You can't wait for others to do it. This is your community, country and Church. Don't wait for politicians to lead. Don't wait to be called, but organize.
(Editor's note: Following are the prepared remarks delivered by Raymond Flynn at the Courageous Catholic Men's Conference held Jan. 30 in Woburn.)
I've been an active participant in local and national politics for a long time, both as a candidate and an activist. I've seen the best of campaigns and the worst. But other people could make the very same statement. Oftentimes unfortunately, it's not the candidates who determine the direction and election outcome, but powerful forces like wealthy individuals, special interest groups and the media. Most people are too busy with family obligations like raising children, work, with some well-earned personal time like church, following sports, popular television programs and looking out for needy family members. At least this is how I've observed it.
Life is far more complicated and difficult for average Americans. Our culture has dramatically changed, as well -- and that includes politics. I remember as a kid my mother attending Parent Teacher Association meetings, my father going to union meetings and both faithfully participating in church and community meetings and events. In those days, you didn't win elections with expensive political TV ads or talk shows, but by attending community meetings and listening and talking directly to people. My working class immigrant neighbors from South Boston, and other neighborhoods of Boston, knew more about civic issues and religious events than most of their well-off, more affluent neighbors from the suburbs. They also had five daily newspapers to read and discuss with their family and friends each day. Ethic pride and patriotism went hand-and-hand. I could go on and on, but some of you already know this.
But there are a few other things I'd like to stress today with you, because I know you care and are deeply concerned about the direction in which or country and culture is headed. I know many of you don't know what to do and see our country going in the wrong direction. You see families being torn apart. Drugs destroying the future of young adults, fewer people attending Mass, and lack of confidence in political leaders. Maybe not in your family specifically, but you know what I am saying is the painful truth. I know many of our leaders don't want to hear this, because they think it's a bad reflection on them. They want to talk about only big success stories, not about the pain and heartache that so many people are experiencing today.
But having said that, I want to tell you that I've witnessed the courage and determination of people over these many years. Yes, we have experienced setbacks as a country, but we always fought back. But today, fellow concerned patriotic American Catholics, we have reached a crisis point once again in the country we love.
People who know me well have often heard me say that with God and hard work, everything is possible. Well, turning things around in America won't happen with the election of a new President, although that will help. Even a more prosperous economy is not the answer, improving our many failed public schools, or more government programs. But when concerned Catholics like you, decide that it's time to take back our country, organize parish-by-parish.
You can't wait for others to do it. This is your community, country and Church. Don't wait for politicians to lead. Don't wait to be called, but organize. Let me give you just one specific example of how you can be effective today. I write articles for the Boston Herald and The Pilot. I'm also frequently asked to do national TV and radio interviews usually about politics, the pope, and sometimes sports. I've had a lot of experience in the media discussing all three. I have learned that when I defend the Catholic Church and take on their well organized and financed enemies, the negative blogs and emails to the media outlets are immediate and relentless. Very few people who believe in traditional Catholic values take the time to be publicly heard. Sure, we can ignore our adversaries, but why should we do that? Lay Catholics, must start defending and letting everyone know how we feel. Boycott our adversaries, whether they be politicians, the media or even a commercial product. After I write a story or do an interview on TV, many people will stop me on the street and usually say, "Ray, I loved what you had to say," but I then will read negative blogs.
The silent majority, especially Catholics, must become politically relevant in America once again. Be heard and be counted. Your grandparents and parents fought for and built this great country and your children and grandchildren are the future for a stronger and better America. Don't vote for a particular political party, or special interest organization, but for your Catholic values. Let's make sure that our political candidates stop ignoring Catholics and stop taking us for granted.
RAY FLYNN IS THE FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE VATICAN AND MAYOR OF BOSTON.
Raymond L. Flynn is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and Mayor of Boston.
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