Animosity and hyperbole has characterized the current election season. This should give all people pause. The natural and healthy exchange of ideas, critical to our democratic system has devolved into anger, intolerance and increasing alienation.
This current polarization hampers the advancement of the common good, which is one of the ultimate goals of all prudent governance. The common good – “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (Gaudium et Spes, 26.) – requires cooperation and mutual respect. It requires that all be given the opportunity to participate in civic activities and partake in the benefits of our society.
Just a little more than one year ago, in his historic address to the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis reminded us that the Golden Rule applies in political discourse, as well as in our daily life:
“This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities, which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”
As we approach the 240th anniversary of our Republic, we remain a resilient people, with a robust system of law and deeply held religious convictions. As the Bishops of California who are pastors of our respective local Churches, we believe in the strength of our democracy, the ultimate decency of our people, and the persuasive power of the Christian faith. Pope Francis reminded us in his address “the challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States.” The contentious campaigns have wearied and worried us. The more urgent civic endeavor of forging a stronger union, ensuring domestic as well as global tranquility, and establishing justice for all is still before us. This is the common cause and our sacred duty and mission as the disciples of Jesus.
We invite all people to conscientiously participate with dignity, civility and respect for others. This may indeed be the “narrow gate“ of the Gospel reading recently, but let us do so with constant prayer, and to place our faith in Him who is our hope and our salvation.