A very important piece by San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy on politics, the role of the electorate and how Catholics participate in civic life has been posted on the America website. The article could go a long way toward providing both the language and the rationale for getting the Catholic populace unstuck from the rigid approaches some bishops have characterized as the only Catholic way to participate in politics.
It has been apparent for years that the U.S. Catholic hierarchy has cornered itself by permitting some bishops to loudly advance single-issue politics without resistance. Pope Francis has repeatedly addressed that imbalance by refusing to single out an issue such as abortion as singular in importance but has listed it always in a litany of abuses against the dignity of individuals and groups that demand the church's attention.
It has been just as apparent that many current members of the U.S. hierarchy have found that adjustment difficult to incorporate in their individual or coporate thinking. Never was it more apparent than in the recent meeting during which they passed a warmed-over quadrennial statement, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," that had been produced eight years ago and used for the past two election cycles. The updates included a collection of the most anodyne Francis statements one might find in his three years' worth of pronouncements, interviews and encyclicals.
McElroy leans heavily on Francis' approach to public engagement, saying the pope has "made clear that the core of the vocation of public service, and of all politics, is to promote the integral development of every human person and of society as a whole. It is a vocation that requires special and self-sacrificial concern for the poor, the unborn, the vulnerable and the marginalized. It is a commitment to pursue the common good over that of interest groups or parties or self-aggrandizement. It is a profoundly spiritual and moral undertaking."
He sees "the central foundation for an ethic of discipleship in voting for the Catholic community in the United States today lies not in the embrace of any one issue or set of issues but rather in a process of spiritual and moral conversion about the very nature of politics itself."
This is the kind of piece that deserves a slow read, reflection and discussion, especially in this overheated presidential campaign season.