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Pope Francis looks on during a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Nov. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-EUROPARLIAMENT Nov. 25, 2014.

Why we should put our Faith in politics

Laura Seggie explains the need to live out Gospel values in the political world. By Laura Seggie

As the UK prepares to leave the European Union and as we face the biggest political upheaval in generations, politics is an almost inescapable reality.

Every day news headlines are plastered with talk of a Brexit deal, ministerial resignations and threats of yet another general election. Political discourse now dominates every facet of society.

And as we face these uncertain political times, undoubtedly Catholics have many questions regarding the role of Faith in politics and public life.

Last week, a damning UN report was released which estimated that around 14 million—a fifth of the population of the UK—are living in poverty. Rough sleeping is up, foodbank use has soared and in-work poverty accounts for around 60 per cent of all households in poverty.

 

Government failure

The UN report indicated that the government has fundamentally failed to provide for those most in need.

I was shocked by the findings of this report, and for me it served as a reminder why the participation of Catholics in politics is so vital. As Catholics, we have a duty to look after those most in need—to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the sick, give alms to the poor, etc.

We are called to see the face of Christ in everyone we meet, at every level of society. With this in mind, it was the influence of Catholic social teaching and the spirit of social justice that led me to become politically active.

I joined a political party when I was just 16 years old. For me, it was a natural course of action for someone who was interested in being politically active, and after a short deliberation I chose to join the party that aligned most with my beliefs.

However, today there is pressure within all the main British political parties to subscribe to an entirely secular worldview which often excludes most Catholic views. This is despite some of the main political parties historically owing more to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the influence of Christian Faith, than anything else.

And as a politically active, practising Catholic, I’ve faced many challenges. It is no secret that political parties can be a hostile place for people of Faith, and in my experience, it has been far from easy. Similarly, I have faced criticism from other Catholics for my political membership.

 

Catholicism & politics

Despite this, I do strongly believe there is still a place for Catholics in parties—indeed, it is a big misconception that devout Catholics cannot be members of political parties.

I would argue that it is an absolute necessity for Catholics to be involved in parties—we urgently need Faith representation in the formulation of policy, in public office and representing us at all levels of democracy. Political parties are the means by which we achieve this, and I think it’s important to ask ourselves the question: “If Catholics don’t enter political parties and challenge issues—who will?”

There are also many examples of good Catholics living out their Faith in public life.

For me I needed only to look at a local level—notably, Elaine Smith MSP and former Coatbridge MP Tom Clarke, who inspired me in both my Faith and my political beliefs. It was their example and guidance that kept me active in politics and reminded me that the spirit of service for the common good is the heart of the Christian message.

I believe it is therefore very important that we encourage, support and pray for those Catholic members of parliaments who live out their Faith so publicly.

 

St Pope John Paul II

Four years ago, I was invited to deliver the Time for Reflection to the Scottish Parliament on behalf of my university Catholic society.

In the reflection, I quoted St Pope John Paul II who said: “True holiness does not mean a flight from the world; rather, it lies in the effort to incarnate the Gospel in everyday life, in the family, at school and at work, and in social and political involvement.”

This quote still resonates with me, and is something I try to bear in mind working in parliament every day. In our everyday life we should strive to live out the Gospel—and politics is no exception.

I would appeal for prayers for those Catholics working in public life—especially as we face many challenges in today’s society.

Every day there are fresh calls for the eradication of religion from public life or for Catholic schools to be replaced with a wholly secular system.

The dignity of the person and human life also faces constant attack. It is important now more than ever that we pray for politicians to have courage in their convictions and to keep the Faith.

 

 

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