Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Father William Byron: Voting the Beatitudes

(On election day, I share excerpts of a reflection by Rev. William Byron, S.J., about voting. The piece, entitled, "Learning to balance Beatitudes and ballot box," was the subject of his  bi-weekly column “Looking Around” for Catholic News Service syndicate more than a decade ago. Father Byron was one of several clergy who collaborated with Art Simon to create Bread for the World in 1974).

"More and more Catholic conversations are centering on religion and politics. That seems natural enough in an election year, but I’m wondering how Catholics would answer the question posed in a daily newspaper headline I saw the other day: “Does God Belong in Politics?”

“Yes, of course,” I found myself saying, “politics is people and God is in all people, so surely God belongs in politics.” Without the people, how can God’s will work in our world? If God is present in every person, how can God not be in politics?

Although there is a separation of church and state that is appropriate in the United States, there is no separation between church and society. The church, in my view, should be doing a better job communicating Gospel values to society and then trusting society to make political decisions consistent with those values.

I know of one priest who, speaking from the side of religion to the issues being debated in this year’s presidential campaign, held up the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) as a checklist.

How does a given candidate or political party fare in that comparison? Few serious faith-committed voters who are doing their best to assimilate Gospel values and bring them to life in this imperfect world will say they’ve found a perfect fit.

The church should stay out of partisan politics but not hesitate for a moment to suggest that beatitude values belong in a good society and that beatitude principles can inform the moral reasoning needed to shape solid public policies."

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