Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This year’s elections were the most contentious I’ve experienced in my lifetime. The presidential race in particular shined a spotlight on the deep divides that exist in our nation. These divisions — over issues such as race, economic disparities and immigration — have been festering for a long time. Election Day was another reminder of the serious challenges we face in this country.
No matter whom we voted for Nov. 8, it is time to roll up our sleeves to ensure that our elected leaders — whether in Washington, St. Paul or our city — advance public policies that promote human dignity and the common good of all. In some cases, this will mean holding them accountable to their campaign promises. In other cases, it will mean persuading them of other, better solutions to urgent problems facing our nation.
No political party — Republican or Democratic — embraces the full breadth of our church’s social teaching, so there is plenty of work for everyone to do.
Like you, I continue to be concerned about ongoing threats to human life, including efforts to promote abortion and legalize physician-assisted suicide. During the last state legislative session, an assisted suicide bill received a hearing in St. Paul before it was eventually pulled from consideration. We must be vigilant in educating our fellow citizens and lawmakers about more compassionate options for the unborn, vulnerable and ill.
This year’s election also highlighted the importance of providing better access to affordable health care and doing more to assist those who are struggling in today’s global economy, including the residents of rural America, where poverty rates are often higher than in metropolitan areas.
I am also concerned about the impact this election could have on immigrants, refugees and people of other cultures and faith traditions who have left difficult situations in their own countries to start a new life in the United States. I am thinking especially about our Latino and Somali brothers and sisters in the diocese.
I understand the concerns people have about safety and security. President-elect Donald Trump struck a chord with many citizens on this issue during the campaign. But safety and security isn’t achieved by making others feel less safe and secure in their communities. It isn’t achieved by keeping out refugees escaping war, or with deportations that weaken families by splitting them apart. And it isn’t achieved by dispensing with the principles of religious freedom that we value as a nation.
We achieve safety and security, and we make our nation stronger, when we extend a hand of mercy and protect “the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face,” as Pope Francis told Congress when he visited there last year.
President-elect Trump and our other elected officials — new and old, Democrat and Republican — must now work together to achieve the goal of creating a better life for everyone. But how do we foster this kind of leadership in the current political climate marked by so much bitterness and polarization?
As Catholics, we are called to be instruments of healing in our communities. To do this, we need to create more opportunities to meet and talk with our neighbors, especially neighbors we might disagree with politically or who are different from us because of where they’re from, what their skin color is, or the faith they profess. We need to do less talking and more listening with our hearts. When we do this, we will build stronger relationships that benefit everyone in our community.
I encourage you to get involved in such conversations, learn about the issues facing our communities and serve as the church’s witness in the public square. Our elected officials need to hear from you. Please pray for them. They have a tough job ahead.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Donald J. Kettler