Religious voice should play role in shaping public policy, Catholic leaders agree

.- Religious voices must play a role in shaping public policy, Catholic leaders said Monday at a symposium on faith and politics at Duquesne University. More than 300 people attended.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., and respected writer and intellectual Fr. Richard John Neuhaus separately stated the need for civil and religious voice to share in the creation of public policy, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The two leaders, often depicted on opposite sides of the left-right spectrum, also agreed that partisans on all sides in society need to steer clear of dehumanizing the opposition with ridicule and need to lower their anger level.

Neuhaus, a former Lutheran who was active in the civil rights movement, cited Martin Luther King. "Dr. King used to say: 'Whom you would change, you must first love, and they must know that you love them.' In these great contentions in the public square ... that is how we ought to be perceived, we Christians and Catholic Christians."

Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh proposed that the U.S. bishops consult with each other before taking public stands on Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.

In interviews with the Post-Gazette Cardinal McCarrick endorsed Bishop Wuerl’s proposal, calling it “right on target” and saying that he expects it to receive significant attention from the bishops.

Cardinal McCarrick shares Bishop Wuerl's view that Catholic legislators who support abortion rights should not ask to receive Communion, but that the priest should not refuse them Communion if they come forward.

Cardinal McCarrick also urged Catholics to study official Church documents in order to avoid interpretations in the media and by advocacy groups that distort Church teaching.

Fr. Neuhaus told the Post-Gazette he did not endorse Bishop Wuerl’s position and praised the bishops who said they would not allow presidential candidate John Kerry to receive Communion. He said this was not the only response to the problem, and that bishops had to show pastoral care and concern for the politician in every case.

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