That’s the pontiff’s message, delivered last weekend to a meeting of the Vatican’s department on the laity. Via CNS:
“In a special way, I reaffirm the necessity and urgency of the evangelical formation and pastoral accompaniment of a new generation of Catholics involved in politics, that they would be coherent with their professed faith,” morally upright, professional and passionate about serving the common good, he said.
On the other hand, many in the United States would point out that church leaders haven’t done such a great job of “formation” lately, in part because they can’t get on the same page themselves. There was the South Carolina pastor, Father Jay Scott Newman, whose open letter on Obama voters needing to confess their mortal sin before receiving communion has sparked more divisions, with conservatives acting like, well “dissenters,” shall we say. The cafeteria line is long. (Update: Father Newman confesses his own sin of writing the letter “in haste.”)
Then there was of course Cardinal Stafford’s blast at Obama as “aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic”–that coming on the heels of the pope’s congratulatory chat with the President-elect. Then again, a Vatican official tells TIME’s Jeff Israely there’s “more fear here than wrath” but if the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) passes and Obama signs it–the act has become a favorite bogey man for the pro-life right–“it would be the equivalent of a war.”
Few believe Obama would want a “war of choice,” so to speak, especially if he is to meet the pope next July in Rome, as seems likely. (And the Vatican is happy about most other aspects of the change from a Republican to an anti-Iraw War, pro-social justice Democrat in the White House.)
In fact, Obama could probably teach church leaders a few things about politics. And they may want to listen, especially if the war within the GOP takes a turn toward moderation rather than the Palinista base. If that happens, the hierarchy could be left without a political sponsor, or a political base.