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Posts Tagged ‘conscience’

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It’s come to my attention that many (maybe even most?) of my fellow Catholics are a bit confused on the issue of voting.  How do I know this?  Because FACEBOOK, mostly.  If any Catholic is on Facebook telling any other Catholic that he or she is in a state of mortal sin or hellbound for voting for Hillary Clinton (or Donald Trump, for that matter), that Catholic clearly needs a refresher course (maybe a first course?) on Catholic voting.

I can see why some of them would be confused, too, when you’ve got deacons preaching about who to vote for and Bishops and priests making ill-advised and incorrect statements in the press and people putting unauthorized flyers in parish bulletins.  I’ve seen and read about all of this, and you probably have too, and I’m not going to link to these folks to give them any more undeserved attention and the opportunity to spread more misinformation. (By the way, here’s what our Bishops have to say about such activities.)

Some of you have probably also seen voting guides from Catholic Answers or EWTN, and have (understandably) assumed that you could trust such well-known sources.   But the ONLY authorized voting guide (and that includes this blog, which is why my advice to you is going to be backed up by authoritative links) is the Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, published in every election year by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  That’s the ONLY document with the authority of the Magisterium behind it.  If you haven’t read it yet, you haven’t done your homework and you shouldn’t cast a vote until you do.

You might also want to familiarize yourself with Catholic Social Teaching.  And you are certainly going to want to read the section of the Catechism which deals with the formation of conscience.  And it goes without saying that you should read about the candidates and their positions on issues of importance to Catholics, of course making sure to check your sources.

Frankly, I think the Church and its members would be in a lot better shape if we all spent more time reading the above documents and less on Breitbart News and Occupy Democrats.  Particularly in matters of faith I would suggest spending more time on the Vatican and USCCB sites and less on LifeSite News and HuffPo Religion.

Anyway, I’m going to paraphrase some of this,  but I am not a theologian and this is not an approved voting guide so you really ought to go to the links provided and read for yourself.

Short version:  You can vote for anyone you want to, but not for the wrong reasons.

What does this mean?  Here’s an example:  We all know that Hillary Clinton supports legalized abortion.  Abortion is an intrinsic evil that deserves the highest level of attention from Catholics.  So if you vote for Hillary Clinton BECAUSE she supports abortion, that’s wrong.  If you are a Catholic, you can’t do that.

Every candidate running this year has certain positions that run contrary to Church teachings.  YOU CAN STILL VOTE FOR ANY OF THEM, as long as you are voting for the DESPITE these positions AND in the presence of PROPORTIONATE REASONS.

Back when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict explained how this works.  He’s a scholar and used lots of big words, so here is the simplified version: Voting for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil (like abortion or racism) requires the presence of a proportionate reason.

In her wisdom, the Church so far has not defined what these proportionate reasons might be, although if you Google you will find plenty of Catholics expressing their opinions.  But they are only opinions, and everyone will reach his own conclusions about this, according to his conscience.

But Trump is just AWFUL, you say.  How could there be ANY reason proportionate enough to justify voting for him?   Well, maybe a Catholic voter is convinced that Mr. Trump really has had a conversion of heart and is truly pro-life.  Our next President will probably have the opportunity to appoint several Supreme Court justices.  Mr. Trump has said he will appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade.  Faced with the possibility of ending the evil of abortion, this person feels he cannot in good conscience fail to vote for a candidate who might achieve this.

Still can’t understand it? Guess what? You don’t have to! It’s not your business how your fellow Catholics vote.  It’s not their business how YOU vote! You don’t get to tell them they are going to hell and they don’t get to tell you that you are excommunicated.

One more quote from the Bishops: “We strongly urge all parishioners to register, to become informed on key issues, and to vote. The Church does not support or oppose any candidate, but seeks to focus attention on the moral and human dimensions of issues.”

And from our Holy Father, when directly asked what the American faithful should keep in mind while voting: “In electoral campaigns, I never say a word. The people are sovereign. I’ll just say a word: Study the proposals well, pray and choose in conscience.

Being accused of being more Catholic than the Pope is not a compliment, y’all.  Can we all take our cue from the Bishop of Rome and mind our own consciences–and our own business?

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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A few days ago I was invited to join a secret Facebook group.  I posted what follows by way of introduction and was overwhelmed by the support, understanding, and acceptance I received, even from people whose beliefs are very different.  Because so many people wanted a way to share what I had written, I decided to post it here with some slight editing to account for the potential wider audience.

As a devout pro-life Catholic, this election season has been a very trying time for me. Never in my lifetime has there been a candidate for President who aligned perfectly with my religious beliefs, and I have dealt with this in various ways in each election.

I wrote for the local Catholic press for many years, including writing a column specifically on life issues. I was the chair of our Diocesan Respect Life Committee and have 25 years of pro-life activism to my credit. I blog about life issues frequently and post publicly about them on Facebook. And I’m the mother of five children!

Yet none of this has stopped my being the target of vitriol from right-wing Catholics, many of whom will clearly do ANYTHING to justify the fact that they really just want to vote Republican. I’ve been talked down to, threatened with excommunication, and attacked, even as I have tried to create space for discussion on my Facebook wall and explained the Church teachings on voting and conscience which support my actions.

This year, I am voting for Hillary with a clear conscience. Despite my deep disagreement with her views on abortion it is quite clear to me that her other positions and her proposed policies are more in keeping with the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life and social justice (not to mention the fact that she is way more qualified, not dangerous, and won’t bring disgrace to the office!). I am not holding my nose while I vote either–I am excited to be with Her!im_with_her

For more of my writing about Catholicism, voting, and politics, see the partial list below:

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do?

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do? (Part 2)

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do? (Part 3)

Catholic to my Toes

VOTING:  Not Toeing the Party Line

Talking to Kids about Politics

It’s Just Not Fun Anymore

Catholic Voting 101: A Guide for the Confused

Why Is This Election Different?

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Twelve years ago, dismayed at all the misunderstandings and hatefulness I was seeing among Catholics over the Presidential election, I decided to write a column about it for the East Tennessee Catholic.  I thought I could dispel those misunderstandings and the hatefulness would cease.

Boy, was I wrong, wrong, wrong.

I was on bed rest (Lorelei was born just after Election Day) when the reactions to that well-intentioned column started coming in, but if I hadn’t been I might have taken to my bed anyway.  And if I had seen where we we’d find ourselves twelve years down the road, I might have never gotten up again.

Already today I’ve received tweets hashtagged hypocrite, babykiller, and cafeteriaCatholic.  It’s just another day in an election season during which I’ve been unfriended by an actual family member, deemed excommunicated by the friend of a friend, and attacked in a public Facebook post by someone I thought was a friend, all because I shared political articles that they didn’t agree with.

Rarely do I say anything about what my friends post on their own Facebook walls–with the rare exception being to offer a Snopes link to correct a blatant untruth.  I have never unfriended someone because I disagreed with their views. I welcome respectful discussion and try to learn from others and to at least understand why they believe what they do.

I’m a bad Catholic, of course.  I fall short on an hourly basis.  But I’m NOT a cafeteria Catholic.  Ask anyone who knows me and pore over every word I’ve written and try to find an example of any time I have EVER dissented from Church teaching.  You’ll need more than good luck and a magnifying glass because you won’t find anything.

 

The friend who attacked me on Facebook accused me of being a “Democrat down to my toes.”  I’ll write more about party affiliation another time, perhaps, but what I am down to my toes is CATHOLIC.  That’s my core, that’s my worldview, and EVERYTHING I believe and the way I try to live my life–including my political life–springs from that.

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This is Part 2 of a story which begins here.  It chronicles the unforeseen results of my having had the temerity to publish a column on voting in the local Catholic press just before the 2004 elections.

I felt good about what I had written.   I thought I had expressed myself well.  I sat back and naively expected peace and goodwill to ensue.

That isn’t what happened.

I was working in my kitchen one morning when the phone rang.  This was way before iPhones so the identity of the caller came as a complete shock.  It was the Chancellor of my Diocese calling to tell me that the Bishop!! wanted me to know that he could not support everything I had written.

I am not going to try to recount that whole conversation.  It was eight long years ago after all.  But some parts I remember quite clearly.  As I stood in my pantry staring at the shelves, the Chancellor told me that Pope John Paul’s condemnation of the Iraq war was merely his “prudential judgment.”  He said that the Pope had not declared it an infallible, ex cathedra teaching.   I think he might have been a bit surprised that I was able to fire back the names of the TWO (yes, only two) such pronouncements on which all theologians agree.

U.S. President George W. Bush greets Pope John Paul II during their meeting at the Vatican June 4, 2004. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2004/20040606/wd1.jpg

What I remember very clearly is the impression I was left with–that I had just been ARGUED with by a Church official about whether there might be a “Catholic” way to vote in the coming election.  And I remember wondering, if it all comes down to prudential judgment, shouldn’t I, as a Catholic, give more weight to the judgment of the Holy Father than to that of any elected secular official?

Before it got better, it got a lot worse.  Shortly thereafter I got another call.  This time it was the Bishop himself on the other end of the line!  I got the sense that he knew the first call hadn’t gone well and that he felt bad about it.  His call had more of a pastoral tone. I  honestly cannot remember WHAT he said, but I could tell he wanted me to feel better about the whole thing.  I recall that he stated that he would be publishing something himself later to clarify the issues involved.

In those days my husband was an active Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus, and I saw the Bishop frequently at KOC events.  He had always been friendly and kind and complimentary about my column in the past.  So I felt bad.  Very bad.

See, I consider myself to be orthodox, more so than most people I know.  I take the teachings of the Church very seriously.  I am not a “cafeteria Catholic.”  And before I wrote that column I made sure to read the relevant parts of the Catechism and the Gospel of Life and the document the Bishops put out every election year.  I had my husband read it over too.  I wanted to make ABSOLUTELY sure that it reflected Church teaching.

To have someone in the hierarchy suggest differently was DEEPLY painful. (I am sorry for all the capital letters.  It’s how I am feeling as I write this.)  It’s still painful.  I don’t feel completely comfortable publishing this, and probably would not if either of the people involved were still in the Diocese of Knoxville.

Was I wrong?  And if I was wrong, was I going to have to believe that the Church could back certain voting choices?  If so, would I have to follow those directions to remain a faithful Catholic?  Or was I going to have to become a dissenter in order to follow my own conscience?

I didn’t like any of those options.  I was in spiritual agony.  I was also about eight months pregnant.  Not a good combination.

I went back and reread what I had written.  I read the documents again.  I still couldn’t find anything wrong with what I had said.  Nor could other people I trusted.  Could this mean that it was the “prudential judgments” of the Bishop and the Chancellor that were  in error?  That was a scary thought.

In the end, though, that’s what I’ve come to believe.  I stand today by what I wrote eight years ago.

But there’s more to the story.  Stay tuned.

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The Catholic Church is supposed to proclaim the truth, not reflect the culture.

So IT DOES NOT MATTER if every single Catholic woman in America uses artificial birth control. (They don’t, by the way.  And that 98% figure that the media is flinging around is . . . shall we say . . . imprecise.  I’ll write about that another time.)

I’d say 98% of us Catholics have been unkind, have been dishonest, have yelled at our kids, have in general failed to live good Christian lives, some more than others.  Because, you know, we are human.  Does that mean the Church is supposed to fold and say those things aren’t sinful anymore?

This debate is not about reproductive freedom (that’s the liberal spin).  It’s not about the fact that most Catholics dissent from the Church’s teachings (that’s the media spin).  It’s not even really about President Obama being in a war against religion (that’s the conservative spin).  No, what this is about is freedom of religion.  It’s about the Constitution.  Is about the dismantling of a right that is absolutely intrinsic to what it means to be an American.  That’s why many progressive Catholics, erstwhile supporters of the President and his health care plan, are outraged.  This is so foundational that the lack of uproar among the Catholics in the pews–indeed, among people in general–astonishes me.

Don’t people remember their American history classes from grade school?  You know, the ones in which we all learned about people coming to this country to be free to practice their religion without government interference?  What if President Obama wanted to mandate (as has happened in France) that Muslim girls stop wearing their headscarves in public schools.  I don’t wear a headscarf.  The practice does not make any sense to me personally.  Some argue that it is demeaning to women.  But I would be furious if anyone tried to legislate against it and I bet a lot of others would as well.

Is it a problem that this disconnect between Church teaching on artificial contraception and the practice of most Catholics exists?  You bet it is.  There’s blame enough to go around, and I’ll write about that elsewhere so as not to cloud the issue.

American freedoms have already been eroded in the name of the “War on Terrorism.”  Do liberals really want to join in stripping away more of the rights on which this country was built?

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