In the struggle to define a role for Catholics in contemporary
society, several prominent Catholics from different areas of public life
came together on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas to share their views
on what Catholics should do.
Overall, their message was that Catholics need to be more assertive in
bringing their Christian values into shaping the common good.
The Jan. 28 convocation by the College of Fellows of the Dominican School
of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley asked a former ambassador, a Congressman,
an activist and a judge to analyze contemporary trends and offer their
visions for Catholics. In the 50th anniversary year of the Second Vatican
Council, the forum built on the challenge to evangelize society.
Ray Flynn, prominent Democrat and former Boston mayor and U.S. ambassador
to the Vatican, emphasized “we need to be effective communicators.
“We need to unite as Catholics, as people who are determined to
make life better. This is the message — promoting the common good.”
Flynn emphasized that “the voice of Jesus Christ is as important
today as it was 2,000 years ago, and we should never be ashamed or hesitant
to mention it.”
He put it into a personal perspective with his 5-year-old grandson, born
with a small cerebellum affecting his balance and speech. Research into
adult stem cells offers hope for his grandson, Flynn said, citing support
for adult stem cells as an example of Catholic teaching contributing to
Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, warned that “if God is absent from
the public square, we have lost our best response against violence (and)
racism.” The Nativity “is an enabling message for all of us,
even for atheists,” Lungren said, emphasizing that the intrinsic
message of Catholicism enriches society by “the acceptance of the
value of each person.”
Responding to a question, Lungren, who also served eight years as California’s
attorney general, warned that the concept of separation of church and
state “has taken on a life of its own that it never had and is not
consistent with my reading of the Constitution.”
As a consequence, public debate that used to focus on whether an act was
right or wrong now is addressed simply as to whether it is constitutional,
making the courts the determinant of values rather than religious teachings,
“We have been told that our religious convictions are not worth
being represented. Science has taken the place of direction we used to
get” from religious teachings, Lungren said.
He added that “the great civil rights movement would not have gotten
traction without the centrality of the religious message.”
Yet contemporary history and media do not recognize the strong religious
underpinnings of important events, such as the civil rights movement led
by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
In a question period another Fellow of DSPT, screenwriter and critic Ron
Austin, warned the influence of Hollywood and mass media in society’s
moral re-direction is huge, asserting that it “has broken up not
only families but also society itself.”
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