March 26, 2023 Essay: A Better Kind of Politics

Mar 17, 2023

We are a wounded Church and hurting nation suffering from increasing polarization within our family of faith and hostility and division in our politics. Yet Pope Francis reminds us that “our differences should not…pit us against each other: the heart of those who truly believe urges that we open up ways of communion, always and everywhere.”

In Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis offers a vision of renewal rooted in social and political charity expressed in how we treat our neighbors, especially those “lying wounded by the roadside.” He calls for a Church that is not a fortress but a home with open doors and for conversion that puts our Gospel mission at the center of our lives and our communities. For Catholics, engagement in public life is central to that mission, never more so than in divisive times such as our own.

Such engagement is local, national, and global and involves families, communities, institutions, and popular movements. At its best, it is 1.4 billion diverse people in the world’s most multicultural institution united by a shared faith that does justice.

Catholic social thought offers a moral vocabulary for such engagement, one that offers responses to individualism, paths to strengthened community and solidarity, and ways to resist ideological division. It reminds us that we are part of a larger family of faith and widens our political lens to include those who suffer at and beyond our borders.

From the beginning, Pope Francis has had a distinct understanding of how God is calling us to live out our mission today: by looking outward, not inward, as a “poor Church for the poor” committed to the most vulnerable among us, from those who live in poverty to migrants to the unborn to the elderly, and all those “lying wounded by the roadside.” Over the last ten years, he’s advanced that vision as a pastor and as the leader of our global Church through his closeness to those in need, his words and actions, and travels like his recent trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Drawing on Catholic social thought and Pope Francis’ mission and message, our work at the Initiative has taught us lessons about how to help move past polarization and focus together on the beliefs we share so as to better advance the common good. We seek to engage in authentic dialogue, with a special emphasis on listening and learning from others with different perspectives. We hope to be principled but not partisan and to raise up diverse voices, especially those of young people. We also encourage face-to-face relationships so as to better bridge racial, religious, ethnic, generational, and other divides. We raise up the day-to-day, on-the-ground service of Catholics living out the Gospel in our local communities and around the world.

More broadly, Synod 2021-24 stands as a hopeful path toward revived communion. It is a global listening process open to everyone and aimed at renewing our ability to live out our mission in our own particular times and places, a mission centered most of all on humble service to “those lying wounded by the roadside.” The synod offers a model for praying together, listening together, learning together, and moving forward together in order to better live our mission to love God and our neighbors.

Now more than ever, we are called to be “builders of bridges and artisans of peace” and to listen with open hearts and minds to each other, especially those who have too often been excluded.

— Kim Daniels, Director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life

Join us on Monday, March 27th at 7 PM (in Wallace Hall & livestreamed) as Professor Kim Daniels presents A Better Kind of Politics: Advancing the Common Good in Challenging Times. In this presentation, Professor Daniels examines how, when faced with a public life dominated by hostility and division, U.S. Catholics can advance the common good and peacemaking efforts by looking to Pope Francis and Catholic social thought.

If you are unable to join us in person, you may view the livestream by clicking here