Diocese of Phoenix seminar stresses conscience formation ahead of election

CNA Staff, Oct 1, 2020 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- Ahead of the U.S. presidential election, the Diocese of Phoenix is hosting its biennial legislative seminar encouraging Catholics to form their consciences in order to help fulfill their responsibility as citizens.

The Catholics in the Public Square seminar will be held virtually on the morning of Oct. 3, hosted by the Diocese of Phoenix and Bishop Thomas Olmsted, in conjunction with the Catholic Women of Phoenix and the Knights of Columbus.

“There is a growing division in our state and in our country, especially in recent months,” said Olmsted in an August promotional video. “As we approach the fall elections, what we must never forget, however, is that God remains with us and has a plan and responsibility for each of us to be faithful Catholics and loyal responsible citizens.”

The seminar will be live-streamed on the diocese’s Youtube and Facebook pages. The event has taken place every two years since Olmsted became bishop in 2004, and it typically attracts around 400 attendees.

The seminar will begin at 9:30 a.m. with Mass celebrated by Olmsted. It will continue with speeches from religious freedom experts including Helen Alvaré, law professor at Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University, and Alan Sears, who served as the president of Alliance Defending Freedom for over 20 years.

Ron Johnson, executive director for the Arizona Catholic Conference, helped organize the event. He said the formation of laity is one of  its main goals. The seminar will encourage Catholics to be faithful beyond the normal obligations of Mass and to practice the faith in every aspect of their lives, including civic responsibilities.

“Part of the seminar … is that we need to be Catholic in everything we do, not just at Mass on Sunday for an hour, but wherever we are,” he told CNA. “Praying, volunteering at soup kitchens, you name it. But, voting is also a very important one as well. We have an obligation as Catholics to form our conscience.”

Religious freedom will be among the major issues discussed at the seminar.

“Religious liberty is going to be a big one,” Johnson said. “[Helen Alvaré is] going to have a lot of important things to discuss with regard to our faith and our institutions in particular, how we’re at risk of losing our Catholic identity. If we don’t stand up for the culture we’re in right now, we’ve got a real risk.”

Speakers will address the impact of threats to religious liberty throughout the United States and across the world, not only for the Catholic Church, but also in various professions, such as health care, he said.

In a Sept. 29 video from the Arizona Catholic Conference, the state’s bishops stressed voting as an important part of the obligation to promote the common good.

“The Catholic Church is not partisan and does not endorse candidates,” Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson said. “We are, however, firmly committed to promoting Catholic teaching and encouraging the laity to fully engage in promoting the common good in all aspects of their lives.”

Neither major political party embraces the fullness of Catholic teaching, said Bishop Wall of Gallup. “We are called to pray and reflect upon the critical moral issues of our day.”

“Catholic teaching reminds us that the protection of innocent human life from abortion is the pre-eminent issue of our time,” Bishop Olmsted said. “Accordingly, respect for the human dignity of all people, including immigrants, refugees, and the poor are also critical parts of Catholic social teaching. We oppose all forms of unjust discriminations and advocate for the healing of divisions that have resulted from racism in all of its various forms throughout the years.”


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