By Chris Miller
On Thursday, September 24, 2015, Pope Francis gave a historic address to the United States Congress, the first time a sitting Pope has ever addressed the entire legislative branch. The Pope gave a moving speech covering a wide variety of topics from the dignity of the human person to protection of the environment and the need for healthy and civil dialogue. It was a proud moment in the history of our nation.
In their document, Forming Consciences of Faithful Citizenship, the United States Catholic Bishops state, “Civil law should fully recognize and protect the Church’s right, obligation, and opportunities to participate in society without being forced to abandon or ignore its central moral convictions. Our nation’s tradition of pluralism is enhanced, not threatened, when religious groups and people of faith bring their convictions and concerns into public life.” The words of the Pope and this document both honor our long tradition of the separation of church and state, with a constitutional right of individuals and faith organizations to participate and speak out without government interference or discrimination.
The Forming Consciences document points out the Catholic Tradition of teaching responsible citizenship is a virtue and that participation in political life is a moral obligation. The document references the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching that Catholics are called to take an active part in public life.
In Santa Clara County, the call of Catholic leaders to be active in public life is alive and well. Currently, the Mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo, the President of the Board of Supervisors, Dave Cortese, and the President of San Jose Rotary, Brian Adams, are all Catholics. Each one of these men has embraced the Church’s teaching around the importance of political participation in an effort to build a better world for the common good.
Throughout his address, Pope Francis spoke of leadership. He stated, “A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces.” The three leaders highlighted in this article are true leaders.
Supervisor Cortese believes he is an ordinary person who continually struggling to do the right thing. His biggest accomplishment has been the reduction of incarcerated children in Juvenile Hall, from 350 when he took office a few years ago to 100 today. Mayor Liccardo also believes that political leaders are ordinary people, and as Mayor, has been called, “to employ a different kind of patience, a different focus, and a different spiritual vigilance.” He is proud to lead by example, including his action of hiring the most diverse mayoral and city management staff in San Jose’s history. President Adams believes that leaders face a multitude of challenges and struggles as do other individuals, with the added fact they have been entrusted with great responsibility. He is most proud of his successful marriage and has two wonderful sons, who have grown to touch many lives.
In the conclusion of Forming Consciences of Faithful Citizenship, the United States Catholic Bishops state, “Building a world of respect for human life and dignity, where justice and peace prevail, requires more than just political commitment. Individuals, families, businesses, community organizations, and governments all have a role to play.
Participation in political life in light of fundamental moral principles is an essential duty for every Catholic and all people of good will.” Silicon Valley is lucky to have three civic leaders who are Catholic and have embraced the need to protect the least among us, the dignity of the human person, and the protection of the environment. In the words of Pope Francis, “We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidary, cooperating generously for the common good,” Supervisor Cortese, Mayor Liccardo, and Rotary Club of San Jose President Adams are moving forward for the common good of the people here in Silicon Valley, the Valley of Heart’s Delight.
Chris Miller works as the youth and young adult coordinator at Saint Christopher Parish in San Jose’s Willow Glen. He is also a doctoral student at the University of San Francisco.