Separation of church and state does not mean that Catholics should not bring universal principles and values to the public arena, said Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett in an editorial in the Seattle Times yesterday.
The archbishop wrote the editorial after some pro-abortion Catholic politicians responded negatively to his recent pastoral letter. In the editorial, he reiterated some of the major points of his pastoral letter, stating that it is not up to ministers of the Eucharist to withhold Communion without dialogue or due process, but that pro-abortion politicians should refrain from receiving Communion.
In the editorial, the archbishop defended his pastoral letter as an attempt “to dispel the notion, proposed by some, that the constitutional separation of church and state implies that religious leaders should not involve themselves in politics when moral principles are at stake” and to remind Catholics that “if they profess to be in communion with the Church, their faith values must inform their political actions and not the other way around.
“Some have suggested that the constitutional separation between church and state amounts to a prohibition against church leaders involving themselves in politics. This misunderstanding turns the constitutional protection on its head,” read the archbishop’s editorial.
“The separation of church and state protects churches and their people from the imposition of a state religion. It is a guarantee of religious freedom, not a gag order on the ordained,” he continued.
“Catholic leaders understand that many in our secular culture do not share our beliefs,” he added. “We also recognize that every citizen is entitled to the full and free expression of their values. So we bring our principles into the public square and expect that others will do the same.”
Archbishop Brunette said one of the most troubling aspects of the current debate is the assumption that Catholic politicians can separate their faith from their political actions.
While Catholic politicians are entitled to arrive at different political alternatives, said the archbishop, they are obliged to apply Catholic moral principles when making their decisions.
Archbishop Brunett also announced that the bishops of Washington State will issue a statement this summer, encouraging all Catholics to participate in the political process.
“It will remind Catholic people that Church teaching is ordered to promote the common good, not the electoral prospects of any party or candidate,” he said.
It will also encourage Catholics to prioritize the dignity of all human life and the needs of the poor and to measure all public policies and political candidates against Gospel values.
The bishop’s pastoral letter is at www.seattlearch.org.