Dear POP Folks,
Last year, there was a parish communications survey. One of the comments about my blog stated: "I enjoy all the topics, unless he drifts into politics." Particularly now, as we begin the annual Fortnight for Freedom, it would be helpful to reflect on that comment.
To endorse particular candidates is being political. The Church does not endorse any candidate in an election. How does this play out in practice?
The Church is criticized energetically by those who think that she should be telling people not to vote for a particular person. Critics complained that the Church should have done more to condemn Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. Likewise, they say that we should have told people how to "vote Catholic" in the last presidential election.
There is almost never a truly Catholic candidate who espouses 100% of our faith and moral beliefs. So if we wanted to endorse a Catholic candidate, we couldn't find one. The exception is the election of the Pope, where all of the candidates are pretty much staunch Catholics.
The Church does have a responsibility to speak out on issues of morality. These include human trafficking, abortion, slave labor, inadequate health care, practices that divide families, and freedom of religion. Note that when we address one of these issues from the pulpit, some highly-energized partisans immediately cry, "Foul!" because their candidate has taken a different position. They charge the Church with endorsing the opposition. I will compare this to the problem Jesus had: He believed in healing; he healed on the Sabbath; his critics accused him of being anti-Sabbath, and they crucified him. In reality, he was just making sick people well.
The Church also has a responsibility to speak in defense of herself and her ministries. It seems to be a well-kept secret that the American bishops have been calling for universal, affordable health care for everyone for some time now. It is no secret that the system currently-proposed to accomplish that has determined that abortion and contraception are necessary (extremists call them human rights), even when they violate the conscience of the Church/employer. This leaves the Church with the options of: violating our consciences and God's laws about the sanctity of life OR paying crippling fines OR shutting down our hospitals and other ministries because we won't supply these services to employees.
What is important here is that we form our consciences. Visit the USCCB website. Check out: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship : A Call to Political Responsibility.
What is also important is that we think twice before yelling "Political!" when the homilist talks about the teachings of God and the beliefs of our Church.