Last week a letter to the editor in the Akron Beacon Journal appeared that said (and I quote loosely) that the Catholic Church should stop telling people how to vote for it is not good for public discourse. There are so many things wrong with the sentence I don’t even know where to begin.
Here are just some of the things wrong with that sentence. First, who is the Catholic Church? Well, everyone who is Catholic. Although it may feel otherwise at times, the “Church” is not clergy or the Vatican or nuns in a convent. It includes them, but it is not them only. The reason it may feel otherwise at times is because the “Church” is also a belief, Tradition, a set of philosophies, and a way of living. When we forget that, leaders of this community (or servants of this community depending on how one sees it) call its adherers to remember basic tenants of their way of life. If we stand for “A” and a candidate running for office stands for “B” at the destruction of “A”, it is incumbent on those who hold “A” to say, “Hey! When you go to the polls, don’t forget ‘A’!” To not do so would not only be irresponsible and negligent, it may lead to great harm for the people who live “A”.
And why is the Catholic Church so often singled out? What if Union Workers thought a candidate was going to be good to the union? There would be signs everywhere saying, “This candidate is endorsed by the Union!” Why is it good for them to have said that and not a religious body?
Further, the Catholic Church does NOT tell people for whom to vote. That would be a violation of our tax standing. But it does weigh in heavily on issues, which one candidate or the other may hold or not hold. How on earth can one avoid that? But even so, there is the odd perception out there that there is some neutral way of living - some mysterious base that is best for all people. This is false. There is no neutral way of being. Every way of living, even those that try to purge religion from them entirely, comes with basic assumptions, philosophies, rules, and boundaries. Catholic! Do not be bullied into thinking you are forcing your way of living on others otherwise you are being acted upon in exactly the same way that your accusers are laying in you. Your position, your way of seeing life, your vision for America is just as valid as any.
And as for not being good for public discourse: Since when is it better in the United States to silence a voice in order for there to be better discourse? If someone were serious about public discourse they would eagerly invite a Catholic point of view into the conversation (and not a disgruntled Catholic who all too eagerly dumps Catholic teaching as being too Catholic.)
To what other group is it possible to say they should stay out of public discourse on life in the United States? What if the letter had said that a Jewish League should remain quiet at all times or that GLBT Community should not have an agenda nor tell people how to vote on issues? What would be the point of them even existing? There would be riots.
It is true that we may be the big kid on the block and we can’t wield our beliefs like a bludgeon, but neither are we to apologize for being the big kid or be pushed off the block on which we live we live too.