The Catholic Campaign for America was founded because Catholics need a greater voice in the cultural and political debates dividing our country. In the battle between Biblical values and the radical left Catholics, who make up one quarter of the population, need to engage in the discussion that will decide the future of American society.
As early as 1919, Cardinal Gibbons commented that Catholics were “not exerting the influence we ought to exert in proportion to our numbers and the individual prominence of many of our people.” Due to their lack of organization, Catholics never developed strong political clout—but that is starting to change.
Lay Catholics who accept the Magisterium of the Church, who are proud to be Catholic, are looking for new ways to express their faith while working to influence public policy and build a culture of life. They want to participate in cultural renewal— this “renewal of the temporal order” is the mission of the Campaign.
Public Catholicism is defining a new aspect of Catholic identity in America. We began as an immigrant church, yet by the sixties were accepted as mainstream with the election of John F. Kennedy. Many Catholic groups and associations, schools and hospitals benefitted American culture. The cultural elites have become hostile to religion, especially to the authoritative teaching of the Church, and to traditional morality. That situation calls for a vital response from a well-informed Catholic laity. In addition to seeing ourselves as members of our local parish and diocese, we must be more aware of our responsibilities as Catholic citizens toward a nation that, by all leading cultural indicators, is on a downward path. The urgency of this moment calls us to bear greater witness to the only principles that can help us out of this morass—Catholic social teaching.
To this end, the three prongs of our effort are to activate Catholic citizens, to increase the Catholic electorate’s influence in formulating public policy, and to focus public attention on the wisdom and beauty of Catholic teaching. With headquarters in Washington D.C., the Campaign is establishing local chapters in large metropolitan areas to work with Catholic leaders in formulating a more united action on important issues of public policy. Working through a national coalition of Catholic leaders we will be able to stand together to express positions on issues in the media and in other forums, including Capitol Hill. Our agenda will include supporting courageous congressmen and prodding those who are not.
As a catalyst for a new form of “Catholic action” our hope is that an awakened Catholic laity, practicing what Russell Shaw calls “creative counter culturalism,” will have a positive impact on the demoralization of society. We join the efforts of several existing groups like the Catholic League, Women for Faith and Family, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Institute on Religion and Public Life, and the Knights of Columbus. Our focus is on responding with a true Catholic voice to public policy issues, building grassroots support, and defending Church teaching.
Our Board has made clear that our mission is rooted in Christ. First and foremost we will raise Christ up in the public square. We believe that Christ alone will attract large numbers of Catholics to express their faith publicly and to share the “splendor of the truth” in a confused society. Practicing the Catholic faith in a hostile environment is one of the Church’s oldest challenges—the Campaign hopes to encourage many among the laity to revive that tradition.