Friday, July 23, 2010

Father J. Bryan Hehir and Faithful Citizenship

As mentioned in a previous post, Fr. J. Bryan Hehir of the Boston Archdiocese has said that, "We [Catholics] could, on the basis of living in a pluralistic society, remain silent on the contraception question in the public policy area..." Fr. Hehir even argued that such an approach is consistent with Catholic tradition because, “Catholic tradition doesn’t always try to translate internal policy into public policy."

Now the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement entitled "Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility," had this to say: "Today's democratic societies . . . call for new and fuller forms of participation in public life by Christian and non-Christian citizens alike. Indeed, all can contribute, by voting in elections for lawmakers and government officials, and in other ways as well, to the development of political solutions and legislative choices which, in their opinion, will benefit the common good. In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue; participation in the political process is a moral obligation. All believers are called to faithful citizenship, to become informed, active, and responsible participants in the political process. As we have said, "We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to embrace their citizenship not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an opportunity meaningfully to participate [more fully] in building the culture of life. Every voice matters in the public forum."

In its Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church (Ad Gentes) No. 21, Vatican II had this to say: "..the lay faithful fully belong at one and the same time both to the People of God and to civil society...their main duty, whether they are men or women, is the witness which they are bound to bear to Christ by their life and works in the home, in their social milieu, and in their own professional circle. In them there must appear the new man created according to God in justice and true holiness (cf. Eph 4: 24). But they must give expression to this newness of life in the social and cultural framework of their own homeland, according to their own national traditions. They must be acquainted with this culture; they must heal it and preserve it; they must develop it in accordance with modern conditions, and finally perfect it in Christ, so that the faith of Christ and the life of the Church are no longer foreign to the society in which they live, but begin to permeate and to transform it...Let them also spread the faith of Christ among those with whom they live or have professional connections - an obligation which is all the more urgent, because very many men can hear of Christ and of the Gospel only by means of the laity who are their neighbors. In fact, wherever possible, the laity should be prepared, in more immediate cooperation with the hierarchy, to fulfill a special mission of proclaiming the Gospel and communicating Christian teachings, so that they may add vigor to the nascent Church.."

The People of God are not called to "remain silent" but to engage the larger culture and to work for the renewal of the temporal order. Gaudium et Spes, No. 43 of Vatican II affirms that, "The laity must take on the renewal of the temporal order as their own mission; led by the light of the gospel and the mind of the Church, and motivated by Christian charity, they must act in that order directly and in a distinct way, cooperating as citizens with other citizens, using their own expertise, and acting on their own responsibility, everywhere and in everything seeking the justice of God's kingdom."

Catholics are called to bring Jesus' truth and love to bear in healing and transforming the body politic. Why then would Fr. Hehir suggest remaining silent on contraception which is contralife?


Michael Cole said...

Maritain said that, " is not enough to define a democratic society by its legal structure. Another element plays also a basic part - namely, the dynamic leaven or energy that fosters political movement, and which cannot be inscribed in any constitution or embodied in any institution, since it is both personal and contingent in nature, and rooted in free initiative. I should like to call that existential factor a prophetic factor. Democracy cannot do without it. The people need prophets."

The temporal order needs prophets. Men and women who witness to the truth of the Gospel and who refuse to remain silent.

Cleghornboy said...

There is a problem with remaining silent with regard to the Church's teaching on contraception, which is contralife (or any other teaching of the Church). The problem is addressed by Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, No. 95: "The Church's teaching, and in particular her firmness in defending the universal and permanent validity of the precepts prohibiting intrinsically evil acts, is not infrequently seen as the sign of an intolerable intransigence, particularly with regard to the enormously complex and conflict-filled situations present in the moral life of individuals and of society today; this intransigence is said to be in contrast with the Church's motherhood. The Church, one hears, is lacking in understanding and compassion. But the Church's motherhood can never in fact be separated from her teaching mission, which she must always carry out as the faithful Bride of Christ, who is the Truth in person. "As Teacher, she never tires of proclaiming the moral norm... The Church is in no way the author or the arbiter of this norm. In obedience to the truth which is Christ, whose image is reflected in the nature and dignity of the human person, the Church interprets the moral norm and proposes it to all people of good will, without concealing its demands of radicalness and perfection.

In fact, genuine understanding and compassion must mean love for the person, for his true good, for his authentic freedom. And this does not result, certainly, from concealing or weakening moral truth, but rather from proposing it in its most profound meaning as an outpouring of God's eternal Wisdom, which we have received in Christ, and as a service to man, to the growth of his freedom and to the attainment of his happiness."

John Paul II tells us that a genuine understanding and compassion for our neighbor must entail love for his true good and that "this does not result from concealing or weakening moral truth, but rather from proposing it.."

Carl said...

Our leaders in Boston are failing us in so many ways. And so far there hasn't been an attempt at real dialogue, but merely an attempt by officials to intimidate bloggers by accysung them of being "uncharitable" or as issuing inaccurate statements. I want to thank you Paul for highlighting just how dishonest those charges are.

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