Young adults discuss what to look for in a leader - Catholic Courier

Young adults discuss what to look for in a leader

HENRIETTA — What kind of a leader was Jesus?

As Catholics, what should we look for in a leader?

If Jesus were a political candidate, what would his platform be?

These were among the questions offered as food for thought during a discussion titled “Jesus for President,” held June 30 at Jitters Coffeehouse in Southtown Plaza. It marked the first session in a summer series of Theology on Tap, the diocesan-sponsored program offering dialogue on the faith for Catholics and friends in their 20s and 30s.

Participants asserted that Jesus was the type of leader who led mainly by example; that he would not likely be affiliated with a political party; and that if he were to run for president he likely wouldn’t get far because he’d be too uncompromising and honest for the world of politics. It was agreed that no current presidential candidate lines up with all Catholic principles, and Catholic voters must therefore carefully weigh each one’s good and bad points. Along these lines, the point was made that Pope Benedict XVI, while serving as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, wrote in 2004 that a Catholic would be committing an evil act if he or she voted for a candidate specifically because of that person’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia — but that a Catholic may have just cause to vote for the candidate for other reasons, even if he or she did not share that person’s support for abortion and/or euthanasia.

Theology on Tap attendees roundly expressed their disillusionment with the current state of political affairs, saying they’re tired of being lied to. They also voiced mistrust for the mass media and its reporting of politics. Suggestions for improving our knowledge of candidates were to track their political positions by visiting their Web sites; study their past voting records on bills of particular interest to the Catholic Church; call politicians’ offices directly to ask questions; not rely on just one or two media sources; and research such Catholic documents as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ statement “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” (The full text may be viewed at

Barbara Swiecki, who led the roundtable discussion, emphasized that Catholics should not vote based on party affiliation but instead be guided by their adherence to the common good, taking a “what would Jesus do?” approach. However, she said Catholics don’t go this route often enough.

“We are strong in numbers and we are a formidable group if we all vote together. Unfortunately, we don’t,” remarked Swiecki, who serves as pastoral administrator at Henrietta’s Guardian Angels Parish.

Swiecki said it’s vital for Catholics to go beyond simply “praying that the right person will win” and get involved in the political process, such as taking part in letter-writing campaigns and attending the annual Public Policy Day in Albany — and, at the very least, getting out there and voting.

Barnaby Bienkowski, 25, said he enjoyed the free flow of discussion that took place during the June 30 event, noting that this isn’t always a given when the subjects are politics and religion.

“I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting to get rhetoric,” said Bienkowski, who attends Rochester’s Blessed Sacrament Church.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For details on future Theology on Tap gatherings, call 585-328-3228, ext. 1218, or visit and click on “Young Adult & Campus Ministry,” then “Events.”

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