As the US presidential election is only days away and the political climate is increasingly ugly, the leader of the US bishops’ conference released a statement on Thursday:
At this important time in our nation’s history, I encourage all of us to take a moment to reflect on one of the founding principles of our republic – the freedom of religion. It ensures the right of faith communities to preserve the integrity of their beliefs and proper self-governance. There have been recent reports that some may have sought to interfere in the internal life of the Church for short-term political gain. If true, this is troubling both for the well-being of faith communities and the good of our country.
In our faith and our Church, Christ has given us a precious gift. As Catholics, we hold onto our beliefs because they come to us from Jesus, not a consensus forged by contemporary norms. The Gospel is offered for all people for all times. It invites us to love our neighbor and live in peace with one another. For this reason, the truth of Christ is never outdated or inaccessible. The Gospel serves the common good, not political agendas.
I encourage my fellow Catholic brothers and sisters, and all people of good will, to be good stewards of the precious rights we have inherited as citizens of this country. We also expect public officials to respect the rights of people to live their faith without interference from the state. When faith communities lose this right, the very idea of what it means to be an American is lost.
Politicians, their staffs and volunteers should reflect our best aspirations as citizens. Too much of our current political discourse has demeaned women and marginalized people of faith. This must change. True to the best hopes of our founding fathers, we are confident that we can and will do better as a nation.
On his Oct. 2 return flight from Georgia and Azerbaijan, Pope Francis commented on the US presidential race. He said:
You are asking me a question about what you describe as a difficult choice, because in your view there are difficulties with both one and the other. During an election campaign, I never say a word. The people are sovereign, and all I will say is this: study the proposals well, pray, and choose in conscience!
Now, I will set the issue aside and speak about something theoretical, rather than speaking about the concrete problem. When a country has two, three or four candidates who are unsatisfactory, it means that the political life of that country is perhaps overly “politicized” but lacking in a political culture. One of the tasks of the Church and of higher education is to teach people to develop a political culture.
There are countries – I am thinking of Latin America – that are excessively politicized but lack a political culture. People belong to one party or another party or even a third, but for emotional reasons, without thinking clearly about the fundamentals, the proposals.