Catholic Social Teaching and Public Policy

Aug 24, 2016 | Ethical Issues

Chuck Harvey (my friend and former student) invited me for an interview/discussion for Holy Spirit Radio in Philadelphia. We really hit the question concerning what the Church is and is not doing in light of our current cultural and political situation. Aired on Tuesday 8/23/2016, we enjoyed making it and I hope you can listen!

Here’s a summary of the topics we hit:

At the beginning, we briefly touch on the question concerning whether the founding of the US coheres with Catholic Social Teaching. We then take a hard, honest critical look at the role of the Bishops in the political/cultural situation. I make a distinction between preaching and teaching and suggest that in these times teaching from the pulpit needs to be included with preaching. We touch on two distinct disconnects between the clergy and everyone else that need to be addressed. As a concrete example of the general problem we concisely express the core serious flaw with the Bishops’ approach to the HHS Mandate, and explain how it can still be remedied. We have a discussion on the delicate and huge moral issue of artificial reproductive technology, and use this to explain the role that teaching should play in the Church and policy involvement. God’s love is infinite, thankfully, because we all fall often and are imperfect; in this year of mercy people also need to be taught from the pulpit about the simplicity, beauty, and freedom of contrition, and that forgiveness can be experienced; they need basic catechesis from the pulpit on how to confess, as well as clear encouragement to do so. In fact, it can be more harmful than helpful to make strong public moral statements in the absence of a discussion of confession/forgiveness. We also discuss the fact that friendship among Christians who are striving their best to live their faith is a deeper source of growth in it, and friendship between such Christians and non-Christians can have a lasting impact. All of this happens in local communities. Prayer is something that takes time and work to develop; it is not possible to experience what Pope Francis has called The Joy of the Gospel without it, yet in much the same way that many of the faithful who attend Mass do not have a rich knowledge of Church teaching, they also are not familiar with the different kinds of prayer (adoration, meditation, contemplation, rosary, Jesus prayer, lectio divina, liturgy, etc.) or the lived experience of familiarity with God via regular, dedicated prayer. In times like these in Judeo-Christian history, God has always wanted his people to lead the way in repentance and prayer, in witness and friendship, and Pope Francis explains that only in this way can we regain The Joy of Gospel. Unless the clergy begin to lead and teach specific content at the local parish level on morality, prayer, confession, and community (rather than writing letters to the federal government begging for freedom), and unless they start to befriend and take advantage of the knowledgeable faithful in their parishes and Dioceses, giving those faithful the latitude and authority to teach – not from the pulpit, but at parish evenings and other ways which are introduced and encouraged from the pulpit – we are going nowhere, because without a growth of a vibrant “grassroots” of parish life across the country, public letters and statements and condemnations, however strongly or weakly worded, can have no effect.

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