Catholic Social Teaching in the Real World

I suppose it is because I spent 11 years working in City Hall, but I was intrigued by this article in the current issue of America: A Theologian in Town Hall: How a small-town mayor implemented Catholic Social Teaching.

As the daughter of a Catholic elected official who herself spent many years slogging through local government, I know that most people are there to do good. Many are guided by their own religious or spiritual beliefs as well. Of course, in our American system which values the separation of church and state, this always carries some potential challenges.

What I like about this article is that it is down to earth and practical rather than pie in the sky ...

First, I learned that service as an elected official or as an appointee to a board or committee is a rich opportunity for Christian witness. Here one can directly affect the way taxes are raised and spent and create opportunities for employment, education and job training; one can work to ensure that affordable housing is provided and that building codes, safety and health standards are enforced. Above all I came to see such service as a vital way the baptized can heed the call of the Second Vatican Council to seek “the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.” In this way, too, U.S. Catholics can practice what our bishops have come to call “faithful citizenship.”

But my time as mayor also gave me insight into some of the individual things that must be attended to if our collective institutions are to be humanized. And while most of what I learned was hardly revolutionary, my experience proved that St. Thérèse, the Little Flower, had it absolutely right: it is in the practice of love in the small details that we really begin to redirect the world to God’s purposes.

For those seeking ideas about how to pursue the work of social justice locally, I recommend looking to four important aspects of community life. Read more here.

The author doesn't pretend to have all the answers. Instead, she poses some of the questions that those of us desiring to answer the call to faithful citizenship might want to ponder.

I have left my position of semi-responsibility within the government and chosen a different path. However, as a Catholic, as a religious, and as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, that doesn't mean that I'm no longer engaged in the public sphere. Quite the contrary! As our Constitutions say:
Recalling Jesus' identification with the prophetic tradition,
we develop a critical, sensitive, conscience
regarding religious, social, cultural,
economic, and political realities,
and we direct our efforts
to actions which bring peace through justice. (CSJP Constitution 23).
Easy, right??? Well, not exactly. But reading this article reminded me that there are plenty of other folks striving to do the same thing in their own spheres of life. And together, only God knows what we can do!


Anonymous said...

This is a great post. Living CST in the modern world, especially in a election year, is very difficult, but important. Thanks for sharing!

Garpu said...

Thanks for this...it's already getting wearying listening to some go through mental acrobatics to convince themselves of why they can support politicians who torture (for instance).