Catholics in the Public Square


When: 8 a.m. – noon, Saturday, Sept. 17

Where: Diocesan Pastoral Center, with 8 a.m. Mass at adjacent St. Mary’s Basilica

Cost: Free admission and breakfast

Speakers include

Info: (602) 568-5286, or e-mail

In the midst of a contentious political season, Catholics might be tempted to obey the maxim about steering clear of politics and religion in public. But that’s not what they’re called to do.

That’s one of the messages Catholics will hear at the Sept. 17 Catholics in the Public Square Legislative Seminar. The day begins with an 8 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica with Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, followed by breakfast and a lineup of nationally-known speakers at the adjacent Diocesan Pastoral Center.

“Our Catholic faith is not a private matter. It is deeply personal but it is also social,” Bishop Olmsted told The Catholic Sun. “If our faith is alive, then it permeates every dimension of our lives, including our citizenship.”

Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the policy arm of the Catholic Church in Arizona, noted that the seminar provides much-needed encouragement and a pep talk for the faithful.

“This is always a spectacular event,” Johnson said. “We’ve been having these for over a decade and what we’re really excited about now is the release of Bishop Olmsted’s booklet that day, the fourth edition of ‘Catholics in the Public Square.’”

The latest edition, in English and Spanish, includes numerous updates as well as quotes from Pope Francis and his visit to the U.S. “We’ve got over 50,000 copies we’ve been able to get printed up, largely through the help of the Knights of Columbus and others,” Johnson said.

The event will be one way to motivate Catholics to let faith permeate every aspect of their lives and be courageous in defending their faith in the public square.

“It’s never been good enough for people to be cultural Catholics,” Johnson said. “That’s especially so now when society is really expressing hostility in so many forms against people of faith.”

Those who attend the seminar will hear from Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, and Alan Sears, president and CEO of the Alliance Defending Freedom.

“We can no longer be holding-pattern Catholics. We can’t just assume that we can circle Atlanta and everything’s going to be fine if we stay on auto-pilot,” Roback Morse said. “We have people in the public square who are actively hostile to our entire worldview and they are pushing us out of the public square, enacting into law policies that are deeply harmful to people.”

Her talk, she said, would focus on “how the sexual revolution got started, how it is a pagan ideology that we absolutely must resist and that it’s a totalitarian ideology.” She also emphasized the importance of confidently expressing the truth of Catholic belief.

“You cannot win on defense — that’s what you do when you’re on the run, you’re retreating. We need to say we are correct on the substance of the issue,” Roback Morse said. We want to be allowed to practice the Catholic faith. We want to be able to run our hospitals the way we want to run them, our schools the way we want, because we’re right.”

She had sparring words for some of current hot-button issues too. “We don’t want you re-defining marriage. We don’t want you re-defining the human person out of their bodies. People are being harmed by these things. And the Church is the only one with the guts to speak up about it,” Roback Morse said.

Sears, for his part, said it’s crucial for Catholics to be involved in the public square.

“We are living in perilous times of sweeping change and growing danger to our Church, to our nation, to people of faith across the globe,” Sears said. “The dramatic increase in government power and scope — such as demanding that churches fund abortion, demanding that charities fund abortion-inducing drugs, coercing creative artists into producing and communicating messages contrary to their conscience — is intruding further into our hearts and minds every day, and has been for a generation or more.”

And while he noted that the upcoming presidential election is undoubtedly important, Sears said much more is at stake for freedom’s future than who sits in the Oval Office.

“The threats to freedom exist in many places at many levels — legally, politically, culturally, at the state legislature or city council — but as many threats as there are to freedom, there are that many more opportunities for the faithful to secure and advance freedom for future generations,” Sears said.