HomeCivic  Conference

As reported on by Seth Gonzalez, Texas Catholic, in "Politics and the church" on Oct. 8, 2012:

On Sept. 8, more than 120 people gathered at St. Mark Catholic Church in Plano for a conference titled “Render Unto Caesar,” in which participants were encouraged to become informed, but faithful voters this election season.

The conference was co-sponsored by the Texas Catholic Conference, the organization representing the Catholic bishops of Texas, and the Catholic Pro-Life Committee of North Texas. Speakers gave presentations in English and Spanish. 

“The beauty of Catholic moral and social teaching is that we have something to say on just about everything in public life,” said Jeffrey Patterson, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference. ”We can't divorce who we are as Catholics and who we are as citizens. The two are inextricably intertwined.”

Efforts to spread this message across the nation have intensified in recent election cycles. In 2008, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a document entitled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”, presenting it as a guide to help Catholics understand the moral and social issues of the day.

That same year, Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell and Fort Worth Bishop Kevin Vann released a joint statementintended for Catholics across D/FW, lending their support to the document and pointing out its emphasis that “intrinsic evils…can never under any circumstance or condition be morally justified.” Thus, “legalized abortion, the promotion of same sex unions and ‘marriages’, repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research” should never be supported, they said.

“It's a game-changer when the bishop is the one that's issuing the teaching statement,” said Karen Garnett, executive director of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee, who was among the speakers at the conference. “These are our bishops speaking and teaching.”

Last year, USCCB president Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York reaffirmed the document saying it was not intended to be a “voter’s guide, (a) scorecard of issues or direction on how to vote. It applies Catholic moral principles to a range of important issues and warns against misguided appeals to ‘conscience’ to ignore fundamental moral claims, to reduce Catholic moral concerns to one or two matters, or to justify choices simply to advance partisan, ideological or personal interests.”

Speaking to participants at the ‘Render Unto Caesar’ conference, Dallas Auxiliary Bishop Mark J. Seitz stressed the need for the Catholic laity to be involved in the political process, saying bishops can only do so much.

“The Catholic laity is the key to all this. The bishops have the responsibility of teaching the laity,” he said. “The laity has the responsibility of taking their faith into the marketplace and into the world.”

While many across the nation are rightly concerned about issues such as the economy, unemployment, and rising gas prices, Bishop Seitz said the challenge for Catholics is to think more deeply about the entire spectrum of issues.

“It’s interesting to note that politicians are very astute and recognize that for many of their constituents, 'It's the economy, stupid' ” Bishop Seitz said. “But for Catholics, there is a hierarchy of truths; things that are most fundamental and things that are most clearly connected with the teachings of Christ and His Church. We try to help people understand that hierarchy of truths and to assess the various issues based upon that, rather than upon their pocketbook.”

By many accounts, several of the participants said, there is still much work to be done.  Read entire article here.

This conference was completely non-partisan, with neither endorsement of nor opposition to political parties or any candidate running for public office.  

Hear from Pope Benedict XVI as to the reason why:

"If the Church were to start transforming herself into a directly political subject, she would do less, not more, for the poor and for justice, because she would lose her independence and her moral authority, identifying herself with a single political path and with debatable partisan positions. The Church is the advocate of justice and of the poor, precisely because she does not identify with politicians nor with partisan interests. Only by remaining independent can she teach the great criteria and inalienable values, guide consciences and offer a life choice that goes beyond the political sphere. To form consciences, to be the advocate of justice and truth, to educate in individual and political virtues: that is the fundamental vocation of the Church in this area. And lay Catholics must be aware of their responsibilities in public life; they must be present in the formation of the necessary consensus and in opposition to injustice."

  - Opening address of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, May 13, 2007.

Full address

“Justice, and only justice you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” – Deuteronomy 16:20