Mark Brumley comments on the latest letter from the US Bishops Conference, Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility:
- What If They Issued a Document and Nobody Read It?
The U.S. bishops are getting a jump on the 2004 elections by issuing their election year treatise Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility. With all due respect to the bishops, they have produced one more long document that will have virtually no impact on the vast majority of Catholics in the United States. Even if every Catholic in America read it--and let's face it: only a tiny minority will ever even hear of it--most of them are so poorly catechicized that they would not benefit very much from it. And even if they understood what the document says and why it says it, they wouldn't necessarily be disposed to accept its teachings.
With respect to prudential judgments contained in documents issued by the U.S. bishops, it is fine enough that the laity exercise some independence of judgment. When it comes to genuine principles of Catholic social teaching, Catholics should embrace these principles according to the manner in which the Church presents them. At the very least, these principles represent authentic Catholic teaching and are therefore owed at least the "religious submission of will and intellect." Assuming, of course, we're talking about the genuine teaching of the Church and not simply some ecclesiastical officeholder's political opinions.
But whether Faithful Citizenship presents Catholic teaching that all Catholics should embrace or a list of debatable prudential judgments Catholics may question or both, very few Catholics will ever set eyes on the document. Few priests will ever read it, much less the laity. Most Catholics will go happily or unhappily on their way without giving the least bit of attention to this document, regardless of its merits or demerits.
Being at ease in Zion gives you a certain sense of continuity, doesn't it?
There's a lot of work to be done out there.