W3

Advocating for the Common Good

Two years ago, I left the greatest job I had ever had. For 13 years, I worked for the Poudre Fire Authority in Ft. Collins, Colorado. It is truly  a world class organization filled with friends that I will always consider family.

I left, because I felt God was calling me to travel a different road. I was offered a job to work as the Legislative Liaison for the Diocese of Cheyenne.  Bishop Etienne (who is now Archbishop of Anchorage) told me when I excepted the job, “Mike, I think your family will be happy you took the job. Firefighting is dangerous.” I quipped, “With respect Bishop, I’m not sure this job will be any safer!” After all, fire just burns. That’s what it does. It isn’t trying to kill you. But the world of politics seems to have an awful lot of angry people in it.

I took the job anyway. Why? Because I love God, and I love Wyoming. And while it was true that I would be lobbying for the Church, I understood that the Church isn’t interested in shaping public policy in a way that will solely benefit the roughly 53,000 Catholics in the State. We believe in such a thing as the common good. That means that we believe there is an inherent dignity in each and every person regardless of which side of the political aisle they are on or what they believe about God. And all laws should recognize that dignity.

Do we hold very specific religious beliefs about God and humanity? (Is the Pope Catholic?) Of course we do! And one of the central religious beliefs that we adhere to is the belief that God created us in freedom. God is constantly inviting us into a deeper relationship with himself. But he always respects our freedom and never forces us into relationship with him. In order to reflect God’s image well, we must be as he is. We invite all people to know God as a God of love, as he is revealed in the Gospel. But this invitation must ALWAYS respect the freedom of individuals to accept or reject that invitation.

We are blessed to live in a country where we can make our voices heard. It is true that people of good will can disagree about the best way to bring about the common good. That’s why dialogue is so important. But dialogue is only possible when everyone has a voice. It is my job to make sure that the 53,000 Catholics in Wyoming continue to have a voice. At the end of the day, the legislature is and has always been free to agree or disagree with the Church’s testimony. (They prove it every session!)

For the last two years, it has become more and more obvious to me that true dialogue is rare. It’s hard to do because we’ve been taught NOT to talk politics and religion. So, we aren’t very good at it. This blog is an effort to engage in more dialogue with those who are interested and to share in the journey.