Magazine article The Christian Century

Catholic Bishops Warn against Cynicism

Magazine article The Christian Century

Catholic Bishops Warn against Cynicism

Article excerpt

The nation's Roman Catholic bishops warn in a statement released November 4 that widespread public cynicism and frustration with the political process is "a dangerous trend, threatening to undermine our democratic traditions." In a document titled "Political Responsibility: Proclaiming the Gospel of Life, Protecting the Least Among Us, and Pursuing the Common Good," the bishops decried a political process that they said is dominated by "the politics of money and polarization" that "may help fund-raising and ratings, but . . . is a bad way to build community."

The bishops went on to say that "too much of public life reflects our fears more than hopes, dividing us by age, race, region and class. Too often the voices that set the agenda of public life are not those who seek the common good, but those who seek to divide us." Published as a 32-page pamphlet, the bishops' warning is an updated version of a statement on politics that the U.S. Catholic Conference has published in advance of presidential elections for the past 20 years.

In the statement the bishops spelled out the Catholic Church's stance on some two dozen policy issues--from abortion, welfare and foreign policy to Africa and the United Nations. They also addressed the issue of political alienation as well as the intensely debated role of religion in the political process.

There are a number of reasons for the decline in the quality of public life, the bishops declared. Among them: "Too many candidates and political professionals engage more in tactical combat than civil debate, seeking to reduce support for an opponent rather than to gather support for their own cause." Public life should be a place of "broad public participation," but instead "many people see polities as part of the problem, not part of the solution."

Without naming names, the bishops took issue with politicians who have said the nation's problems are caused by "too much compassion": "To listen to some, our nation is in trouble because of too many immigrants and welfare mothers, not enough birth control, abortion, prisons and executions, and too much foreign aid and affirmative action. Our problems are far more fundamental. They cannot be blamed just on people who are poor and powerless. The `rich and famous' and the rest of us have at least as much responsibility as the least among us. …

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