Pledging a “Better Kind of Politics”?

by | Sep 15, 2021 | Formation, Reflections, Spirituality and Spiritual Practice, Systemic change | 1 comment

“Taking Pledges”

Concern about alcoholism runs back almost 2000 years before Christ. Over the centuries it was thought that people could control it simply with willpower… or legislation. Almost exactly 100 years ago this belief led to the era known as “Prohibition.” During this time there was great emphasis on “taking the pledge.”

By 1933 a constitutional amendment ended this era, admittedly under very diverse pressures. Alcoholism is still a scourge. Legislation did not work. But we have grown in our understanding of its causes and effects. Sadly, other forms of addiction (to opioids and other drugs) have dwarfed alcoholism.

What is different today is that we have a better understanding of the processes involved. We now realize addiction is more complex and requires more than taking a pledge, or even a pill. In over-simplified terms, the path to sobriety requires a change in one’s way of thinking (metanoia) and a supportive community environment. (Echoes of AA?) In short, it requires a systemic change.

What has this got to do with a “better kind of politics?

The United States Bishops urge A Better Kind of Politics | Civilize It | USCCB as a response to Pope Francis’ invitation in  Fratelli Tutti #154. In it, they invite each of us to model this “better kind of politics.”

Specifically, they invite us to take the pledge below to commit to

  • seeking the truth,
  • building bridges, and
  • finding solutions together that promote the common good.

Here is my take

Before we dismiss their invitation as just another pledge let’s look at what they are asking. As I read it, I see a blueprint for a systemic change in our way of thinking. It is almost a “12 step program” for building community as envisaged when we truly commit to what we pray in the “Our Father.”

As you read it imagine the change that it would bring to our community and country if we all seriously committed to this “9 step” program to change our own way of thinking.



  • To affirm through my words and actions the dignity of every person, each made in God’s image. Even those with whom I disagree are made in his image.
  • To respectfully listen in order to understand experiences different from my own.


  • To engage in critical examination to ensure that my perspectives are rooted in truth, that my sources of information are unbiased, and that I do not open myself to manipulation by partisan interests.
  • To form my conscience through prayerful reflection, study of scripture and Church teaching, and guidance from reputable experts.
  • To reflect on my own values and seek, with others, to identify shared values.
  • To be open to the process of dialogue that can require change of perspective—my own and others’—in service to the inviolable dignity of all and the common good.


  • To be a bridgebuilder who participates in constructive dialogue based in shared values, a mutual exchange of gifts, and the humility to together seek the good.
  • To see differences in perspective as opportunities for creative tension which can yield solutions for the common good.
  • To work with others in order to identify creative solutions rooted in our shared values.

The choice is ours. Can we

  • see ourselves as members of one family?
  • seek to encounter and to grow?
  • identify common values?
  • listen to understand?
  • seek the truth together?
  • jointly come up with creative solutions to the problems that face our world?


How will you respond to this call?

  • Are there any steps you think are not necessary?
  • Which of these 9 steps would challenge you the most?

The post first appeared on Vincentian Mindwalk

1 Comment

  1. Thomas McKenna

    John, I really like the way you phrased those pledges. Something to hang up on a bulletin board!