We can’t think that just because we are in the world we can take to it like a fish to water.We can’t think that simply because the media offers us all kinds of choices we are free to watch every program.We can’t think that just because we walk the streets of the world we can freely look at all the ads and billboards and buy just any publication at the newsstand or bookstore.We can’t think that just because we are in the world we can live as we please, the way everyone else does, following along passively accepting abortion, divorce, hatred, violence or embezzlement. We can’t.
We are in the world; no one can deny that. But we are not of the world (see Jn 17:14).
This makes a great difference. It puts us among those who don’t live according to what the world says, but rather according to what the voice of God suggests to us from within. God lives in the heart of every human being. If we listen to him, he will lead us into a kingdom that is not of this world, a society in which true love, justice,
purity, meekness and selflessness are lived, where self-control is the norm.
This was the opening passage of the meditation that we considered. I was very struck at how close it was to a consideration I had recently had while writing a chapter on citizenship and RE for Maryvale Institute's initial teacher training course. If there is a key principle to good citizenship it is that one should live and be politically active in accordance with one's beliefs; and, for Catholics, this means living and being active in accordance with Catholic teaching. The separation of "privately opposing" but publically supporting something - popular among politicians as it gets them off rather awkward hooks - is profoundly bad citizenship. It leaves public life at the whim and fancy of the latest popular trend, a totalitarianism of the political party, of the government department, etc. (Whilst in Prague, I was reading some of the writing of Vaclav Havel on this sort of theme; he would slate the "privately oppose" what I publicly support approach, though he is not a religious believer!).
So the problem with Clare Short's visit to a Catholic school to give out prizes is not just that she votes in a way that conflicts with Catholic teaching on abortion and respect for life - she is also a bad example for what a Catholic school would want to present as good citizenship.
UPDATE: As of 11th November 2008, all references to Clare Short's visit to St Paul's Catholic School for Girls in Birmingham have been removed from Catholic Mom of 10's blog. So the above link will not work. That Clare Short is due to visit the school today, 12th November, is verifiable from her own website. I think the substance of the above post still stands.