“Get off social media and get in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Stop watching so much news and start reading the Good News. Spend the time on volunteer service to help the poor instead of writing angry emails.”
Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin has released a letter to his clergy that was reprinted today in Our Sunday Visitor.
He says, in part:
All Catholics have to be careful to engage in political life in a manner that reflects the Gospel, but clergy need to exercise special caution so that their political activity is consistent with their vocation in the Church. Bishops, priests and deacons, as individuals and citizens, obviously can vote and hold political opinions. As pastoral leaders and members of the hierarchy, however, our task is to preach and teach the Catholic faith to the laity and to lay out the revealed priority of moral issues (and indeed for pastors to fail to preach the truths of our faith is to fail in loving our people). The task of the laity is to form their consciences and apply the teachings of the Church to the spheres of politics, economy, society, and culture. Clerics should not be publicly voicing overt and purely political opinions regarding individuals, parties, election results, the current news cycle, nor engaging in ad hominem attacks. Such actions threaten to politicize the Church and divide our people even more. Furthermore, canon law places legitimate limits on clerical engagement in political activities. This is not a matter of being timid or politically correct, remaining neutral on moral issues, or protecting the Church’s tax exempt status, but of acknowledging and honoring the respective roles of the clergy and the lay faithful.
I have a suggestion for everyone, including myself. Let’s spend these months leading up to Easter in deeper prayer, penance, and almsgiving. Instead of pointing accusatory fingers at others, let’s point one at ourselves. How can I be more patient, kind, gentle, and compassionate to others, especially those I disagree with? Get off social media and get in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Stop watching so much news and start reading the Good News. Spend the time on volunteer service to help the poor instead of writing angry emails. Examine your conscience regarding the sins of calumny, rash judgment, violent anger, and malicious speech. And then go to confession.
I am not implying that we should be silent in the face of evil, injustice, and wrongdoing, but we need to stick with the moral issues and refrain from the personal attacks. If we do not even desire to heal the divisions among us, how can we ever rediscover our unity in Christ? The painful experience of these past months tells me that we as fallen human beings can become divisively tribal. We instinctively associate with the people who think, act, and live as we do. While this may be a reflexive human response due to our fallen nature, Jesus Christ calls us to a far greater reality, indeed a supernatural unity, founded in the very life of the Most Blessed Trinity.
Bishop Hying, you’ll recall, was until recently the bishop of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, a.k.a. “Fr. Z,” who garnered some attention a few weeks back for conducting “election exorcisms.”