic injustice and dictatorships. Catholic social teaching repeatedly defends the rights of workers, the dignity and respect for the poor, the responsibilities of employers towards their workers and the rights and responsibilities of all citizens.
There are shared moral principles for the whole human race. Catholics say those principles are given by God. Whether a person believes they are given by God or simply part of the natural order–they should all unite in gratitude that the Catholic Church takes risks to defend them.
The critic of Catholicism may complain that Catholics are hypocrites and that we fail to keep the principles we defend. No doubt. Welcome to the human race. We don’t throw out the Ten Commandments because nobody keeps them all. We don’t say lying is good because everybody is untruthful.
A principle that is true and good is true and good whether anybody observes it or not.