Friday, Feb. 24, 2017
“Why does the Intermountain Catholic have to be political?”
This question, which was posed recently, caught me by surprise. I didn’t think we were political, at least not in any particular sense. Our focus is the Catholic Church in Utah, so we do run stories about political events or people as they relate to the faith, but that’s not our primary focus. This week, for example, we have stories about upcoming Lenten retreats, our Catholic schools, the Blue Mass that was held on Sunday and a story about Bishop Oscar A. Solis, who will be installed next week. None of those local stories is at all political.
The content on the national and world pages is a different story. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Pope Francis speak frequently about the Church’s social justice stance and how that relates to current affairs. This can’t help but be political, because governmental leaders discuss and enact policies concerning every social justice issue, from abortion to physician-assisted suicide to the definition of marriage to immigration, refugees and war, terror and violence.
As I considered the issue, I realized that local Catholics, if they follow the Church’s teaching, can’t help but become involved politically, and that is reflected in this newspaper. Reviewing the Intermountain Catholic’s pages for the past month, we have had three local stories about pro-life events; three about immigration/refugees; one about a presentation on Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’,” which calls for care of the environment; and one about the diocesan campaign asking Catholics to sign postcards urging their state legislators to overturn the death penalty and oppose a bill that would legalize assisted suicide.
So, yes, I suppose I would have to say that the Intermountain Catholic is political, at least in the etymological sense. The word is derived from the Greek “politika,” which means “affairs of the cities.” Given that we Catholics are citizens, the affairs of the cities are our concerns.
Note, however, that political isn’t the same as partisan. If you look at the platforms of the two major political parties in the United States, you’ll see that neither of them fully represents the Catholic Church’s teachings on all social justice issues. And we Catholics aren’t supposed to pick and choose which Church teachings to abide by and which to discard. As the USCCB states in their document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: “It would be a serious mistake — and one that occurs with regrettable frequency — to use only selected parts of the Church’s teaching to advance partisan political interests or validate ideological biases. All of us are called to be servants to the whole truth in authentic love, and it is our fervent hope and prayer that this document will provide aid to all those seeking to heed this call.”
This is one reason why the Intermountain Catholic reports on social justice issues themselves, not the political party platform or candidate. The Church teaches that if people have the whole truth – that is, all of the facts – about an issue, and know the Church’s stance on it and the reasoning behind that position, they can prayerfully form their own conscience and determine the path to follow.
The path that the Church calls us to is, of course, that of Christ, a man who himself had been a refugee as a child, a man who ate with sinners, healed those shunned by his own culture, announced that his mission was to proclaim liberty to captives, and told his followers that those who had two tunics should share with those who had none. All of those acts were political then, and they still are today, which is why we, too, are political.
Marie Mischel is the editor of the Intermountain Catholic.