We all identify with a lot of different categories: family member, occupation, hobby, political affiliation, club memberships, and so on. The one that ought to come first, though, is Catholic.
God, country, family. That is the order of priorities I was taught, and it used to be a common standard. It meant you put God’s laws first. It meant you understood you sometimes had to answer the call to serve your country. It meant you set the common good before individual gain.
One person who still lives by this standard is former Congressman Daniel Lipinski of Illinois. He just published an article in America magazine entitled “Confessions of a pro-life Catholic Democrat in a divided nation.” https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2021/10/13/pro-life-democrat-congress-daniel-lipinski-241638
I am going to quote heavily from this article because Lipinski expressed his stance so perfectly. It is a testament of faith and an example to follow concerning being a Catholic first. It is a story of courage and conviction despite tremendous pressures to conform.
It is also a call to action for all American Catholics in these times of such vehement partisanship.
A Congressional Catholic
The Honorable Mr. Lipinski said: “My experiences have taught me that America will overcome sectarian partisanship only if enough people have the courage to choose to reject it in the public square. I believe Catholics are uniquely gifted to do this. But it will happen only if Catholics have the courage to reject political orthodoxies and be Catholic first.
“I understand that Catholics are not immune from the temptations of partisan sectarianism. There are Catholics on both sides of the aisle who seem to put party before faith. Nor am I saying that Catholics have to reject both of the major parties and all candidates from both parties.
“I will never claim to have been perfect in everything I did as a Catholic member of Congress. But if I had not put my faith first and embraced its unique gifts, I cannot envision how I could have avoided fleeing to the political safety of sectarian partisanship and becoming part of the problem.
“What inspired and enabled me to take this difficult path? God’s grace and unique gifts that I, and every Catholic, receive from our faith. Those gifts include:
“• A strong primary identity as a child of God, which provides a spiritual and social mission and lessens the susceptibility of turning to partisan sectarianism for a mission and an identity.
“•A belief that the foundation of a moral vision for society is the inherent dignity of every individual; respect for that dignity must guide not only policy positions but interactions with others. This is the antithesis of sectarian behavior, which involves scrutinizing every person with an opposing view in order to find anything that can be used to make the case that that person deserves to be treated with disdain.
“• Well-formed Catholic social teaching regarding the common good and social justice. This not only provides a guide to what it means to uphold the dignity of every individual when considering policy choices, it also provides an opening to finding common ground across the partisan divide—because Catholic social thought is partially embraced by each of the two parties.
“I was tested by fire, and though I was not perfect through the whole ordeal, in the end I was—and am—Catholic first. I am hopeful, even though I did not succeed, that through my witness more Catholics will come to see that with faith and reason, wisdom from Scripture and tradition, unceasing prayer and God’s grace, we can defeat this culture of contempt and save the American republic.”
Catholics Saving America
Have you ever met a politician who is a really good person? Such people actually exist, and I can testify from personal witness that Dan Lipinski is one of them.
However, as Lipinski points out, unless the people of this country, particularly Catholics, put God first and make their ideology one of common sense for the common good, we are doomed to losing our American dream in a nightmare of dissension and violence.
Might I add, the pro-life movement will never succeed unless it detaches itself from party affiliation. Too many pro-life activists put party before being pro-life, which prevents us from all working together and damages the reputation of the movement.
We all need to stand strong for our American ideals; we all need to be pro-life. Luckily, as Lipinski said, “Catholics are uniquely gifted to do this.”