Catholics Care. Catholics Vote.
How can we change the tone, quiet the quarrels, and follow our faith amidst the heightened antagonism and polarization of this election season? To search for answers, please join me on a virtual pilgrimage to St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome as we explore the meaning of Jesus’ famous word, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s,” (Mark: 12:17).
St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome is the oldest church in the west and houses the ecclesiastical seat of the Roman Pontiff (Pope) or Bishop of Rome. The large Latin inscription on its facade reads, “Pope Clement XII, in the fifth year (of his Pontificate), dedicated this building to Christ the Savior in honor of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. Constantine the Great, the Roman Emperor from 306 – 337 AD, originally built the Basilica around the year 313 AD and gave it to the Bishop of Rome, Pope Miltiades, at that time. In 1702, Pope Clement XI completed final renovations and commissioned the life-sized sculptures of the twelve Apostles currently filling the niches encircling its interior.
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s”
Within the very design and contents of St. John Lateran, we find a balance or peaceful harmony between Church and State which I believe can serve as a model for our world. Above the entrance of the Basilica’s large bronze doors are the inscribed words, “Christ the Savior”. Therefore, at the center do we find the Lord, who alone is worthy of our praise, honor and unwavering obedience. Number 1918 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says, “There is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.”
Guarding the entrance of the Basilica, we find a statue of the Church’s benefactor, Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome and protector of the Pope. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1919-1920), “Every human community needs an authority in order to endure and develop. The political community and public authority are based on human nature and therefore…..belong to an order established by God.”
Within St John Lateran, we find a larger than life statue of Peter, the Rock upon whom Christ established His Church. To Peter and his successors do men of good will owe their faithful submission. When Jesus Christ, after his Resurrection, instructed Peter to “feed my lambs, watch over my sheep, feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17), the ramifications were enormous, for Jesus commanded Peter to take on his role as the “Good Shepherd” until His return.
Pictured below is the exterior sculpture of Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome, and the interior, larger-than life statue of St. Peter, the “Rock” and first Pope of the Church.
Catholics Care. Catholic Vote.
Pope Francis said on 9/16/13, “We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear, ‘A good Catholic is not interested in politics’. This is not true, good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern.”
When God, Church and state authority are in harmony and operating according to divine design, the common good of society is achieved. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1921 and 1924) says, “Authority is exercised legitimately if it is committed to the common good of society. The common good consists of three essential elements: respect for and promotion of fundamental rights of the person; prosperity, or the development of the spiritual and temporal goods of society; and the peace and security of the group and of its members.” The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has provided Catholics with a teaching document entitled, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”, which serves as a guide when we exercise our rights and duties as participants in this democracy. This guide can be found at http://www/usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/index.cfm.
What political party is the Church? Neither of course. Jesus is neither Republican or Democrat. He is God. He does not fit into categories. Neither does the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1922) teaches, “The diversity of political regime is legitimate, provided they contribute to the good of the community”. The real goal for the Church, and for each and every Catholic, is to be Catholic across the board. As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says, each of us is to, “Contribute to civil and respectful dialogue, and to shape political choices in the coming election in light of Catholic teaching.” Each of us, as Catholics, is called to be vigorously pro-life, and clear on sexual and life issues; to be advocates for the poor, immigrants, the family and marriage between a man and a woman; to embrace solidarity and justice; stand in the face of the violence that permeates our culture; be merciful and forgiving; and fight for Catholic teachings and religious liberty. So, in reality, although we may align ourselves with one particular party or another, in the end, true Catholicism can not be tamed or represented by any political party. It is eternal, neither liberal or conservative. It is all things to all people. It is love.
Change the tone, quiet the quarrels, and follow your faith amidst the heightened antagonism and polarization of this election season. Living in America, perhaps we tend to take our peaceful change of power for granted. However, in Cameroon, Africa, this is not always the case. In this tumultuous time, we should take stock in the advice given by Catholic Bishops to the people of Cameroon prior to their 2011 election. Political administrators should conduct a fair and transparent election, and work together to maintain the peace. Political parties should respect the electoral process and strive to see themselves as competitors not enemies. Law enforcement should protect the population, and safeguard honor and loyalty to the nation. Christians should pray for peace and social dialogue. The public and private media should be objective and responsible when disseminating information.
As we faithfully live out our consciences in the public square, let us turn to some guiding words from our current shepherd, Pope Francis, in his encyclical entitled, The Joy of Love, (98-101, and 136). “No warring among ourselves! Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of our fraternal love. Dialogue is essential for experiencing, expressing and fostering love in marriage and family life,” as well as in civil society. His recommended rules for healthy dialogue include:
1. Recognize the real importance and dignity of the other person.
2. Try to understand where the other person is coming from, (their pain, fear, anger, hopes, dreams, etc.).
3. Put yourself in the other’s shoes.
4. Be ready to listen patiently and attentively to everything the other person wants to say.
5. Keep an open mind.
6. Our goal is to advance the common good.
7. Try not to offend, and don’t vent, (choose your words carefully).
8. Love everyone.
9. Base positions on beliefs and values, (not the desire to win and argument).
Closing Prayer: After the election, whatever the outcome shall be, I pray that each of us can get back to doing the work of the Church. The work that we, as Catholics, are called to do, to live our life in the service of God, Country and our fellow man.
3:00 p.m. prayer for Divine Mercy.
Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.
For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).
Jesus, I trust in You.
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