Faithful Citizenship

There are roughly 77 million people in the USA who identify themselves as Catholics.  The much vaunted “Catholic Vote” is very sought after with politicians trying to use the words of our bishops as implicit endorsements.  This is a twisting of our bishops’ teaching, since as Cardinal George said in response to the public scandal of a “zealously” political priest in his archdiocese, “The Catholic Church does not endorse political candidates.”

Every four years for the past thirty, our bishops have issued a teaching document to assist Catholic voters as they approach the general elections.  In “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”, this year’s United States Council of Catholic Bishops’ teaching document, the bishops are very clear on two points: (1) Catholics must consider a wide range of issues when voting, and (2) life issues have precedence over all other issues.

“Faithful Citizenship” makes the case that no other issues have the same weight as life issues do.  This is not to say that other issues, say economic justice or national security policy, are not important but it does mean that some issues have greater moral weight than others:

“Human life is sacred.  The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.  Direct attacks on innocent persons are never morally acceptable, at any stage or in any condition.  In our society, human life is especially under direct attack from abortion.  Other direct threats to the sanctity of human life include euthanasia, human cloning, and the destruction of human embryos for research” (#44, emphasis mine).

There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor.  Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons.  These are called “intrinsically evil” actions.  They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned.  A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia.  In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others” (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5).  It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed” (#22, emphasis mine).

Each level of government makes decisions on our behalf, and those decisions, whether they be about the defense of human life or social programs to help the poor must start with the basic proposition that human life is sacred from the moment God “formed you in your mother’s womb.”  While safeguarding the rights and dignity of the poor is of vital importance, those issues do not rise to the level of preserving human life in its most vulnerable forms (children in the womb, for example).

Some people are quick to point out that the bishops teach that “Catholics are not single issue voters” (#42), and, while true, that doesn’t mean that Catholics may ignore the hierarchy of issues and fail to prioritize them accordingly.  While some use the bishops’ entreaty not to vote on a single issue only as an “escape clause” to vote for a pro-abortion candidate whom they like for other reasons, true social justice demands that the most basic right must take priority over all others.  Furthermore, while Catholics shouldn’t vote for a candidate based on a single issue, Catholics may use a single issue to disqualify a candidate from receiving their vote.  “Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support” (#42).

You see, if a person doesn’t have the God-given right to live, then all other rights are meaningless.  It is impossible to establish authentic social justice when 1 in 4 children are murdered in the womb.  Universal healthcare is useless if hospitals become abortion mills and push contraceptives.  Opposition to any war rings hollow when millions of our own citizens are killed because they are inconvenient or the wrong sex.

We must, therefore, distinguish between important issues, like care for the poor and immigration policy, with foundational issues, like abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic experimentation.  If we allow ourselves to elect judges, executives, and legislators who have demonstrated their hostility to the sanctity of life over and over, then we condemn future generations to the tyranny of dehumanization. 

Disregard for the poor is a travesty, disregard for human life is an abomination.

The choices we face this November are difficult, there is no “Catholic Party, USA,” so we must navigate the issues and the candidates carefully.  If we can’t choose the perfect candidates, then at least we should choose those who will least harm the weakest among us.

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  • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com Arkanabar Ilarsadin

    People do not treat voting with sufficient gravity.

    Voting is choosing to aim a gun at yourself and others.

    When you vote for a legislator, at ANY level, you are choosing the person who will help determine when it is suitable to point a gun at you, your children, your siblings, parents, cousins, neighbors, etc. CHOOSE WISELY.

    There is no such thing as a law that cannot get you shot. Vicky Weaver was shot to death for her husband’s refusal to pay a $5 tax on a shotgun that was either 3/8″ or 1/2″ under the limit of 26″ long overall. Refusing the punishment for a minor infraction is regarded as a greater infraction, and eventually the infractions will ratchet up enough to the point that law enforcement will use guns to put and keep you in jail.

    So choose wisely, and vote for somebody who believes in the sanctity of human life.

  • asdwanamaker

    Our bishops and priests have, for years, failed to even attempt to forge any sort of consensus on the issue of abortion. Many recoil from the issue for fear of “driving the flock away” or for an incorrect fear of losing the parish’s 501(c)3 status.

    Bishops don’t insist that priests teach, so priests don’t. Bishops and priests who DO teach on the subject, do so ineffectively. And those who do teach on it, almost always begin with a false premise: that the flock is opposed to abortion already, rather than from the premise that they need to teach assertively and persuasively to forge opposition to abortion — personally, politically, behaviorally.

    As a result, self-described Catholics abort their babies at a rate higher than the women who proclaim no religion at all — 31.3% of all abortions are performed on Catholic women, where only 23.7% are performed on non-believers.

    Further, if you were to randomly walk into a parish in America, you will probably find that a majority of parishioners take the following position: “I would never abort, but I will not impose my morality on others.” Then those same people will walk into the voting booth and pull the lever for the candidate who supports “choice.” It is a disgrace for which many of our priests should be ashamed. Unfortunately, many are not. As with the issue of contraception, the clergy has forfeited their authority and responsibility on the abortion issue to the laity.

  • Grace Harman

    We live in a horrible time when politicians try to appear “helpful” by supporting the killing of the unborn/helpless. People are being brought into the country for use in the “sex industry” and some politicians support this by “welcoming the aliens”. Our judges are allowing killing of the helpless and targeting disabled or elderly who are not able to speak for themselves. (If they don’t protect “the vulnerable” now, they won’t protect YOU when you become vulnerable. The basic traditional family is under attack by “inclusion” of, and support for “alternate lifestyles”. Many forget that these views/practices were what caused 82% of the “priest abuse” scandal. Wake up America! Remember God’s Laws, and be VERY careful about who you vote for.

  • Grace Harman

    Contraception mentality is the root of abortion, as it says you can “choose” whether you want a baby now – or later – or not at all. Humanae Vitae was prophesy, and “dissent” is heresy. – and people don’t see that. “Cafeteria Catholics” are those who listen to political rhetoric instead of God.

  • DonHudzinski

    A woman goes to confession to a priest and in the confessional says, “Say anything about the woman issues and I will say you sexually assulted me in the confessional”. The priest can not tell us the woman said this unless he violate the oath of the confessional, so we do not hear about it, but also the priest will not be able to discuss the issues on the pulpit.

  • perryj

    It is not just the Bishops that do not clearly state the message. I find few articles that clearly state one can not vote for a politician that supports abortion. Thank you for making it clear to Catholics that one can not vote for any politician that supports abortion. I am neither Republican or Democrat. I am Catholic and pledge my service to Christ not a party.

  • dennisofraleigh

    The Catholic Church in America is now reaping the bitter harvest of decades of failure to instruct the laity (children and adults) in issues of personal morality. The standard was the notion of “let your conscience be your guide.” The average Catholic no longer believes he or she has to do what the Church instructs. Now we have Catholic consciences run amock. Look at poor Sunday Mass attendance and the use of artificial contraceptives among Catholic women. Does that project an image of a Catholic population in touch with, and responsive to, the Church’s leadership? Hardly.
    Even if (with all due respect, perryj)every Catholic in this country were handed a one-page flyer that clearly stated how they are to prioritize their voting decisions I don’t see that it would appreciably influence Catholic voting patterns. They’ve been electing and re-electing abortion-friendly politicians for decades. Why should they change now (they will reason). I’m glad the USCCB has stepped up to the plate. Problem is, most Catholics aren’t even in the same stadium anymore.

  • asdwanamaker

    ###DonHudzinski says:
    June 11th, 2008 at 6:25 am

    A woman goes to confession to a priest and in the confessional says, “Say anything about the woman issues and I will say you sexually assulted me in the confessional”. The priest can not tell us the woman said this unless he violate the oath of the confessional, so we do not hear about it, but also the priest will not be able to discuss the issues on the pulpit.###

    That’s hypothetical claptrap.

    A priest who recoils from the issue at the pulpit because of a threat made in the confessional is not fit to wear the collar.

    Oscar Romero, Servant of God, pray for us.

  • Proverbs3130

    “You see, if a person doesn’t have the God-given right to live, then all other rights are meaningless. ” — I think this hits the nail right on the head!!!!!

  • Bruce Roeder

    Good article, Mickey.

    But Don, threatening a priest in the confessional? Oh my!

    Father Milquetoaste should just go along and agree with the scary, bad threatening woman. He should say, “Please, please don’t make up any bad stories about me! I won’t speak out about “the woman issues” I promise! I won’t say one single word about my support of women’s ordination. On my honor!”

    That red herring scenario smacks of disrespect for our priests, as some earlier posts are pretty disrespectful of our bishops.

    Sure things look bleak. they have since that night in the garden. But there’s no reason to get uncharitable. Ours is a Church of hope! Let’s show a little more faith in the Church and in her divine Bridegroom.

    “Some people become fearless through madness, but Christians are different. They become fearless through habit.” ~ Epictetus, Stoic philosopher

  • asdwanamaker

    ###Bruce wrote: as some earlier posts are pretty disrespectful of our bishops.###

    Speaking the truth in love is not disrespectful.

    In the Archdiocese where I live, we have a courageous bishop who has made himself vulnerable to attack from the culture of death by speaking very publicly on the subject. He is providing an example for both the priests in our Archdiocese and parishioners as well.

    Not every bishop has the same courage. Many do, but some do not.

    My larger point is that too many bishops and priests make the mistake of assuming that the vast majority of parishioners in their flocks are pro-life on abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia, when they’re not. They too often address the issue as if they were preaching to the choir, when the choir isn’t listening. They simply don’t make the case for life very well. Praise God for Priests for Life who can help them do it better.

  • asdwanamaker

    ###dennisofraliegh wrote: Even if (with all due respect, perryj)every Catholic in this country were handed a one-page flyer that clearly stated how they are to prioritize their voting decisions I don’t see that it would appreciably influence Catholic voting patterns. They’ve been electing and re-electing abortion-friendly politicians for decades. Why should they change now (they will reason). I’m glad the USCCB has stepped up to the plate. Problem is, most Catholics aren’t even in the same stadium anymore.###

    Bingo. And that is precisely because of the reasons you mention. Question I would pose for the bishops is this: Is it SIN for a Catholic to knowingly vote for a candidate who openly supports a woman’s right to kill her unborn child? If so, SAY IT IS SO.

    Millions of people who claim the name Christ (Catholic and otherwise) are going to vote for Obama, who has a 100% approval rating from Planned Parenthood. It is a scandal that Catholics and young Evangelical Protestants will be most responsible for Obama’s election should he win.

  • http://privilegedwhitemales.blogspot.com/ jackster

    The seal of confession requires that there be a confession. A Confession requires a penitent. The lady was not penitient, did not confess, so there is no seal. If he wanted to, the priest could record and post her rant on youtube without violating the sacred seal.

    Whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

  • DonHudzinski

    jackster

    It is not the telling that is the problem. The problem is the priest is alone with the woman and it is her word against his, and we all know were that leads.

    The priest is deflocked.

  • asdwanamaker

    ###DonHudzinski says: It is not the telling that is the problem. The problem is the priest is alone with the woman and it is her word against his, and we all know were that leads. The priest is deflocked.###

    This cannot be the last comment on this article. As Jackster said, there has to be a confession for the priest to keep the seal of the confessional. In your hypothetical, there wasn’t one. And that gives the priest the freedom on the very next Sunday to expose the threat to his entire congregation without ever exposing the person who made the threat. He could very easily in a homily make it clear that the seal of the confessional does not cover threats, that he will not cower to threats made there or anywhere else and then talk about the subject matter over which the threat was made.

    At the same time, I still say this is nothing but claptrap.

  • bambushka

    asdwanamaker says:

    “Question I would pose for the bishops is this: Is it SIN for a Catholic to knowingly vote for a candidate who openly supports a woman’s right to kill her unborn child? If so, SAY IT IS SO.”

    How can a bishop tell his flock that voting for a pro-abort is a sin when he has his hand in the pocket of people who are monetarily supporting a pro-abort candidate? Is it any wonder his silence on abortion is deafening?

  • DonHudzinski

    How many priest lost their jobs because of this claptrap, in the priestly scandels inwhich priest were removed from parishes through out the USA.

  • Bruce Roeder

    I’d say “claptrap” is a good way to describe it, although “disrespectful” and “disparaging” are good ways as well.

    It is a backwards method to disparage our priests, assuming as it were that a celibate man would apparently not have the courage to resond to such an aggressive threat, regardless of its falseness.

    It disrespects our bishops, insinuating they can not be trusted to look into the objective truth of allegations of misconduct against priests.

    But “claptrap” works for me too.

  • nativity

    DECREE ON ECUMENISM
    UNITATIS REDINTEGRATIO

    INTRODUCTION

    1. The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided.(1) Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.

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