Now that Nov. 4 has come and gone, many of us are feeling relieved that the elections are over. Forget the runoffs — there are no runoffs in California. Those of us who live in the Los Angeles metro area do not have to watch any more political ads during football or “The Big Bang Theory,” so hallelujah.
For those of us who actually voted, there may even be a feeling of pride at having done our civic duty. We can now turn our attention to other important matters, such as deciding where to go for Thanksgiving and figuring out how much we can spend on the holidays this year.
Still, before any of us get too comfortable with the idea that we do not have to think about politics again until 2016, let me remind everyone what the bishops wrote in their 2012 pastoral statement, “Faithful Citizenship”:
In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. This obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person.... As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life” (nos. 1913-1915).
Did you notice the part that said that “as far as possible” we are supposed to “take an active part in public life”? More importantly, what is a “moral obligation” to participate in the political life of our communities?
It means we need to vote — and more.
For too many of us, our civic involvement only goes as far as casting a ballot every now and again. Provided, of course that the weather is good, the traffic isn’t bad, and we don’t forget.
How many of you forgot this time around? Allow me to remind you that the 2016 presidential election will be here before you know it and let me challenge you to do more than simply wait until it arrives.
Over the next two years the major American political organizations will be formulating their party platforms and Catholics need to be a part of those discussions “as far as possible.” It doesn’t matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent. All of us have a moral obligation to participate in town halls, precinct meetings and other planning sessions of our political action groups.
It is frustrating to listen to so many Catholics complain that the bishops support the Republicans too much or support the Democrats too often. The bishops do not support any political party. That is not their responsibility, but ours.
The bishops are called to articulate moral principles. It is the duty of the laity to translate these principles into action. It is our responsibility to influence political parties so they reflect our values and morals. When we don’t work toward that goal, then we get what we see today — public policies that are forced upon us whether we like it or not.
So before the 2016 election arrives, join the public discussions and tell your political leaders that protecting human life at all stages is not only a good thing but the right and just thing for our nation to do.
Stand up for immigration reform and for the millions of our brothers and sisters who walk and work among us doing what they can to build a better life for themselves and their families.
Let everyone know that Catholics are an active part of the political life of our communities and that we are committed to sharing our values and morals.