March 2, 2011| The Long Island Catholic Vol. 49, No. 44†| BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY
There are times I think we need to re-visit all the documents of the Second Vatican Council and re-read them to discover all the riches in those 16 conciliar texts that we have either not learned or forgotten or just ignored. Obviously we cannot use every text for every situation but there are whole portions of the Councilís teaching that are functionally non-operative or even rejected. Two texts I have used time and again have direct bearing on our life in society and our responsibility as disciples of Christ for the society in which we live. One is from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium (LG), and the second is from the Declaration on the Laity, Apostolicam actuositatem. They are easy to remember because the first is LG 31 and the second is AA 13.
In both we learn that the responsibility for the good ordering of society and the leadership in building healthy societies in our own communities, the nation and the world belong, not to the bishops, not to the priests, not to consecrated women and men but primarily to lay women and men. In fact the Council insists that priests are overstepping their bounds when they take that task from the laity. There is, however, a crucial role for bishop and priest. In fidelity to the teaching magisterium of the popes and councils, all bishops in communion with the See of Peter and all priests have the solemn duty of teaching the laity the principles of Catholic social doctrine and of encouraging and guiding the laity to apply those principles to the very concrete political, economic, social, financial and cultural worlds in which we live. To that end, Pope John Paul II asked the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 1997 to prepare a Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine to be published as part of the great Jubilee Year of 2000.
†It took a little longer than that despite the hard work and best efforts of a group of experts and others who were charged with producing the text which finally did appear in 2004.
Armed with that text and with the active participation of their priests and other teachers, the laity has a great and noble task of seeking to shape our world for the better by introducing and applying the principles to concrete reality through concrete proposals and programs. These we seek to persuade the whole citizenry to adopt because they will ensure the dignity of every human being and the common good of society. At the same time we can never shirk our duty to oppose programs and proposals, bills and laws that contradict the principles of Catholic social teaching and lead a society to choices that harm persons, groups and the common good.
Every year at this time when a new legislative year gets underway in Albany, the bishops of New York invite lay men and women from their dioceses to pick up the reins of influencing public policy, to lobby and persuade the state legislature to support bills and programs that will be truly life enhancing and make a better New York. Equally during these public policy days, Catholic voices are needed in Albany to articulate our opposition to bills and actions that will undermine a good and healthy society or advance positions that run counter to sound moral teaching and good ethical values.
The more who participate, the more powerful will be the message we give and the positions we take. That is why I want to invite as many of you as can to join us in Albany for our annual Public Policy Day on Tuesday, March 8. We will begin the morning with Mass at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral in Albany and then go around the corner to the state capital where we will visit our state senators and assembly members who annually receive us and listen to our priorities for the good of the state in the coming year.
On Saturday March 5 here in our diocese the Public Policy Advisory Council of our Diocese of Rockville Centre have organized an information and organization Convocation at Holy Trinity Diocesan High School in Hicksville. We will begin with Mass at 9:30 a.m. in the school auditorium. I will offer a keynote at 10:45 and then we will have a series of break out sessions on specific topics which will be the subject of our meetings with the legislators in Albany next Tuesday.
At this Saturday Convocation you can learn a great deal about the issues of the day from a Catholic perspective and you can contribute your participation and your voice to a concerted effort to make the principles of Catholic Social Teaching a real force to shape laws and programs, to defend human rights and dignity, to protect marriage and family, to advance Catholic education, to help the poor and support programs that are carried on by Catholic Charities. If you are able to come to Albany the next Tuesday and already signed up, we welcome you to the Saturday gathering. If you donít know how to sign up for the Albany trip and want to join us, come on Saturday and weíll have people there to welcome you and give you all you need to know. If you cannot come at all to Albany, that is all right too. Come to the Convocation and take advantage of this opportunity to learn and understand more the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching that is one of the great treasures of the Churchís heritage, a heritage that has become one of the principal means for the Church of modern times to make her moral voice heard and her commitment to human life and dignity a potent force for good.
In our pluralist society, we all are called to participate. Our participation can be the difference that guarantees that truth and goodness, human dignity and a healthy society are the goals we protect and defend, we explain and defend; and we, by making them our own, make it possible for this state and our local communities to reflect the truths and values that will build up a society of truth and justice, of liberty and peace, of goodness and happiness for one and all.