It might not be a presidential election year, but in November, Minnesotans will still vote for a governor and all 10 of its representatives in Congress, including two U.S. Senate seats. These decisions can potentially shift balances of power on both state and national levels.
Yet, many Americans don’t seem to think either party is making good use of that power. According to the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2017 American Values Survey, less than one-third of Americans say Democratic policies are leading the country in the right direction, and less than a quarter say the same of Republican policies.
These are not encouraging numbers. But instead of decrying the state of politics, as Catholics we are called to action. You can still make a New Year’s resolution to participate in the public arena, first by getting to know your legislators, and second by attending your local precinct caucus.
It is our duty to actively participate in public life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that while “participation is achieved first of all by taking charge of the areas for which one assumes personal responsibility,” such as care for the family and faithfulness at work, there are also important steps we can take to influence the public square.
As Catholics, we need to help establish party platforms that promote and defend human dignity. The Second Vatican Council gives us a great starting point to form a platform for human dignity. “Gaudium et Spes” (“On the Church in the modern world”) reminds us, “Whatever is opposed to life itself … whatever insults human dignity … as well as [the treatment of people] as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed.”
Too often, parties and their politicians will focus their efforts on promoting a singular aspect of human dignity, but this narrow vision casts a shadow over the rest of the human person. As Catholics, we must bring the Gospel of life into these darkened corners, helping our parties and political leaders come to a full recognition and defense of every individual’s innate human dignity.
You don’t need a long resume of political experience to make an impact. In fact, you’ve already got the job. As a constituent and disciple, it is your job to let your legislators know whether their decisions truly represent you. If legislators never hear from you, they cannot properly do their job.
To be a constituent is no small job, and it might leave you wondering, “Where do I even begin?” Go back to the resolution: Get to know your legislators and attend your party caucus.
Step one: Find out who represents you. Use our “Find your officials” tool at mncatholic.org/actioncenter, but don’t stop there.
Step two: Attend your local precinct caucus Feb. 6. There, you get to vote for which candidates the party should endorse and propose resolutions that can shape the party’s platform. You can also influence who becomes your legislator and what your party stands for. For more details on caucuses, visit mncatholic.org/caucus.
You might be thinking that party lines are too deeply drawn and there’s no way a conversation with your legislator or a single vote at a caucus could make a difference. If not for the grace of God, you’d be right.
St. John Paul II reminds us in “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”) that it is through the light of reason and God’s hidden grace that “every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can … come to recognize … the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree.”
Therefore, before taking steps one and two, start where everything begins — with God. We must, as faithful citizens, begin in prayer. Pray that Christ’s light of reason and grace enlightens legislators and constituents alike so that we may come to recognize and defend the human dignity of all.
Katherine (Cross) Szepieniec is communications manager for the Minnesota Catholic Conference.
Register for Capitol 101
Join fellow Minnesota Catholics at the State Capitol for a morning of education in advocacy. Capitol 101 is an educational event empowering Catholics to take an active role in state government. Register today to join us from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 26, March 16 or April 17. You can also schedule a meeting with your legislators for the afternoon.
To make the day more interactive, registration for each event is capped at 100 attendees and closes one week prior to each event date. Participants will learn the ins and outs of what goes on at the State Capitol (such as how an idea becomes law) and hear from legislators about how to make a difference. Join us before or after the main program for special opportunities to pray together for our legislators.
For more information and to register, visit mncatholic.org/capitol101.