“The Gospel tells us constantly to risk a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.”—Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium 72)
As we live out this Jubilee Year of Mercy and the United States enters into the 2016 election season, Americans face a myriad of choices between competing visions for our nation’s future. As Catholics, we are called by our faith to engage in this election. Pope Francis says that “a good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of one’s self so that those who govern can govern well.”
Politics, Francis says, “is one of the highest forms of love, because it is in the service of the common good.” He called on us to orient our politics based on the Christian models of Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and Martin Luther King Jr.
We engage in this political process not because we’re partisan, but because we’re Christian.
Our faith offers a specific vision for the common good. It isn’t theoretical or abstract. It’s rooted in the story and person of Jesus Christ. In short, the entire social vision of the Catholic Church is this: in Jesus, God became poor to save humanity from every form of oppression. We must do likewise.
The Catholic vision for the common good, then, is a radical invitation to what Pope Francis calls a “revolution of tenderness.”
The central claim of Christianity has always been that the rejected, crucified, and then resurrected Jesus is somehow Lord of the entire earth. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus had political and social consequences for the community he lived in and, by implication has political and social consequences for all communities everywhere, including the ones we live in.
The resurrection of Jesus marked the end of Caesar’s way of doing things. In fact, with God’s love in Jesus, Rome is no more, and a new community with new rules is established. In this community, hierarchies are subverted, concentrated power is decentralized, and prodigal children are welcomed home.
In this new place of mercy the last are first, the poor are blessed, and enemies are loved. Black lives matter here. LGBTQ lives matter here; and so too do the lives of refugees, the imprisoned, the unborn, and anyone else who suffers dehumanization, exclusion, and injustice.
Of course no candidate, and no party, completely adheres to this vision of the common good. Ours is a pluralistic society in which many do not share our faith or its social vision. It is our hope, however, that the essential truth of the Gospel, the beauty of Pope Francis’s vision, and the social mission of Catholic Church will appeal to the American people. We bring that vision and those values into the public square because they animate us in all we do, privately and publicly.
We invite our fellow Christians and all people to consider carefully how candidates do, and do not, embrace that vision and those values, and to make prudential judgments about which candidates best reflect Christian love.
We offer this guide to help inform our brothers and sisters about their specifically political vocation as Catholic Christians in the United States. Let us say at the outset: We do not in any way wish to claim for ourselves the right to speak for the Catholic Church, nor for all Catholics.
Instead we offer this guide to show how we apply the teachings of our Church to the problems of our day with a heart of mercy. We here seek to take up the call issued by the U.S. bishops in their document Faithful Citizenship to form our consciences, guided by the Gospel, examining the issues we face and reaching informed, conscientious decisions about the issues we hold dear as Catholics and as Americans.