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How Catholics Can Be Good Citizens and Not Despair

Praying woman in Saint Andrew Church in Ramsowo. Author: Adam Kliczek,
Praying woman in Saint Andrew Church in Ramsowo. Author: Adam Kliczek,

It’s irresponsible to despair.

A lot of people went to sleep Tuesday night or woke up Wednesday morning wondering what to do. Neither presumptive candidate for the major political parties appears acceptable to many people of conscience. What this amounts to is a wake-up call and an opportunity to get serious about politics as a noble pursuit that requires loving devotion on every level. In Red, White, Blue, and Catholic, Stephen P. White of the Ethics and Public Policy Center presents an accessible guidebook to approaching citizenship boldly, coherently, and even courageously — and certainly not just on the presidential level. We talk more. – KJL

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Are Catholics to blame for our current politics? Especially if it’s true that “being Catholic doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in how we vote”?

STEPHEN P. WHITE: Not any more than the rest of America is to blame. America’s 70-odd million Catholics vote in a way that is virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the country. Catholics are divided along many of the same ideological and political lines that we see in the rest of the nation.

LOPEZ: What on earth is a Catholic to do this election cycle?

WHITE: Strive to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Despairing of politics because one finds both likely nominees repugnant strikes me as irresponsible. It’s certainly not helpful. Not to downplay the importance of this election, but most of the work of citizenship doesn’t involve voting. That’s important to remember when the RealClearPolitics poll averages make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It’s one of the reasons I wrote this book.

LOPEZ: Can American Catholics be good citizens? Why must we ask this question today?

WHITE: It’s a perennial question: Can Christians be good citizens? The author of the second century “Letter to Diognetus” addressed this question. Three centuries later, St. Augustine wrote City of God largely in response to the same question. In American history, the question has been asked more specifically of Catholics, for a variety of reasons. At its heart, the question is about the nature and scope of the political good: Is the good of the political community compatible with Christian claims about the nature and destiny of the human person?

Catholics should relish the chance to address that question because it gets to the very heart of the faith. If God became man, then that radically changes the horizon against which we understand humanity itself.

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