Extended Response Essay
Students will write an essay on the role of the Catholic Church in the public forum and the believer's responsibility for civic engagement. Students may choose one or more of the Goals for Political Life: Challenges for Citizens, Candidates, and Public Officials
from the Bishop's statement.
- To identify and understand Catholic social teaching as it relates to civic engagement;
- To understand and personally appropriate the call to enter the public forum;
- To realize responsible citizenship is a virtue;
- To recognize participation in the political process as a moral obligation.
After reading and discussing the Faithful Citizenship statement from the United States Catholic Bishops, students will select one or more of the goals identified in the statement and address it in the form of an extended response essay. The essay should be three to five pages in length. The following are some sample questions students will want to incorporate into their essay:
- What do we as Catholics believe about how people should be treated in our society? From where do these beliefs stem?
- What kinds of things do we believe people should have to live a decent life? Why?
- Why do you think our Church teaches that voting is an important thing for Catholics to do? What is your experience about how Catholics view their responsibility to vote as related to their faith? Ask two adults you know how they feel about this.
- What kind of leaders does our society need? For what, in particular, should they stand and how should they lead?
- What are some issues that are discussed in the campaign that have ethical or moral dimensions? How does our faith call us to address them?
- What are some examples of public policies from the past and present that have been harmful to people (legalized abortion, slavery, lack of voting rights for minorities and women)? How might we apply Catholic social teaching to those issues? How would those policies change based on a faithful response by constituents?
- How would we respond when others question why the church gets involved in political and economic issues rather than focusing exclusively on the spiritual dimension of life?
- What is conscience? What is prudence? How does one develop a well-formed conscience and the virtue of prudence? What role should conscience and prudence play in our decisions about who to vote for?
- Why do the bishops say that both opposing evil and doing good are "essential obligations"? What are examples of intrinsically evil actions and why must they always be opposed? What are examples of supporting the common good? What might your own actions to avoid evil and to do good look like?
- The bishops describe two "temptations in public life" that voters can fall into: first, "moral equivalence" which "makes no ethical distinctions between different issues involving human life and dignity," and second, the misuse of moral distinctions "as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity." Describe a situation in which you witnessed one or both of these lines of thought. Why are they both distortions of the Church's teaching?
- Why do the bishops encourage all Catholics, whether able to vote or not, to be involved in political life? What are other ways, in addition to voting, that you can be involved in advocacy for issues you care about?