By George P. Matysek Jr.
Speaking to a group of students earlier this summer, Pope Francis made some stunning assertions about the importance of Christian involvement in the public square.
If you want to be a good Catholic, the pope said, you must be involved in politics. It’s an obligation.
“We can’t play the role of Pontius Pilate and wash our hands of it,” the Holy Father said. “Politics is one of the highest forms of charity because it seeks the common good.”
The Maryland Catholic Conference is looking for some engaged Catholics who are ready to accept the pope’s challenge. Over the past several months, the Annapolis-based legislative lobbying arm for the state’s Catholic bishops has been seeking leaders who will serve as “captains” of their legislative districts.
The new recruits, working with the approval of their pastors, will act as liaisons between the conference and the parishes of their areas. They will visit churches and help coordinate educational efforts on a wide range of public-policy concerns, receiving a stipend for their efforts.
It won’t be easy communicating the church’s stances on the issues. To some, the conference’s public-policy positions will seem politically contradictory.
A major supporter of the rights of immigrants, the conference helped pass the DREAM Act that provides educational opportunities for children of undocumented immigrants. It vigorously opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage. The advocacy group was also a tireless foe of the death penalty and a major voice in helping enact tighter restrictions on the state’s abortion clinics.
“We see that the church is not Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative,” said Kathy Dempsey, the conference’s communications director. “The church sees human dignity in all elements of policy. We have been reaching out to engage the laity who are called to prayer and called to act to show their love of Christ.”
Do you believe in the sanctity of life from conception until natural death? Do you want to protect the poor in a difficult economy and enact laws that welcome the stranger? Do you want to promote policies that protect the environment and respect the contributions of nonpublic schools to the public good?
Look into becoming a “regional captain,” parish leader or parish volunteer with the Catholic conference.
In an age when our political leaders can’t even agree to listen to one another, let’s make some changes. Educate yourself on the issues. Share your point of view with others – including your elected leaders. Vote.
As Pope Francis said, it’s easy to blame others.
“People,” the pope said, “need to ask themselves: “Me? What am I doing about it?”
The conference is sponsoring a 7 p.m. “beer-and-pizza night” at Holy Cross Church Hall in South Baltimore Oct. 15 to provide more information about becoming more engaged in the public arena. A similar campaign is being launched in the Hispanic community, with bilingual leaders sought. Visit mdcathcon.org for more information.