US bishops launch 'Civilize It,' answering Pope Francis' call for 'a better kind of politics'

Coakley USCCB Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City (Left) and Bishop James Wall of Gallup (Right) pray before the afternoon session of the 2019 USCCB General Assembly, June 12, 2019./ Kate Veik/CNA

The U.S. bishops’ conference on Monday launched a new initiative to promote civility amid political polarization, appealing to Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti.

“My hope is that this initiative will assist all of us as we seek to ‘become neighbors to all,’ as the Holy Father calls us to do, and take up the challenges of encounter, dialogue, truth-seeking, and creative problem-solving, in order that all Catholics can work together for the common good,” said Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, on Monday.

The bishops’ new campaign “Civilize It: A Better Kind of Politics,” seeks to promote Catholic social teaching within evangelization efforts, equipping Catholics to respond to current political debates. It includes an examination of conscience, short reflections, prayers, and a guide for Catholics to be “bridgebuilders.” Materials can be found at the conference website CivilizeIt.org.

Catholics can take a pledge on the website for “charity,” “clarity,” and “creativity.” The pledge includes promises to practice charity, to form one’s conscience well and be open to dialogue, and to work with others on “creative” solutions for society. The campaign’s goal is to reach 5,000 such pledges.

The initiative is based off of Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti, or “brothers all.” The encyclical’s paragraph 154 calls for “a better kind of politics, one truly at the service of the common good.”

“In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis offers a different way forward based on Gospel values, justice and truth,” Archbishop Coakley said.

Polarization and division are even found today within the Church, he noted.

“Such division among the faithful compromises the Church’s ability to effectively witness to the life and dignity of the human person in the family, parish, workplace, and political sphere,” he said.

Fratelli tutti was issued in October 2020, as a call for unity and fraternity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The title means means "All brothers" in Italian, citing the writings of St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis signed the encyclical in Assisi, Italy.

"Aside from the different ways that various countries responded to the crisis, their inability to work together became quite evident," Pope Francis said in the introduction to his encyclical. "For all our hyper-connectivity, we witnessed a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all." 

He also addressed global problems including the pandemic, the "throwaway culture" that includes abortion and euthanasia, neglect of the elderly, discrimination against women, and slavery. He criticized the current political discourse, encouraging instead authentic dialogue.

The urged greater acceptance of refugees and migrants, and also called for an end to the use of the death penalty.

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