By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.
During the 2016 campaign season, I mentioned to many Catholics that it appeared that the general election was attracting less attention and interest from Catholic organizations and the Catholic media than previous elections this century. To be honest, some felt that the lack of civility and mean-spiritedness of so many candidates and organizations turned many Catholics away from the campaign.
But Catholic voices were strong in calling for civility during the campaign, and more importantly, after November 8. And, this is part of what makes us Catholic.
The U.S. Bishops wrote in “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” #60:
“We are committed to clarity about our moral teaching and to civility. In public life, it is important to practice the virtues of charity and justice that are at the core of our Tradition. We should work with others in a variety of ways to advance our moral principles.”
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati launched “Civilize It” with this explanation:
“We’ve all experienced it. A Facebook post, a family dinner, a water cooler conversation that suddenly turns political with opposing viewpoints. You might get angry. You may go silent. Civilize It is about making room in your heart and speaking peacefully with those with whom you disagree. Imagine what would happen if aggressiveness were transformed into openness and confrontations were turned into thoughtful conversations. Civilize It is a non-partisan movement and a call for all of us to help change the tone, follow our faith, and quiet the quarrels in our day-to-day lives.”
It offered toolkits and other resources to be replicated by Catholic organizations throughout the country.
More than 70 prominent and nationally-known Catholic women theologians and church leaders signed “Catholic Women & Mothers for the Common Good.” The women wrote:
“Civil debate keeps democracy healthy. … We commit ourselves to pray and work toward this vision of human dignity and justice. May all who aspire to political office do the same.”
People of faith must be above the fray of name-calling and lies. Civil behavior is not only part of our religious character, but also may help breed and inspire future civil leaders. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if this quality helped insure a wider array of mission-driven, faith-based, civil leaders in all forms of government?