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‘Good News’ politics

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A typical weekend at our parish of Christ the King and Holy Family involves our parish SVP group getting furniture to an empty new home for 3 asylum seekers from Sudan who have been turfed out of hotel provision paid for by the government. Whilst arranging household goods for a young mum and her 2 children as victims of a section 21 ‘no fault eviction’, we were continuing to raise funds for the women refugees with no recourse to public funds, who are being housed in our former presbytery (another project), replenishing the parish food and clothing bank, and are now faced with helping with the enforced closure of the Diocesan care home as a result of RAAC structural problems… and all of this is just one weekend in the life of an inner city Leeds parish SVP conference!

Pope Francis has compared the Church in our day to a mobile ‘field hospital’ on a battlefield, stressing that our key task is to ‘heal the wounds’.

“Do Justice”, this new CSAN document, is not an election manifesto or a checklist of particular demands. It is a reframing of the issues, a resetting of the questions and a presentation of a new narrative to shape our politics and economics.

How much it is urgently needed in this dismal year of elections, here and worldwide, in which facts and opinions have sunk into false and fake talk. In the face of current ‘bad faith’ politics in the fullest sense of the expression it is up to us to try to change the context, the tone, and content into ‘Good News’ politics. That’s the purpose of this resetting report to promote good faith practice and politics.

As an MP, I well remember the challenge at a residents meeting who challenged us MPs present for failing to answer a particular question on tax and benefits with the robust, “Those of us who pay the price can do the arithmetic. Why can’t you?” We should not turn aside from the scandal of the reality of poverty in our midst nor should we let complacency and despair stymy our response as Church.

During the COVID epidemic, Catholics – and not least our Catholic agencies and SVP conferences – were noted as those practically helping out in the streets with food parcels, visiting, and knocking on windows during lockdown, contacting and running food banks. That contribution was recognised by the public authorities and acknowledged as previously ‘light under bushels’ (Mt 5:15) and welcomed. Interestingly, the question sometimes came up: ‘what is it that motivates the Catholic Community?’

In this ‘Do Justice’ report is the deeply rooted Scriptural response, spelling out an explicit Gospel base and building on the strong traditions of Catholic social teaching; especially that core respect for the development of each and every person, insisting that no one is to be excluded or written off. 

A central section of the report is entitled ‘Conversion of the Heart’ stressing that as we share a common parent, ‘Our Father’. We are called to become a people of brothers and sisters. Moreover, politics then becomes personal. A key paragraph reads, ‘The Catechism tells us that it is the role of the state to defend and promote the common good of civil society, its citizens, and intermediate bodies. This is why Catholics should be politically engaged, in other words engaged in ensuring the political community upholds the responsibility for the common good… This does not mean we want to run the country, rather to seek to influence and persuade to bring about systemic changes’.

St Oscar Romero said that the task of the Church is ‘to accompany the people and tell the truth about reality’ and that includes challenging the causes of poverty.

There are strong recommendations of next steps to follow up in our member agencies, parishes, and Dioceses. As Fr Herbert Mc Cabe OP said of hope: ‘We are not optimists. We do not present a lovely vision of the world which everyone is expected to fall in love with. We simply have wherever we are some small local task to do on the side of the poor’. Similarly, the Jesuit martyr Fr Ignacio Ellacuria of El Salvador said, ‘An emphasis on the Cross should not denigrate from the full message of hope that is partially revealed there. Hope is living as already risen beings and we begin to see hope realised in the world working through the willing cooperation of human beings for the liberation of others’.

In keeping with the mission of CSAN, the purpose is not to replicate and repeat bad news but to spell out the good news stories of the ordinary daily miracles we witness.

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