Our top priority and the common good Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Mar. 03, 2011 -- 1:00 AM
Under the Gospel Book by Bishop Robert C. Morlino
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear friends,

The Gospel of this past Sunday is addressed to those who are too worried about tomorrow. That’s why Jesus addresses them as “you of little faith.” If they were where He wanted them to be in their relation to His Father and Himself, He wouldn’t have said, “you of little faith.” Because of our human weakness and frailty, whatever faith we have, from God’s point of view, is certainly always “little,” but for Jesus to address it as such indicates a moment of challenge to growth.

One of the measures of our faith is: “how much do you and I worry about tomorrow?” Why is it not a good thing to make worrying about tomorrow my top priority? Certainly it is among our priorities, for obviously we have to be concerned with putting food on the table of our family, and clothing on their backs, and shelter over their heads. It is the sacred responsibility of parents to “worry” about such things. Jesus’ point is not offering some kind of recipe for a care-free life, where one’s responsibilities are just forgotten and put aside. But, our top priority can never be worrying about tomorrow, if we have met Jesus Christ risen from the dead.

The more worrying about tomorrow is our top priority, the more we need to place Jesus Christ ahead of that priority, so that He is our top priority.

If He is our top priority, why would we worry about tomorrow? We might worry about tomorrow “in moderation” and against the background of the big picture. We worry about tomorrow, knowing that that worrying doesn’t add one millisecond to our lives. When Christ is our priority, all of the worries that come from our responsibilities take second place. And that means that we have a peace which is beyond all understanding and which guards our minds and hearts in Christ Jesus.

Making Christ our top priority

When we have that peace, that serenity, that tranquility, then we can think straight, with the marvelous intelligence which God has given us. If we are worried and emotionally distraught about something, we’re not going to be able to think clearly and with the mind of Christ.

The mind of Christ is always a peaceful mind, a serene mind. It’s that mind that all of us, as disciples of Jesus, are being called to today — but especially our faithful lay people — you are called to have that peace and serenity every blessed day.

When you, faithful lay people, make Christ your top priority, you are receptive to His peace and all the other worries that arise from your responsibility are put in that context, and you can think straight. You can think straight about your mission to change the world for Christ, to transform our culture, making it evermore like the Kingdom of God.

My responsibility as a bishop and as a priest is to help Christ to form you, so that you can transform our culture. And the concrete way in which you do that is using — yes — the political process to change the world, to change the culture, for Christ. But, to do that, your starting point has to be that peace which places Christ as the top priority and worry about tomorrow as a clear second.

So, the first thing we get from the Gospel, of this past Sunday, is an examination of conscience: “Is Christ my top priority? Or am I worried, distraught about tomorrow?” Which is it? You can only have one top priority.

Finding common ground

Now, in this dispute between the labor unions and the governor, it seems that there is common ground, though we’d never know it from the media coverage. Because, unfortunately, extremists on the governor’s side and extremists on the union side are demonizing each other. This is a tendency of our fallen human nature, and it is a typical community organizing tactic, which is certainly a disturber of the peace, so that people can’t think straight — they emote.

As I pointed out in my column last week, when people are emoting and not thinking straight, it is clear that there is no agreed upon meaning of the word “fair.” When we are operating out of our emotion, then each person has his or her own idea of what “fair” is. “What’s ‘fair’ for you is ‘fair’ for you, and what’s ‘fair’ for me is ‘fair’ for me” — it’s the same old dictatorship of relativism that the world is getting tired of.

The common ground between the labor unions and the governor is in their sacred obligation, as elected officials and leaders, to pursue the common good. Whether elected officials of the state, or elected officials of the unions, they all have a responsibility to pursue the common good, above all. Labor unions don’t exist for themselves; they exist for the common good. The state government doesn’t exist for itself; it exists for the common good. The common good is the common ground for a just and peaceful resolutions. But we seem to have lost sight of that.

And the “common good” casts a really large net. The common good takes into account the rights of employees to be sure; but also the rights of employers; and very importantly in this instance, the rights of tax-payers; and extremely importantly, the rights of children in schools, the rights of their parents, especially the parents’ rights and the children’s right to religious freedom and the parents’ right to be the lead educators of their children. We cannot take away from parents the right to bring their children up as God calls them. The common good includes a whole spectrum of rights that allow a group to be politically stable, financial secure, and able to defend itself. The common good is much more than that even, but that’s a summary.

The governor has a sacred obligation to see to it that what he does builds the common good. And the unions and their leaders have that same obligation — which is sacred. That is the common ground of this debate.

Avoiding the extremes

So what has happened? Instead of keeping the very broad common good clearly in mind, as different extremists demonize one another, the common good gets very narrow. At that point the union workers are demonized and portrayed as interested in greed and power and not in the common good. So, too, the governor is demonized, with people saying that his vision of the common good is only a balanced budget, with absolutely no regard for the broader common good.

In this way, extremists on the side of the governor and extremists on the side of the unions are narrowing the common good, so as to turn this into really a hot political potato. If the governor were aiming at taking away workers’ legitimate rights, he would certainly be wrong. If the unions were simply acting out of greed and self-interest, they would certainly be wrong.

But, with that serenity and peace that comes from believing in the Gospel, you have to weigh the issue in the view of the broader common good and consider where you might take a stand. It’s not up to me to tell you whose side to take; it’s up to me to tell you how to take a side — and that’s what I’m trying to do.

You have to give some real thought to the question, “What does the common good mean?” When was the last time you thought about all of the elements of the common good? And in this instance, you then have to decide how it is possible to best fulfill the common good.

Guidance from the Church

There’s no answer for that which could be called the teaching of the Church in this instance. The teaching of the Church is not that the governor is right, and the teaching of the Church is not that the union is right. Some people think that the teaching of the Church is, “support unions in every time, in every place, in every situation, no matter what,” and that is how some have tried to read Archbishop Listecki’s letter.

However, this is not the teaching of the Church. The teaching of the Church is precisely what I just wrote, which is not just my opinion. You must determine how the common good is best served. You must pray, reflect, judge, and decide.

May God bless you and your families. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Praised be Jesus Christ!