New book challenges Catholics to play role in public square

.- This weekend Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix launched a new booklet, challenging Catholics to take a more active part in influencing the political process.

The 45-page booklet is part of a new series by Basilica Press, entitled “Shepherd’s Voice”, which deals with the issue of Catholics in the public square.

The bishop’s booklet, titled “Catholics in the Public Square,” is the first in the series. It was launched Oct. 7 at a half-day event at the Diocese of Phoenix’s Pastoral Center, attended by more than 400 people.

Bishop Olmsted said the booklet is aimed at helping Catholics fight against secularization and the misrepresentation of faith in the public arena. It demonstrates how Catholics can contribute to a culture of life, and focuses on what role Catholic doctrine should play in the public square.

The bishop also discusses the “non-negotiable” issues for Catholics involved in politics, and refers to issues which could prohibit Catholics from receiving Holy Communion.

In addition to the book launch, attendees also gathered for the diocese’s 2006 Legislative Issues Seminar. The seminar opened with a Mass, presided by the bishop, during which he said that Catholics have a duty to act when people’s dignity and rights are at stake.

Christians cannot refuse to engage in issues about immigration, the poor, marriage, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, capital punishment and war, he said.

“Christ expects us to be active there [in the public square]: loving our neighbor, engaging the culture, promoting the common good, and defending the dignity and rights of all. This is part and parcel of being a follower of Christ,” he said during his homily.

“But we live in a time when many contend that faith is a purely private matter. They accuse us of imposing our faith on others if we let it influence everything we do,” he continued.

“From various quarters, Catholics and other people of faith are especially pressured to separate our faith from the public square. But such pressures and contentions, if heeded, would make a mockery of faith. If our faith does not impact on every dimension of our life, then it is not true faith,” he said, echoing points made in his booklet.

“A lay person in the public square has a particular responsibility to live his or her vocation in view of its unique impact on society,” the bishop says in his Question and Answer-style book.

Those involved in politics “often are in a position to influence societal norms on matters of real significance by passing or defeating various legislative proposals,” the booklet continues.

Addressing other Catholics in the public square, especially those in the mass media, the bishop says, “a significant part of their responsibilities is to live their faith by promoting the common good in society.”

The bishop acknowledges that many people of faith have been frightened into silence, led to believe that they are imposing their morality on others.

However, he continues, “Democratic society needs the active participation of all its citizens, people of faith included. The active engagement of Catholics in democratic processes is good for society and it is responsible citizenship.”

More than 100,000 copies of the bishop’s booklet have been published. The full text of the booklet and ordering information are available at: http://www.basilicapress.com/index.html.

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