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Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr
On his visit to the United States earlier this year, Pope Benedict warned American bishops about privacy in religion. He said, “To the extent that religion becomes a purely private affair it loses its very soul.” The pope only echoed what Jesus tells us in the gospel today. We are to be especially wary of hypocrisy; that is, our public and private lives need to correspond with each other.
Pope Benedict’s remarks on privacy probably had much to do with some Catholic public officials’ refusal to work for outlawing abortion. The officials claim that such an endeavor would be imposing their private beliefs on the general public. One commentator traces the source of this thinking to John Kennedy’s campaign for President in 1960. The candidate told the ministerial association of Houston that a President’s religion should be a private affair.
There are senses in which a public servant’s religion may remain private. Most American Catholics would grimace if they saw a Catholic President wearing a rosary around her or his neck. Likewise, very few would want any public servant showing exclusive favor to the Catholic Church. On the other hand, we do not want our Catholic officials to shy away from being seen attending Sunday mass. We are even more concerned that they follow their faith-formed consciences regarding public morality.