Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
November 26, 2001
Downey says faith has implications for politics
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
EDMONTON — If Catholics really believe what they say they believe, they cannot help but be political, said the president of Calgary's St. Mary's College.
The idea of being both Catholic and political deserves more attention than it gets, Dr. Terrence Downey told 200 Catholic school trustees and administrators at the annual meeting of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association.
Downey has a doctorate in political science and has taught and written extensively on Catholic social teaching and Christian perspectives on politics.
"There are some, perhaps even many, who hold the view that we would be better off to avoid getting involved in political matters at all - that we should simply try to live a good life on our own terms and leave it at that.
"But the matter is not that simple. In fact, notwithstanding the intensive pressure in the public domain to separate the spiritual and the secular, being Catholic and being political are inseparable."
But it isn't easy, Downey said, particularly with the prevailing view in society that ethical and moral dimensions have no place in public policy debates.
"Many of us have accepted that, and have allowed ourselves to be relegated to the sidelines in some of the great debates that have taken place in our society, in the last couple of decades in particular.
"And many of us have been seduced to stand idly by as the interests of the politically and economically powerful have been enshrined in public policies that bear little relationship to Catholic teachings on the inherent dignities that define each one of us."
Downey said politics is not about the allocation of scarce resources, as it has traditionally been described, but is really about the allocation of values.
Public service is a noble calling, Downey told trustees, and they should not be embarrassed about being referred to as politicians.
Catholic schools have a specific mandate to be a "sign of contradiction" to the prevailing order, Downey said. They also have an obligation to consistently challenge us to do things differently, to be better people and to build the kingdom by working for a more virtuous society.
As Christians we must recognize that those who benefit have an obligation to care for those who don't.
"There are people in every educational system that instill in students a sense of moral, ethical and spiritual dimension," Downey added.
"But only Catholic schools have a particular obligation to consider these dimensions in the quest for understanding, and it is this quality that underlines the crucial role of Catholic education in this day and age."
It's the role of the trustee to ensure that crucial role continues, Downey said. He told the WCR that constitutional protection won't be sufficient unless Catholic schools can prove they're worth having.
"The constitutional protection is there - but you have to continually earn it. Catholic schools have to show that they're valuable to society, that they're a good thing to have. That's the best protection they can have."
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