Posts Tagged ‘Family’

‘ DVD Promotes Godly Fatherhood

By Genevieve Pollock

ALBANY, Georgia, JAN. 16, 2012 ( Thousands of men are answering the call to rediscover God’s plan for fatherhood, inspired by a new movie, “Courageous,” due to be released on DVD on Tuesday.

The film, which debuted in theaters Sept. 30, follows four men striving to fulfill their mission “to serve and protect,” both as law enforcement officers and fathers.

Stephen Kendrick, producer and co-writer of the film, told ZENIT that every day he sees some 200 e-mails from “people sharing how the movie has impacted, inspired and blessed them.”

“The stories they share are so heartfelt and moving,” he said. “Countless dads are now reaching out to win the hearts of their children.”

Kendrick continued: “One man realized he needed to step up and reconnect with the daughter he’d abandoned.

“Many have chosen to forgive their dads.

“Wives are saying that ‘my husband was a good dad, but now he’s becoming a great dad after seeing this movie.’

“Couples heading for divorce have reunited and said that they must resolve to leave a legacy of faithfulness to their children like the men in the movie. We thank God for this!”

Waging war

As policemen, the main characters must team up against gang members and drug dealers to protect the community. Yet even as they battle evil with their guns and Tasers, they learn to use Scripture to fight the demons within in order to become the men of integrity their families need.

“There is so much in Scripture about what fatherhood means, but most men have not taken time to search it out and then live it out,” Kendrick stated. “‘Courageous’ shows it to them in living color.”

He continued: “It is so incredible to see how a message about the importance of strong fatherhood is so deeply resonating with audiences.

“The issue of fatherhood touches the core of who we are. Millions of people have seen this movie and have gone on the emotional roller-coaster of laughter and tears as they watch five men trying to figure out what it means to be a great dad.”

For actor Ken Bevel, who portrayed the cop Nathan Hayes, the movie was an opportunity to “help serve in turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.”

He explained to ZENIT: “As I look at the consistent decline of families and the minimal involvement of fathers in our communities, my heart is challenged — challenged to the point of action. So, when God provided the opportunity to address biblical fatherhood through film, I was humbled that he would allow me to be used in such a task.”

This role, Bevel said, “caused me to examine my own life and my role as a father.”

He added: “I asked myself the question, ‘Am I being completely intentional about fatherhood and leading my children to the Lord?’ Unfortunately the answer was no. So, ‘Courageous’ has also challenged me to spend more time in Bible study with my family, while praying for wisdom in leading my children to the Lord.”

Kendrick expressed the hope for this “life change,” not only for all who worked on the movie, but also for all who view it.

The film’s release on DVD will allow its viewing by greater audiences. Parishes, ministries and other groups are encouraged to show the movie and utilize the corresponding resources to help effect this life-changing experience.

Tremendous opportunity

One group, the Philadelphia-based Fatherhood and Leadership Initiative, sponsored a showing of the movie that drew the players of two football teams with their fathers, in addition to other families.

Jim Gabriele, one of the group’s founders, told ZENIT that “the response was tremendous.” People were moved not only by the film, he said, but also by “the underlying message of love of Christ and faith in him as the foundation of a man’s most important vocation — his family.”

“This movie clearly brings people together,” added Gabriele, “and challenges men in particular to be men of the kingdom, the Godly husbands and fathers we are all called to be.”

He added that the “widespread release of the movie provides a tremendous opportunity to put the emotion we all felt at the end of the movie to practical use in our daily lives.”

“It is an unbelievably easy tool to use for ministry, and the producers have provided outstanding resources to bring the movie to life via Bible studies, small group sessions, etc.” Gabriele noted.

He continued: “Men are notoriously hard to reach in ministry, but the ability to invite men to an engaging movie, followed by structured discussions and the ability to delve more deeply into their faith and how it applies to marriage and fatherhood is an incredible gift.”

He revealed to ZENIT that his group will be sponsoring an eight-week study series, available through the Internet as well, on scriptural fatherhood.

Kendrick expressed the hope that many of this generation of men will see “Courageous” and “learn that the role of father is irreplaceable.”

He underlined the hope that the audience will see that God created fatherhood “to introduce the next generation to what their loving Heavenly Father is like: a loving Provider, a strong Protector, an honorable Authority, a great Example, a wise Teacher, and an intimate Friend.”

The producer continued: “We hope that men get a vision for this and begin to step up with courage and begin to lead their families by example as God intended. This will positively affect the next generation in countless ways.”

“We produced a movie,” he concluded. “But only he can change a heart. To him alone be the glory!”


Catholics Journalists Rallying the Faithful

By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, OCT. 18, 2007 ( Our modern media age has given us much to be skeptical about. Poorly informed scandal-mongering often seems to rule the day, and we tend to view journalists with a jaundiced eye, particularly in what often passes for Catholic journalism in the secular press, where the norm seems to be an ill-concealed and anti-magisterial position.

In the space of one week I met two remarkable Catholic journalists, one based in Ireland and one in Italy. These two men not only provide intelligent reporting and commentary on Church news, but have pursued their vocations to make lasting contributions to Catholic culture.
Andrea Tornielli hails from Venice and has been covering Vatican news for the Italian daily Il Giornale for 11 years. Surprisingly, he has avoided cynicism and maintained a refreshing buoyancy that many journalists quickly lose.

But beyond his well-informed coverage of everything from papal trips to the latest questions in the Italian bishops’ conference, Tornielli has taken an interest in the case of Pope Pius XII, producing four books on the man Eugenio Pacelli, who reigned as Pontiff from 1939 to 1958.

The 1998 Berlin commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the Kristallnacht sparked Tornielli’s interest in Pius XII. The Night of Broken Glass took place on Nov. 9-10, 1938, and opened the era of Jewish persecutions in Germany.

On that occasion in 1998, Yisreal Meir Lau, then chief rabbi of Israel, asked during his impassioned speech the damning question: “Pius XII, where were you? Why were you silent during the Kristallnacht?” Two Italian newspapers the next day ran that as their headline, with the subhead “The Shameful Silence of Pius XII.”

The evident problem with this, Tornielli pointed out, was that Pius XII was not elected until March 1939, four months after the Kristallnacht. This event vividly demonstrated to the Italian journalist that when it came to Pius XII, anything goes. “The black legend around him had become so great that anything negative, including lies, would get newspaper space,” wrote Tornielli.

Andrea spent several years investigating documents, records and Vatican archives working with Italian history professor Matteo Napolitano to learn more about this much-maligned Pope.

Tornielli came out swinging in 2001 with the 400-page book “Pio XII. Papa degli ebrei” (Pius XII: The Pope of the Jews), tackling the origins of the blackening of Pius XII’s name. This was followed by “Il Papa che salvò gli Ebrei” (The Pope Who Saved the Jews), written with Napolitano.

Tornielli points out that after World War II the state of Israel officially recognized Pope Pius XII’s efforts to help the Jews, and that unheard-of honors were accorded to the Pope before and after his death.

“The Philharmonic Orchestra of Israel,” Andrea observed, “which refused to play Wagner, considering him Hitler’s inspirational composer, asked permission to perform before Pope Pius XII. How can one imagine that they would go and play for ‘Hitler’s Pope’!”

Tornielli noted that a dark cloud gathered over Pius XII during the turbulent years of the Cold War as well as during the progressive movements of the late 1960s.

Yet this new anti-Pius wave was not caused by the discovery of new information regarding his papacy. In fact, no new documents had come to light since the encomium of the 1950s. And in those years, Andrea points out, “everyone knew what the Pope had said, and more importantly what he had done, during World War II.”

Rolf Hochhuth’s play “The Deputy” debuted in the Proletarian Theater of Berlin in 1962. Tornielli describes it as “written by a mediocre playwright, seven hours long and intended to purge the German conscience for having democratically elected Hitler.”

Despite its tediousness, the play was staged in Paris and London within the year, and the world learned to condemn Pius XII for “his silence.”

Tornielli points out that “The Deputy” was actively sponsored by the Soviet Union, which was intensely hostile to the Church. At the same time, many Catholic progressives saw the defamation of Pius XII as a way to divide the old Church regime from the “new Church” they expected to emerge from the Second Vatican Council.

Once Tornielli realized this, he studied the life of Pius XII even more closely, producing two more books, the most recent published this year, a 661-page biography of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII. This work includes unpublished material from the Pacelli family archives.

Tornielli’s book illustrates the continuity of the Church through the period from the first to the second half of the 20th century, as well as the extraordinary modernity of Pope Pius XII.

The journalist observed that “television has affected a great deal of how we perceive John XXIII and Pius XII.” Little footage of Pius XII exists, but John XXIII was elected in the age of television. “When John XXIII brought Christmas gifts to the sick children at Bambino Gesù hospital, the televised event moved the world,” he wrote.

But he adds, “When Pius XII went in 1943 to the Gregorian to visit 2,000 orphaned children and distributed gifts, no television camera was present.”

Tornielli’s work has uncovered documents recognizing Pius XII’s early understanding of the anti-Catholic nature of the nationalist parties, as well as refreshing details about his pontificate. He reported, “After John Paul II, Pius XII canonized more women than any other Pope, and percentagewise he actually canonized the most — at 54%.”

Pius XII also continued with the topic of liturgical reform and was open to the hypothesis of evolution, which he cited in his encyclical “Humani Generis.” He met and addressed all sorts of scientists from astrophysicists to plastic surgeons; reading and learning about their work to be able to discuss their work with them from a more informed position.

Last May 8, Pius XII received a proclamation of heroic virtue, the first step up the ladder of sainthood. I asked Tornielli whether he thought he would live to see Pope Pacelli canonized. He shrugged with a wry smile, “All we can do is pray.” And in Tornielli’s case, publish.

Knight of the Round Table

Last week I met with David Quinn, an Irish journalist who for years served as editor of the Irish Catholic, the principal Catholic paper in Ireland. He still contributes columns to both the Irish Catholic and the Independent, but he has turned his journalistic talents in other directions as well, using his quick wits to grapple with the many-headed hydra of anti-Catholicism.

Although he was baptized Catholic in his native Ireland, it took several years in Australia, working and meeting with the lively evangelical community, to reawaken his Catholic faith and convert him “from a nominal Catholic to a committed one.”

Returning to Ireland, Quinn started his career as a journalist in 1994, working for the Sunday Business Post, but as the sexual scandals involving Irish priests swelled into epic proportions, he noticed that not one word was said or written in defense of the Church.

As people used the scandals to promote the question of married priests or simply to bash the Church for any of its positions, no one was prepared to answer. Quinn, probably drawing from his experience among the evangelicals, pugnaciously stepped into the breach.

As the lone Catholic journalist willing to explain and defend the position of the magisterium, Quinn was soon invited to debate on a myriad of subjects from priestly celibacy to same-sex marriage to atheism.

With his clear presentation, good old-fashioned common sense and, well, truth on his side, Quinn has done much to turn the tide of public opinion in favor of the Church.

How does he prepare for the diversity of topics he is called on to debate? “I’m fortunate enough to work in my area of interest — current affairs — so my work reading is also pleasure reading,” he said.

But Quinn soon realized that playing defense to the volleys of attacks wasn’t enough. Catholics in Ireland needed a presence that would study, analyze and defend the institution of marriage and the family.

In 2006 he founded the Iona Institute, dedicated to the defense of marriage, which so far has produced important studies documenting the effects of divorce, single parenting and same-sex marriage. He adamantly insists that those who claim that all forms of “family” are essential equal, must bear the burden of proof.

“Children cannot be used as a social experiment,” Quinn protests. “One can’t just wait and see how the children of these arrangements will be affected; the advocates of alternative families must demonstrate their claims.”

The institute also encourages the practice of religion, which is regarded with disdain by most of the Irish intelligentsia. But Quinn argues that the exaggerated personal authority of the modern age has led to higher crime, drug abuse and suicide rates than ever before: “It is far more difficult to have a strong civil society without a certain level of religious practice.”

Quinn has also jousted his foes firsthand, debating with atheists such as Richard Dawkins, author of the best-selling “The God Delusion,” and Christopher Hitchens, who has stooped so far as to denigrate Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. One senses that the chivalric spirit of the days of Knights of the Round Table may be slowly returning to the Isles.

“There has been a modest revival of Catholic apologists since I’ve started with the public debates,” Quinn admits. “Plenty of good people are covering bioethics and others have started to take an interest in defending the Catholic position on marriage.”

As the so-called Dark Age loomed after the fall of the Roman Empire, the papacy in Italy rallied the Christians while the Irish monks saved civilization. Andrea Tornielli and David Quinn remind us that we can still hope for great things from these two nations.

Report Shows Big Downside to Family Disintegration
By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, SEPT. 10, 2007 ( Marriage continues to decline in the United States, bringing with it numerous adverse consequences for individuals, and society in general. This is one of the main conclusions of a recent study.

The National Marriage Report released its annual publication “The State of Our Unions: The Social Health of Marriage in America 2007” this summer. The center is based at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

The authors of the study are two academics well-known for their writings on family and marriage issues: David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. They found that from 1970 to 2005 there was a decline of nearly 50% in the annual number of marriages per 1,000 unmarried adult women.

A significant proportion of this drop was simply due to delaying marriage until an older age. Nevertheless, more people simply don’t marry or are unmarried, due to cohabitation and a decrease in the numbers of divorced people to remarry.

The report cites estimates that about a quarter of unmarried women 25-39 are currently living with a partner, and an additional quarter have lived with a partner at some time in the past. As well, over half of all first marriages are now preceded by living together, compared with virtually none 50 years ago.

Cohabitation is more common among those of lower educational and income levels, as well as those who are less religious than their peers.


The report also rebuts a couple of myths often used by anti-family forces. The first myth is that living together before marriage is useful in order to find out whether the couple can get along, thereby avoiding a bad marriage and an eventual divorce. This is not borne out by the facts, the report observes.

“In fact, a substantial body of evidence indicates that those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage,” the report comments.

The report admits that there are diverse opinions over how the data can be interpreted, but at a minimum the authors conclude: “What can be said for certain is that no evidence has yet been found that those who cohabit before marriage have stronger marriages than those who do not.”

The second myth refuted by the report is the affirmation that even though fewer are marrying, those who marry have higher quality marriages. Not so, reply Popenoe and Whitehead, noting that “the best available evidence on the topic” shows a decline over the last 25 years in the number of both men and women who affirm their marriages are “very happy.”

Education’s role

The report also reveals a growing social divide when it comes to marriage. Among those who have received a university education the institution of marriage has strengthened in the last couple of decades. College-educated women now marry at a higher rate compared with the rest of the population, and they are also less favorably inclined toward divorce than less educated women.

In addition, among those who delay marriage past age 30, college-educated women are the only ones more likely to have children after marriage rather than before.

There is, thus, a growing “marriage gap” in America, notes the report, between those who are well educated and those who are not.

In fact, for those without a university education, “the marriage situation remains gloomy,” according to the report. This is due to a combination of a continuing decline in marriage rates and a growing percentage of out-of-wedlock births. By the year 2000, fully 40% of high school drop-out mothers were living without husbands, compared with just 12% of college-graduate mothers, states the report.

Since hitting a high point in the early 1980s, divorce has moderately declined. Overall, the lifetime probability of a first marriage ending in divorce or separation remains between 40% and 50%. The risk of divorce, however, varies quite notably. The chances of divorce are much higher for those who are poor, people who are high-school drop outs, and couples who marry as teenagers. Couples who have a family background of divorce, as well as those who have no religious affiliation, are also more likely to divorce.

Bottom line

In addition to the personal consequences, the breakdown in marriage and family life over the last few decades has had a severe economic impact. A section of the report looks at the economic benefits of marriage for society.

“Married couples create more economic assets on average than do otherwise similar singles or cohabiting couples,” argues the report. Married couples live more frugally, as opposed to two adults living as singles, and they also save and invest more for the future. Men also tend to become more economically productive after marriage, earning between 10% and 40% more than do single men with similar education and job histories.

The increase in divorce has also resulted in more inequality and poverty. The report points out that a large body of research has shown that both divorce and unmarried childbearing increase child poverty. One study even went so far as to show that if family structure had not changed between 1960 and 1998, the black child poverty rate in 1998 would have been 28.4% rather than 45.6%, and the white child poverty rate would have been 11.4% rather than 15.4%.

Divorce also means higher costs for governments, due to such factors as welfare payments and increased juvenile delinquency. The nation’s 1.4 million divorces in 2002 are estimated to have cost taxpayers more than $30 billion, the report affirms.

The increase in single-parent families also imposes a high cost on children. By 2006 some 28% of American children lived with just one parent. “This means that more children each year are not living in families that include their own married, biological parents, which by all available empirical evidence is the gold standard for insuring optimal outcomes in a child’s development,” commented Popenoe in his introductory essay to the report.

Reversing trends

Popenoe also asks how the breakdown in marriage and the family could be repaired. One way to do this is through a cultural transformation led by religion. With the passing of years, Popenoe continues, the United States and other countries have become ever more secular and individualistic. This is particularly the case among young people.

Strengthening religion and the family is one of Benedict XVI’s common themes. The family is a priority of the new evangelization, he declared July 5 to a group of bishops from the Dominican Republic present in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

The Pontiff said, “The Church desires that the family truly be the place where the person is born, matures and is educated for life, and where parents, by loving their children tenderly, prepare them for healthy interpersonal relationships which embody moral and human values in the midst of a society so heavily marked by hedonism and religious indifference.” 

More recently, when responding to questions Sept. 1 posed by the youth gathered for an encounter with the Pope in Loreto, Italy, Benedict XVI stated that the marginalization affecting so many people today in part is due to the fragmentation of families.

The family, he pointed out, “should not only be a place where generations meet, but also where they learn to live, learn the essential virtues, and this is in danger.” We need to make sure the family survives and is once more at the center of society, the Pope urged. A task more urgent than ever in the light of current trends.

Interview on Benedict XVI’s Pilgrimage to Mariazell

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 7, 2007 ( The Virgin Mary teaches the faithful to look to Christ, which is also the message of the shrine of Mariazell in Austria, according to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn.

In view of Benedict XVI’s visit to Austria today through Sunday, the archbishop of Vienna and president of the Austrian bishops’ conference spoke to ZENIT about the Pope’s pilgrimage and the situation of the Church in Austria.

Part 1 of this interview appeared Thursday.

Q: The Holy Father’s visit to Austria is a pilgrimage to Mariazell. What importance does Mary have in the Christian life?

Cardinal Schönborn: The motto “Turn your gaze toward Christ” is deeply inspired by Mariazell. If you look at the “full of grace” statue in Mariazell, the 850-year-old small statue of Linden wood, without festal vestments, without the opulent robes it is usually clothed in, you can see a simple figure of this smiling and mysterious Mother of God, and on her lap a child with an apple in his hand, symbol of the reign of divine power. And Mary is clearly pointing to the baby. That means that she is saying to us what she said at Cana — “Do whatever he tells you” — and she teaches us to look to Christ.

She is looking at us but she is pointing to Christ. In a certain sense she is calling to us: “Look there, look at my son.” And I think that this is the motto that Pope John Paul II chose for his entire life and especially for his pontificate. “Totus tuus” means to Christ through Mary. She shows us the way. Therefore let us begin Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage, and with the Holy Father, to Mariazell, and to the Am Hof Plaza before the Mariensaeule.

On Dec. 8, 2006, feast of the Immaculate Conception, we began a novena that will last until Sept. 8, in preparation for the feast day of Mariazell and for the Holy Father’s visit.

Q: You recently implied that the scarcity of children is a problem. How can society be more favorable to childhood?

Cardinal Schönborn: It is above all a big problem for a society that compromises its future by not having a sufficient number of children. We know well: Almost all of Europe must face the problem of falling demographics, which is being helped by strong immigration. It is a decision that involves all of society that is already facing the “No Future” problem.

Why are we in this situation today when the situation is Austria is so positive and there is support for families like never before? At no other time in history has there been a lack of norms like we have today. And despite that, families once had more children than they have today.

Certainly the drama of abortion plays an important role, but along with that I would add the fact of people not wanting children, saying no to children through contraception.

In the last 40 years Europe has said “no” three times to its future: the first time with the pill, the second time with abortion and the third time with homosexual marriage. Irrespective of the moral judgments of these phenomenon, it is simply a “de facto” no to the future.

The yes to the future can only mean a yes to children. I think that there is a growing awareness among Europeans that this is a necessary decision. The yes to the future is already a good thing, if you think the future has a chance.

Q: The Center for Families in the Archdiocese of Cologne has existed for some time. What are the specific initiatives of the Archdiocese of Vienna to support families?

Cardinal Schönborn: Naturally many initiatives exist in favor of the family, for example, associations of families or family workshops. Different religious movements have familial organizations, like the Schoenstatt movement. The religious movements of renewal are also strongly focused on families. But I believe that there is something more. It has to do with seeing.

Jesus said to his first disciples: “Come and see!” We need to see, we need to be able to touch — otherwise you don’t live it.

I spent some of my vacation time with a young family who has just had their sixth child. Naturally it is a life with many sacrifices, but it is certainly more vital than what happens if we are afraid of every new life. I think of the experiences of families in similar situations who, with full knowledge, say yes, even if it is linked to enormous opposition from those around them. With our lives we witness that it is good, that having children is good.

Naturally it is tiring. But it is rewarding, gratifying. And I think that the life of families in similar situations encourages others to try it. And strangely, it is not a problem of economics.

Naturally it is difficult with six children. But thank God in Austria there is good support for families. Some things could be better, more constructive, but it is fundamental to live it and make it possible for others. “Come and see!”

I see it in many families that have three, four, five, six children or more. The impression one has is that the future is here, hope is here, life is here. This is the way in which society should live: solidarity, mutual respect, mutual assistance; the logical experience that we need to forgo certain things.

These are the values that we absolutely need, so that society will become a society worthy of life and love. It is there that we find them, where we learn them. Woe to the society in which these values are lost, because it will be an evil society, ruthless.

Q: What are you expecting from the Holy Father’s visit?

Cardinal Schönborn: Strengthening of the faith, joy in the faith and encouragement in walking the way of faith, with the Church and in the Church, and not on a path we make for ourselves.

The Vital Role of Spiritual Values

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JULY 29, 2007 ( The intersection between religion and politics continues to provide ample cause for debate, with contentious issues in the areas of bioethics, family policy and social justice. While some insist that religion should have no place in politics, a book published last year proposed that a pluralistic democratic society is in need of faith and religious arguments in public debate.

Brendan Sweetman explained his position in “Why Politics Needs Religion: The Place of Religious Arguments in the Public Square” (InterVarsity Press). Sweetman, a professor of philosophy at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, is convinced that attempts to remove religion from politics are based on a misunderstanding of modern pluralism.

Sweetman starts with an explanation of what he terms “worldviews” that underpin our concept of reality, the nature of human persons, and moral and political values. A wide variety of these worldviews exist, some of them purely secular, others that are based on religion. 

Proponents of secularism, the book explains, wish to exclude worldviews founded on religion because they are supposedly based on sources that are not reliable or are irrational. In a pluralistic society is it not sustainable, according to secularists, to introduce religious arguments because this is imposing elements of a religion on others who do not share these beliefs.


Sweetman quickly points out, however, such a position ignores the substantial part that reason plays in religion. Sweetman, who early on in the book declares his Catholic faith, cites the example of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” which contained a lengthy explanation on rational grounds for opposing abortion. 

“The secularist conveniently ignores the issue of the rationality of religious belief, or superficially denies that religious belief can be rational, or fails to compare the rationality of religious belief with that of secularist beliefs,” Sweetman argues.

It is time, he proposes, that we move away from the view that religion is somehow a synonym for irrational. The religious view of the world in general, Sweetman maintains, has nothing to fear from rational scrutiny.

The book also maintains that religion should not be considered as some kind of threat to democracy; on the contrary it can make a valuable contribution to public debates. For a society to be truly democratic it should take into account the worldviews of its members and allow them to participate by adding their voice, it says.

Religion can also make a valuable contribution to discussions on human rights, political values and the concept we have of the human person, Sweetman adds. 

He admits that religions do not always live up to the beliefs they proclaim, and that there is often disagreement among religions on moral, social and political matters. Moreover, not all elements of religion are suitable in terms of providing guidance for public policy, and Sweetman also explains that he is not claiming that all religious beliefs are rational. 

The religious worldview does, however, have a valid contribution to make and it deserves a hearing. In fact, suppressing a religious worldview without any chance of a public debate being held on the arguments it proposes is a violation of democratic principles.

One objection raised by secularists, Sweetman notes, is the argument that religion introduces division and dogmatism, or even violence, into the political arena. It is true that religion can divide, Sweetman admits, but this is equally true of purely secular-founded arguments. The 20th century provides abundant examples of excesses committed in the name of secular ideologies.

Catholics in action

A series of recommendations over religion’s role in politics came last year in the form of a question-and-answer booklet authored by the Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona. In his pamphlet, “Catholics in the Public Square,” published by Basilica Press, he recommends the faithful to be respectful of the beliefs of others, or of those who have no faith.

At the same time, however, “Catholics should not be afraid to embrace their identity or to put their faith into practice in public life.”

The Church, Bishop Olmsted continues, does not seek to impose its doctrine on others. It is, nevertheless, legitimately concerned about the common good, the promotion of justice and the welfare of society.

There is, unfortunately, he observes, discrimination against people of faith, and especially Catholics when they express their views in public debates. Not only is there misrepresentation of what Catholic view are, but there is also outright hostility to people of any faith.

“Nonetheless, it is our duty to engage the culture, not run from it,” Bishop Olmsted comments. People of faith, like others, have every right to bring their views and beliefs into public.

Basic values

Another recent contribution to the theme of religion’s role in politics came from Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl. On April 13 he spoke at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

In recent years there has been a weakening of support in public opinion for the role of basic religious values as a support for laws and public policy, the archbishop commented. Instead of values that are common to many faiths there are increasing calls for purely secular justifications of governmental policy.

Archbishop Wuerl argued that this tendency is contrary to the prevailing views of America’s founders. There is one common principle in the American political experience, he maintained: “The belief in the binding character of moral law is fundamental to any understanding of American thought.”

Catholic thought is in agreement, the archbishop continued. He noted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the importance of the natural moral law and how the commandments are privileged expressions of the natural law.

“Religious faith has played and continues to play a significant role in promoting social justice issues as it does in defending all innocent human life,” the archbishop explained. Faith, he added, helps us to see our life and to judge right and wrong according to God’s wisdom.

Schizophrenic approach

Moreover, Archbishop Wuerl emphasized, attempting to separate morality and political life, or spiritual values from human values, is “a schizophrenic approach to life,” that only brings “devastation to the person and to society.”

“The secular model is not sufficient to sustain a true reflection on human action capable of giving guidance that is faithful to a life-giving understanding of human nature,” he concluded.

That argument is also frequently made by Benedict XVI. One of his most recent interventions on the need for faith and moral values in politics and society came in his July 5 speech to a group of bishops from the Dominican Republic, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

It is the role of laypeople to work and act directly in constructing the temporal order, the Pope noted. Nevertheless, they need to be guided in this by the light of the Gospel and Christian love. 

Christians who are active on the public sphere should, the Pontiff recommended, give public testimony to their faith and not live two parallel lives: one which is spiritual; and another which is secular, dedicated to their participation in social, political and cultural activities. 

Instead, the Pope urged, they should strive for coherence between their lives and their faith, thus providing an eloquent testimony of the truth of the Christian message. A coherence only too often lacking among many active in public life.