A Call for Civility
A bipartisan group of lay Catholics has issued a statement (text here) entitled “A Catholic Call to Observe Civility in Public Life.” The statement reads, in part:
As Americans we acknowledge deep divisions over some policy issues;
and recognize that some, who are active in political life and who
differ with the Church’s teachings on certain issues, such as,
abortion, stem cell research, the death penalty, and the justification
for war, air their differences in public and criticize the Church for
these teachings. Others, for political and even ecclesiastical reasons,
seek the public embarrassment of politicians whose public positions
differ with Church teachings through the public refusal of the
sacrament of Holy Communion or public admonition by the Bishops.
To right this wrong, we should observe the following principles.
- As Catholics we should not enlist the Church’s moral endorsement
for our political preferences. We should do this out of respect for our
fellow Catholics of equally good will but differing political
convictions and our interest in protecting the clergy from being drawn
into partisan politics to the detriment of the Church’s integrity and
- As lay Catholics we should not exhort the Church to condemn
our political opponents by publicly denying them Holy Communion based
on public dissent from Church teachings. An individual’s fitness to
receive communion is his or her personal responsibility. And it is a
bishop’s responsibility to set for his diocese the guidelines for
- Catholic politicians who advertise their Catholicism as part
of their political appeal, but ignore the Church’s moral teachings in
their political life confuse non-Catholics by giving the appearance of
- Bishops, and all involved in the leadership of The Church,
should not permit The Church to be used, or appear to be used, as a
partisan, political tool.
- As Catholics we must learn to disagree respectfully and
without judgment to avoid rudeness in expressing our opinions to those
whom we suspect will disagree with us, or in reacting to others’
expressions of opinion.
- As Catholics we need to keep in mind the common humanity that
we share with those with whom we disagree. We must avoid seeing them as
“the enemy” in a life-or-death, winner-take-all political contest.
- As Catholics we should never lose faith in the power of reason
- a unique gift from God to mankind – and we should always keep
ourselves open to a reasoned argument. In this spirit we should defend
our views and positions with conviction and patience, but without being
obnoxious or bullying.
- As lay Catholics we should not pass judgment, and should avoid
public statements that undermine the authority of the Church’s leaders.
American Catholics know who their Church leaders are: their Bishops,
Archbishops, and Cardinals.