Bishop McElroy: Why Civic Virtue Must Prevail Over Tribal Politics

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego writes:

In Francis’ message, the core of the vocation of public service, and of all politics, is to promote the integral development of every human person and of society as a whole. It is a vocation that requires special and self-sacrificial concern for the poor, the unborn, the vulnerable and the marginalized. It is a commitment to pursue the common good over that of interest groups or parties or self-aggrandizement. It is a profoundly spiritual and moral undertaking.

At this moment in our nation’s history, Catholic social teaching proposes that the healing of our culture and politics must begin with a conversion to the principle of solidarity. This foundational principle proclaims that all of us are debtors of the society of which we are a part. It is in this fundamental recognition that the most central bonds of cultural and societal union can be born.

Such a conversion within the United States will require deep self-scrutiny and reflection. It will demand a rejection of the tribal element of politics, which sees voting as the opportunity to advance the well-being of our race, our class or our religious community at the expense of others. It will entail a purging of the inherent human tendency to allow anger and wedge issues to infect our political life. Most importantly of all, such a spiritual conversion prohibits us from framing political choice in the United States as essentially a competition between two partisan teams, one good and one bad, with all of the visceral enjoyment that such a competition brings.