Pope Benedict on How to Be a Good American

When Pope Benedict XVI visited America 11 years ago, he told us what he thought of us. Here are several reasons he thinks America is great, and what Catholics should recommit themselves to on Independence Day:

  1. America connects freedom with faith.

Said the Pope at the White House in 2008: “From the dawn of the republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. … President Washington expressed in his farewell address that religion and morality represent ‘indispensable supports’ of political prosperity.”

That’s right, evangelization is patriotic. Promote Mass, confession, prayer and service for a stronger America.

  1. America connects freedom with virtues.

“Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility,” the Pope said. “The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate.”

In other words, for America to have a future, we have to be the kind of people and raise the kind of children who center their lives on virtues and responsibilities.

  1. America has welcomed immigrants.

“Brother bishops,” he said at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, “I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home. This, indeed, is what your fellow countrymen have done for generations,” he said, then quoted the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “From the beginning, they have opened their doors to the tired, the poor, the ‘huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ These are the people whom America has made her own.”

Let politics decide how many to let in. Catholics know our role: Teach our newest Catholic countrymen to be American, and teach our newest Catholic Americans to live their faith.

  1. America has applied its entrepreneurial mindset to the Church’s life.

“We think of the strong faith which built up the network of churches, educational, health-care and social institutions which have long been the hallmark of the Church in this land,” he said at Yankee Stadium. “We think also of those countless fathers and mothers who passed on the faith to their children, the steady ministry of the many priests who devoted their lives to the care of souls, and the incalculable contribution made by so many men and women religious, who not only taught generations of children how to read and write, but also inspired in them a lifelong desire to know God, to love him and to serve him.”

Rome has always expected us to take our American genius for organization and apply it to Church life. Let’s not disappoint.

  1. He pointed out that Catholics can play a key policy role in a democracy like America.

“In this land of religious liberty, Catholics found freedom not only to practice their faith but also to participate fully in civic life, bringing their deepest moral convictions to the public square and cooperating with their neighbors in shaping a vibrant, democratic society,” he said. “Today’s celebration is more than an occasion of gratitude for graces received. It is also a summons to move forward with firm resolve to use wisely the blessings of freedom, in order to build a future of hope for coming generations.”

Politics certainly isn’t everything — but just as certainly, Politics is a lot. Catholics must be heard there, too.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.