Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 19, 2001
A Catholic role in the election
A pastoral letter by Archbishop Thomas Collins
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
"As disciples of Christ, all of us have a responsibility to play a role in the creation of a social order based on justice" (From Words to Action, CCCB, 1976). In our society, one of the most direct ways that we have to establish such a social order is through the election process.
Participation in the political life of Alberta is not an optional activity for Christians. It is a positive obligation.
Elections provide an opportune time to question candidates and political leaders concerning their stance on public policies. Do their positions support or run contrary to the values that we derive from the Gospel of Jesus?
As Christians, we are committed to the dignity of the human person. This means, first of all, that human life must be respected from conception until natural death.
It also means that we have a responsibility to see that our society is one in which persons have those things that allow them to lead decent lives. We need to build a community in which all of us, and especially those who are most vulnerable, are able to receive food, shelter, health care, suitable housing, education, and employment with a just wage.
Over the last 100 years the popes and other apostolic leaders in the Church have developed a Christian social teaching rooted in the Gospel of Jesus, and that should guide us when we assess the positions of those who seek to lead our society.
One basic theme of Christian social teaching is the "common good." We are all individuals, with our own desires and priorities. But God asks us to break the chains of selfishness, and seek the good of others and the good of the whole community.
In preparation for the election, each of us should ponder the vision of the Last Judgment in the Gospel of St. Matthew (25:31-46). We must choose those candidates who will be attentive to Christ who lives in our midst in those who are vulnerable.
As members of our civil community, whether as politicians or as voters, we have a responsibility for others. Those who seek our votes should demonstrate that their policies reflect that responsibility. Am I my brother's keeper? Yes.
It is above all the responsibility of the lay people of the Church to make effective the values of the Gospel in our civil society. One vital way of fulfilling this baptismal mission is through the political process, so that legislation reflects values that are in conformity with the Gospel and which advance the common good, and the dignity of each person.
Pope John Paul in his letter The Church in America writes that "in political life understood in its truest and noblest sense as the administration of the common good," lay Christians can find the path of their own sanctification (The Church in America, 44).
Recently, Pope John Paul declared St. Thomas More to be the patron saint of politicians. The calling of a politician is a sacred one. A politician is a steward of the common good. We must pray for our politicians, and encourage people of integrity and compassion to enter into political life.
As we begin this election, we should look to the example of St. Thomas More. He diligently served the people of his country through political office. He always based his decisions and the policies that he supported upon a vision of society in harmony with Gospel values, and based on a respect for human dignity and a concern for the common good.
In the end, he offered an example of both moral and political courage when he gave his life rather than consent to a political decision which went against the law of God. In his famous last words, he said: "I die the king's good servant but God's first."
As the calling of a politician is a sacred one, so is the responsibility of the voter: to ponder the Gospel vision of society, and to choose those leaders who will govern according to that vision, with reverence for the dignity of the human person and concern for the common good.
Archbishop of Edmonton
February 13, 2001
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