By Meg Jalsevac
PHOENIX, October 24, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, AZ has recently authored a new booklet entitled ‘Catholics in the Public Square’.Â The booklet is a directive to all Catholics regarding their responsibilities on civic duties.Â Among other instructions, Olmsted explains why Catholic politicians who support policies contrary to Catholic doctrine “jeopardize their own spiritual well-being” and should not receive Communion.
Bishop Olmsted’s booklet, in a question and answer format, answers 29 poignant questions about Catholic teaching and civic issues such as separation of Church and State, public policies, political issues, and voting responsibilities.Â Olmsted explains how certain policies, such as capital punishment, are a matter of opinion but other issues, like a pro-life stance, are non-negotiable at all times.Â The booklet does not endorse or condemn any specific candidate, political party or legislative proposal.
In an interview with ZENIT.org, Olmsted said “This booklet is intended for all Catholics because we all have a mission in the public square, even if it differs according to our state in life.”
The booklet begins by outlining a Catholic’s responsibilities to himself, his family and society and the explanation that “lay men and women are in a unique position to bring their faith into all areas of society.”ÂÂ Bishop Olmsted says that “It should be remembered that as the laity engage in temporal affairs, in their own way, they participate in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly mission of the Church by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation.”Â
In the interview with ZENIT, Olmsted quoted Lumen Gentium saying, “By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.”
In the booklet, regarding a Catholic’s obligations in public life, Olmstead says, “Catholics are especially called to contribute to the common good, to defend the dignity of every human person, and to live as faithful citizens.”
Olmsted explains that the Church has a respect for secular government that allows for civil liberties of all people but says, “The Church is legitimately concerned about many matters of societal importance and brings its views to bear in proposing meaningful solutions for promoting the common good.”Â He says Catholic citizens allowing their faith to direct their actions in the public square is “not an imposition on other’s morality” but rather “acting with integrity.”Â Olmsted encourages Catholics to actively participate in the public square saying that to do so “is good for society and it is responsible citizenship.”
In regards to responsible voting, Olmsted instructs Catholics “to understand their faith so that their consciences are properly formed.”Â He says that proper research and prayer must be performed prior to determining which political candidates are worthy of a vote.
Olmsted explains that certain social issues can be left up to the opinion of the voter and two Catholics may legitimately differ in opinion.Â However, he is careful to express that “there are other issues, such as abortion or euthanasia, that are always wrong and do not allow for the correct use of prudential judgment to justify them.”
Olmsted then goes on address the issue of nominally Catholic politicians who vote for or support political measures that allow for intrinsically evil actions such as abortion.Â In his example of a Catholic politician who maintains a pro-abortion stance, Olmsted says, “he is not only causing scandal; he is sinning.”Â
The bishop says that such a politician “cannot receive Holy Communion without previously making a good confession.”Â Confession requires contrition and a firm purpose of amendment. The booklet continues that, since the politician’s sinful actions were public, the amendment would also have to be public.
Olmsted says, “A candidate who is authentically Catholic is one who always defends the dignity of every human person and who puts the welfare of the common good over various partisan or self interests.”Â
Ron Johnson of the Arizona Catholic Conference told LifeSiteNews.com that Bishop Olmsted was initially approached by Basilica Press about writing ‘Catholics in the Public Square’ as a part of their ‘The Shepherd’s Voice Series.’Â The Series is a new endeavor by Basilica Press which, according to their website, “brings you the current teaching of Bishops and Cardinals on vital topics facing the Catholic Church today.”
Bishop Olmsted’s booklet is being published and distributed in time to educate Catholic voters before the November 7th elections.Â Since its launching on October 7th the Phoenix Diocese has distributed over 105,000 copies of the document to their parishes and is currently ordering more copies.Â The document is being printed and sold internationally by Basilica Press.
Read the entire ‘Catholics in the Public Square’ document:
Read Bishop Olmsted’s sermon at the launching of ‘Catholics in the Public Square’:
See the website for Basilica Press:
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