Bishop McElroy: Catholics must fight polarization in politics and the church

Photo: the Hank Center at Loyola University Chicago
Photo: the Hank Center at Loyola University Chicago

Catholics have a special duty to resist polarization, both in politics and in the church.

That was the message from Bishop Robert McElroy, the head of the Diocese of San Diego, who was in Chicago delivering a lecture named for the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, a former Chicago archbishop who sought to unite Catholic camps that sometimes disagree on how to live out the church’s call to protect life at every stage.

Bishop McElroy, who holds a doctorate in political science from Stanford University, said that Catholics must strive to adopt a new “Catholic political imagination” that embraces “the virtues of solidarity, compassion, integrity, hope and peace-building.”

Using Pope Francis’ 2015 address to the U.S. Congress as inspiration, Bishop McElroy said Catholics, especially church leaders, must “reassess” how they “carry out the mission of evangelizing the political culture of the United States” and lamented that the church’s views are often used not to promote the common good, but to score political points.

Bishop McElroy said that Catholics must embrace “the virtues of solidarity, compassion, integrity, hope and peace-building.”

“Catholic teaching has been hijacked by those who break down the breadth of our social doctrine by reducing it to the warped partisan categories of our age and then selecting those teachings for acceptance which promote their partisan worldview,” the bishop said.

Referencing a new apostolic exhortation from the pope, in which he calls believers to holiness and urges them to embrace the full range of Catholic social teaching, including opposition to abortion as well as concern for the poor and marginalized, Bishop McElroy lamented that “in the partisan reality of our day, these two complementary claims of the Gospel are placed in political opposition.”

“Even worse,” he added, “skewed distillations of Catholic moral teaching are deployed by both sides to explain why one set of these issues automatically enjoys a higher claim…

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