NRL News

Archbishop Chaput on “Public witness and Catholic citizenship”

by | Oct 23, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Anyone who’s read NRL News Today for very long knows I am in the tank for Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. Although a Protestant myself, I learn something important about how to understand the pro-life issues every time I read his column in the “Catholic Philly.”

His most recent column is headlined “Public witness and Catholic citizenship” and can be enjoyed in its entirety at

So let me offer just two nuggets to get you started. The first will the lengthiest:

“Public witness on issues of public concern is natural for Catholics because we have a commitment to the common good and to the dignity of each human person. Those two pillars — the common good and the dignity of every human person — come right out of Scripture. They underpin all of Catholic social thought.

“That includes politics. Politics is where the competing moral visions of a society meet and struggle. And since a large majority of American citizens are religious believers, it makes sense for people and communities of faith to bring their faith into the public square.

“As a result, if we believe that a particular issue is gravely evil and damaging to society, then we have a duty, not just a religious duty but also a democratic duty, to hold accountable the candidates who want to allow that evil. Failing to do so is an abuse of responsibility on our part, because that’s where we exercise our power as citizens most directly — in the voting booth.”

Archbishop Chaput is writing to Catholics but his admonition applies to members of all faiths. We have a dual duty to vote when we are convinced there is a grave evil, like abortion, that is injuring society: a duty as person of faith and a duty as a citizen in a democracy.

Second, he writes, “The ‘separation of Church and state’ can never mean that religious believers should be silent about legislative issues, the appointment of judges or public policy.” A misunderstanding of that widely quoted phrase is used as a weapon to bludgeon people of faith, to intimidate them into remaining silent, perhaps not even voting.

I have an uncomfortable feeling that with President Obama’s electoral stock falling, there will be an even greater emphasis on misrepresenting his position on abortion, which when it IS known weighs like an anchor around his ankles.

I hope you are busier than ever as the election approaches. Hard as it is to believe, the election is two weeks from today.

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Categories: Religious