By Diane Frances Barberini
At a recent members-only dinner, the San Francisco chapter of Catholics for the Common Good honored CCG advisor, Ambassador Raymond Flynn. After speaking for a time about his personal relationship with Pope John Paul II, the former US Ambassador to the Vatican under the Clinton Administration and three-time Mayor of Boston spoke poignantly to the sold out dinner about the responsibility of Catholics to be informed and active participants in the political process of the United States.
“I was raised as a social and economics justice Catholic — pro-life, pro-family, and pro-poor — and it is still my belief and hope that you can still get elected in this country with that kind of philosophy,” he said.
Addressing his message directly to the San Franciscans gathered that evening, Ambassador Flynn offered this challenge, “You (Catholics) have to become a political force. With 67 million Catholics in the United States, imagine the change we could effect if we simply voted according to the principles of the social teachings of the Church.”
Ambassador Flynn upped the ante of his challenge to the group gathered by stating that, “This state (California) is the most important state for bringing about change in the United States; simply because if you can affect change here in California and in the city of San Francisco, then you can bring about change throughout the entire United States. If I have learned anything from my years in politics it is this: you need a good message and you need a good campaign. We already have that message, that being from the teachings Jesus Christ.”
Chairman Bill May asked for comments and reactions from the audience to the ambassador’s remarks. Sr. Ignatius supported the need for more political participation, but added to that we must always keep in mind, “to be constant in our faith in Jesus and that we must always remember to pray. The power of prayer is as important as action.”
Maureen Stoss, a leader in the CCG effort to oppose physician-assisted suicide said, “We need to keep ourselves informed of the policy discussions taking place in the legislature because they can have long-term effects on society. From my experience working in the pharmaceutical industry, I knew something about physician-assisted suicide and how important it was to help other people understand it so they can call their legislator. We need to make ourselves aware of such proposals and work against them.”
When the chairman called on me to comment on Ambassador Flynn’s statement about the “need for a message and a campaign,” I said, “As Catholics, we sometimes become conflicted in terms of voting along party lines. But what I think has come to light this evening is the realization that we, as voting Catholics, have the means, now more than any other time in history, to inform ourselves on basic Catholic core principles in order to inform our political view beyond party lines. The teachings of our Faith are accessible in order to inform our consciences as voting citizens.”
Ambassador Flynn ended the evening with a sense of optimism by closing with this question, “Wouldn’t it be something if we could go to a primary and have a candidate win that primary that held true to this philosophy?”
Diane Frances Barberini is a member of the San Francisco Chapter of Catholics for the Common Good.