Faith in the Public Arena
Let’s get this party started: Caucusing for human dignity
Wednesday, 24 January 2018
By Katherine Cross/Minnesota Catholic Conference
It may not be a presidential election year, but Minnesotans will still vote on governor, the state house of representatives, and two U.S. senate seats. These decisions can potentially shift balances of power on both state and national levels.
Yet, many Americans don’t seem to think either party is making good use of that power. According to the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2017 American Values Survey, less than one-third of Americans say Democratic policies are leading the country in the right direction, and less than a quarter say the same of Republican policies.
These are not encouraging numbers, but instead of decrying the state of politics, as Catholics we are called to action. You can still make a New Year’s resolution to participate in the public arena, first by getting to know your legislators, and secondly, attending your local precinct caucus.
FULFILLING OUR DUTY TO PARTICIPATE IN PUBLIC LIFE
It is our duty to actively participate in public life (CCC 1915). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that while “participation is achieved first of all by taking charge of the areas for which one assumes personal responsibility” (CCC 1914), such as care for the family and faithfulness at work, there are also important steps we can take to influence the public square.
As Catholics, we need to help establish party platforms that promote and defend human dignity. The Second Vatican Council gives us a great starting point to form a platform for human dignity. The teaching document, “Gaudium et Spes,” reminds us, “Whatever is opposed to life itself … whatever insults human dignity … as well as [the treatment of people] as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed.”
Too often, parties and their politicians will focus their efforts on promoting a singular aspect of human dignity, but this narrow vision casts a shadow over the rest of the human person. As Catholics, we must bring the Gospel of Life into these darkened corners, helping our parties and political leaders come to a full recognition and defense of every individual’s innate human dignity.
NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED
You don’t need a long resume of political experience to make an impact. In fact, you’ve already got the job. As a constituent and disciple, it is your job to let your legislators know whether their decisions truly represent you. If legislators never hear from you, they cannot properly do their job.
To be a constituent is no small job, and it may leave you wondering, “Where do I even begin?” Go back to the resolution: get to know your legislators, and attend your party caucus.
Step one: Find out who represents you. Use our “Find your officials” tool (mncatholic.org/actioncenter), but don’t stop there. You can also influence who becomes your legislator and what your party stands for.
Step two: Attend your local precinct caucus the evening of February 6th. During the caucus you get to vote for which candidates the party should endorse, and propose resolutions that can shape the party’s platform. For more details on caucuses, head to mncatholic.org/caucus.
THE POWER OF PRAYER
You may be thinking, party lines are too deeply drawn, there’s no way a conversation with my legislator or my single vote at a caucus can make a difference. If not for the grace of God, you’d be right.
Saint John Paul II reminds us in “Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)” that it is through the light of reason and God’s hidden grace that, “every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can … come to recognize … the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree.”
Therefore, before taking steps one and two, start where everything begins … with God. We must, as faithful citizens, begin in prayer. Pray that Christ’s light of reason and grace enlighten legislators and constituents alike so that we may come to recognize and defend the human dignity of all.