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Challenging the 'Do-Nothing' attitude

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Catholics once had to fight a bigoted "Know-Nothing" anti-Catholic movement. Today, it's different challenge for Catholics.

Raymond L.

I am often invited to speak to various religious groups and organizations throughout the United States and beyond. Sometimes it's to a large organization, and other times it's to a small church group or even at a parish youth sports dinner. It's fun meeting so many new people and I learn a lot from listening to different points of view from young and old.

While most in the audience are Catholic, I also meet a fair number of non-Catholics. My recent appearances included a lavish gala at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the other in the City of Newton, with the combined group of Knights of Columbus and local parishes of Our Lady and Sacred Heart. One group was with high Vatican officials, clergy, members of Congress, corporate leaders, artists and Catholic museum officials. The other was a great crowd of concerned and informed loyal lay Catholics.

During my visit to Newton the participation of the large audience was lively and informative. If this community open forum had been broadcast on national television, it would have provided millions of viewers and the media a great opportunity to hear the voices of the "real people of America." Not just media savvy single-interest groups promoting their own political and social agenda. As I said to the group, "You people are committed, but you must also be informed on a wide range of issues, so you can be effective when you are talking to your elected officials and people in the media."

I tried to encourage them to do what I heard Pope John Paul II say so often: Get involved in the civic and political life of your community. Be a candidate for national delegate who elects our next president. Find out how to go about it. Call a talk show, write letters and send a blog to the media and to your elected officials. Ask your family and friends to become politically active.

Lastly, Knights of Columbus Grand Knight Timothy Reagan of the Newton Council, introduced me to the audience at Our Lady Help of Christians Church. What he said was remarkable. I wish every priest would also remind Catholics about the important role that Catholics once played in America.

Recalling the great achievements, accomplishments and sacrifices that Catholic political leaders made over the past 100 years was inspiring. He talked about the "dark days" in Boston and America and how it was Catholic leaders who courageously led us to greatness. Yes, Grand Knight Reagan may have been introducing me, but he was also talking about our parents and grandparents who came to this country and made it what it became. They stood up to injustice, served our country, educated our children, and worked hard for American families. They did all this while building, supporting and promoting our Catholic faith.

Catholics once had to fight a bigoted "Know-Nothing" anti-Catholic movement. Today, it's different challenge for Catholics. It's about us -- a "Do-Nothing" attitude among Catholics. From the genocide of Catholics in the Middle East and North Africa to intolerance of Catholics right here in America. Yes, our faith calls us to political action once again. And remember, "A good Catholic is an active citizen."


Raymond L. Flynn is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and Mayor of Boston.

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