The Catholic Campaign for America Forges Ahead
By Thomas Patrick Melady
The Catholic Campaign for America (CCA) was conceived because there is a cultural, spiritual, and moral crisis in America that Catholics are uniquely positioned to do something about. Several Catholic leaders rallied to support the initiative, and a Board of Directors, consisting of William J. Bennett, Mary Ellen Bork, Hugh L. Carey, Thomas Monaghan, and Frank Shakespeare, was formed. The board recruited Frank J. Lynch, former CEO and Chairman of U.S. Aviation Underwriters, to be its chairman, and a National Committee of over too Catholic leaders was recruited. Recently, I became the first chairman of the National Committee.
The CCA opened its national headquarters in September 1992, with four clear objectives in mind. First, to establish the Campaign as a credible source of Catholic commentary. Second, to recruit the greatest coalition of Catholic American leaders in history. Third, to engage in an unprecedented mobilization of Catholic citizens. Fourth, to define what it means to be a Catholic in America in the 199os and beyond.
Since our inception, the Campaign has made considerable progress towards these objectives. The Campaign has positioned itself as the leading lay source of Catholic commentary. CCA spokespersons have appeared on such national television programs as “Nightline,” “CNN & Company,” “Pozner,” Donahue,” and “Crossfire.” They also have made regular appearances on several major-market radio stations, and are interviewed frequently by the New York Times, USA Today, New York Post, Washington Times, and Los Angeles Times. Press conferences, which the Campaign holds frequently at the National Press Club, are always well attended.
The Campaign has begun to educate and activate Catholic citizens through “Celebrate Your Catholic Faith Nights” and town meetings held in several target cities. Keeping its commitment to build a great Catholic coalition, the CCA will conduct a national leadership conference this November in Washington, D.C., and the second National Catholic Student Summit at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in September.
This has been important activity, but much more important than this activity is the spirit that animates it. Our message has four key components which concern our belief that now is the time for renewal and restoration.
1. We wish to see renewal of Catholic pride. Catholic Americans are often ignorant of our great legacy of service to this nation—especially our great contribution to the labor movement, civil rights movement, education, and health care. We look forward to the day when mothers and fathers pass on to each subsequent generation a renewed appreciation of the blood, sweat, and tears that have marked the Catholic contribution to America. It is a matter of coming to a realization of our rich heritage and re-embracing it.
2. It is a renewal of Catholic identity. Catholic Americans must embrace what it means to be authentically Catholic. This means a faithful adherence to the Church’s Magisterium. It means a renewed appreciation for the sacramental life of the Church. It means a falling in love again with the richness and beauty of Church teaching, articulating not just what we stand against but what we stand for. We stand for the sacredness of sexuality, the permanence of marriage, the dignity of each human person, and for the family as the first and vital cell of society.
3. It is a call to good citizenship—a recognition that our faith cannot be left behind when we enter the ballot box or the board room. It means a transition from private Catholicism to public Catholicism. It means ending a preoccupation with the legislative process. A recognition that public policy is formulated not just in the halls of Congress but by judges, CEOs, school board members, and producers of television programs. The battle is on all fronts, and Catholics must be actively engaged on all of these fronts, especially in our own homes. It is not a matter of Catholic Americans imposing their morality, but simply affirming what traditionally have been the best American virtues.
4. It is a call to evangelization. Our faith must enlighten the culture, which threatens to be engulfed by darkness. We have a responsibility and an obligation at this hour, in this place, to this generation to present a Catholic face and voice that is authentic, credible, hopeful, and engaging.
This is our mission.
Thomas Patrick Melady, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See from 1989 to 1993, is now distinguished visiting professor at Saint John’s University.
Advancing the One Mission of Christ
Catholics and Evangelicals from several Protestant denominations have signed a declaration on missions which they hope may “signal a historic realignment of Christian communities in the United States and elsewhere.” Announced in New York City on March 2.9, the Declaration, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium,” explains and celebrates “a pattern of convergence and cooperation” in “shared Christian faith, common cultural and social tasks, and evangelistic commitment.” Principals at the news conference unveiling the Declaration included Father Richard John Neuhaus of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship, Inc., Father Avery Dulles of Fordham University, and Dr. Kent R. Hill, president of Eastern Nazarene College.
Though signatories do not speak officially for their communions, they emphasize that they do speak “responsibly from our communities and to our communities.” Noting “a moment of daunting opportunity and responsibility as the Second Millennium draws to a close,” the Declaration is intended to enhance cooperation among Catholics and Evangelical Protestants on a broad range of endeavors, especially for “yet greater missionary endeavor.” “We are called and we are therefore resolved to explore patterns of working and witnessing together in order to advance the one mission of Christ,” the signatories explain. “However imperfect our communion with one another, however deep our disagreements with one another, we recognize that there is but one church of Christ. As Evangelicals and Catholics, we pray that our unity in the love of Christ will become ever more evident as a sign to the world of God’s reconciling power.” The document notes that about a billion of the world’s 1.7 billion Christians are Catholics, while more than 300 million identify themselves as Evangelical Protestants.
The Declaration recognizes “a growing convergence and cooperation between Evangelicals and Catholics,” especially in the United States on such issues as religious freedom, abortion, public education, pornography, race relations, free-market economics, “a renewed appreciation of Western culture,” public policies affecting the family, and “a realistic and responsible understanding of America’s part in world affairs.”
The Declaration also addresses and hopes to ease growing concern, especially in Latin America, about “sheep-stealing”: “the practice of recruiting people from another community for purposes of denominational or institutional aggrandizement.” The accord distinguishes between evangelizing the unchurched and proselytizing among various communions. Signers “condemn” the latter.
Among the Declaration’s signatories are Father Juan Diaz-Vilar, S.J., of Catholic Hispanic ministries; Richard Land of the Christian Life Commission, Southern Baptist Convention; Jesse Miranda, Assemblies of God; Brian O’Connell of World Evangelical Fellowship; George Weigel, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center; John White of Geneva College and the National Association of Evangelicals.
Publicly endorsing the Declaration are Michael Novak, editor-in-chief of Crisis, William Bentley Ball, Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ, Professor Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School, Os Guinness of Trinity Forum, Dean Nathan Hatch of Notre Dame, James Hitchcock of Saint Louis, Peter Kreeft, Mark Noll of Wheaton College, and James J.I. Packer of Regent College, among others.