Father Deacon Andrew Bennett was Canada's first ambassador for religious freedom from 2013 to 2016.Grandin Media file photo

Catholic voice needs to be heard in this election

This federal election campaign has been marked by the media and the political class challenging Catholic beliefs – such as the defence of life at all stages – as views unacceptable in polite political society.

This prompts Catholics to consider two paths to follow: living fully as Catholics in every aspect of our lives, or, opting for a path in which we depart from Catholic teachings we consider to be, shall we say, inconvenient truths.

Let us dispense with the façade that following the second path is being faithful to Our Lord. Our Catholic faith is radically counter-cultural in its assertion that God became man in Jesus Christ and that he rose from the dead on the third day to lead us to salvation.

To confess this and all it implies is to be a Christian. To confess this means the world has been forever changed. To confess this is to deny what is false and what is opposed to truth.

There is but one truth; it is universal and objective. It is not an abstract philosophy, a theory, an ideology, or a set of popular opinions, all of which change with time. Truth is a person. It is Jesus Christ, and him crucified, resurrected, ascended into glory, and who we believe will come again on the last day.

This is the truth we must confess without equivocation in the public square of this great country. This is to exercise fully our religious freedom in any age, come what may.

Truth must guide our lives and determine our public and private actions. We must strengthen our public lives of faith so we might live authentically as Catholics alongside our fellow citizens in pursuit of the common good.

Some may be tempted to believe our religious freedom is being taken away from us by the actions of legislatures, courts, and regulatory bodies. While it is true there have been many attempts in the past number of years to constrain religious freedom, we must remember the reason we have this freedom is because we are human beings, not because the government has given it to us.

In this election our Catholic voice needs to be heard strengthening our democracy and the pluralism that should shape it.

We have a responsibility to give voice to our religious freedom, to live it out. This election gives us an opportunity to do so, especially through exercising the responsibility to vote for that candidate who holds views closest to Catholic teaching.

Such a responsibility is also to be exercised outside of elections through living an authentic and courageous life as a follower of Christ for the sake of the world.

To successfully do so, each one us needs to live a life of prayer and self-sacrifice for others, and to be well-formed in Catholic teaching.

Additionally, our faith must be transformed daily into actions guided by love, mercy, and an unfailing commitment to truth. This is to live the life in Christ as our public life, our political life.

In this election our Catholic voice needs to be heard strengthening our democracy and the pluralism that should shape it.

Religious freedom is about living a public faith. In embracing this public faith, we embrace our baptism and the call of Our Lord to proclaim the Gospel to all nations.

Religious freedom is not simply an inherent freedom that we cherish; we have a responsibility to act on it and to advance the Gospel in this country at all times and in all places, explicitly and implicitly. That is religious freedom for us.

Even if all our institutions are taken away, even if we lose our schools, even if our parishes and institutions lose their charitable status, even if we are pushed to the margins of polite society, even if government listens to us no longer, we must never tire of proclaiming the Gospel and Christ’s Resurrection.

We must never wane in professing that all has been and is being changed by it, that all has been made new in it, and that it is the fullness of truth.

Father Deacon Bennett is director of the Ottawa-based Cardus Religious Freedom Institute. He served as Canada’s first and only Ambassador for Religious Freedom from 2013 to 2016. This column was first published by the B.C. Catholic.

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