Oftentimes I will hear “Catholic” politicians expounding on the teachings of the Catholic Faith. Usually what they are conveying are their own personal opinions. There is only one “Chief Teacher” of The Catholic Faith—the bishop. It is the role of every bishop to teach and preserve the purity and integrity of our faith; to keep it uncorrupted. It is not popular to be politically incorrect! Saint Paul writes to Saint Timothy, bishop of Ephesus: “Preach the word in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and encourage with every form of patient instruction. For a time will come when men will not tolerate sound teaching, but, with itching ears, they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires.” Having said this, the Catholic Bishops of the United States have issued guidelines for American voters. Please allow me to use their teachings as a tool for you over these next few weeks as you prayerfully discern your vote. The bishops remind us that “some issues involve principles that can never be abandoned, such as the fundamental right to life and marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Other issues reflect our judgment about the best way to apply Catholic principles to policy issues.
“Abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human life and dignity because they directly attack life itself. The deliberate killing of a human being before birth is never morally acceptable and must always be opposed. The purposeful taking of human life by assisted suicide and euthanasia is not an act of mercy, but an unjustifiable assault on human life. Catholic Bishops supports laws to protect human life to the maximum degree possible, including constitutional protection for the unborn. The end of life is as sacred as the beginning of life and requires treatment that honors the true dignity of the human person as created in the image of the living God. The Catholic Church has accepted the death penalty in the past for particularly egregious crimes when there was a serious continuing threat to society, but our nation’s continued reliance on the death penalty cannot be justified and because we have other ways to protect society that are more respectful of human life. The USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) supports efforts to end the use of the death penalty.
“Catholics must work to avoid war and to promote peace. The Catholic tradition recognizes the legitimacy of a just war teaching when defending the innocent in the face of grave evil, but must never lose sight of the cost of war and its harm to human life. Nations should protect the dignity of the human person and the right to life by finding more effective ways to prevent conflicts. Nations have a right and obligation to defend human life and the common good against terrorism, aggression, and similar threats, such as the targeting of persons because of religion. Pope Francis reminds us that ‘there are more martyrs in the Church today than there were in the first centuries.’ Direct and intentional attacks on noncombatants in war and terrorist acts are never acceptable, nor the use of weapons of mass destruction. The United States has a responsibility to work to reverse the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. We support policies that protect refugees of war and violence.
Marriage and Family Life
The family founded upon marriage is the basic cell of human society. Marriage must be defined, recognized, and protected as a lifelong exclusive commitment between a man and a woman and as a source of the next generation and the protective haven for children. The institution of marriage is undermined by dismissing the sexual difference and complementarity of the sexes. Pope Francis has taught that “the removal of sexual difference creates a problem, not a solution.’ Thus the church reaffirms her ‘no’ to gender philosophies. Wages should allow workers to support their families, and public assistance should be available to help poor families to live in dignity. Children are to be valued, protected and nurtured where they ‘have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother (Pope Francis).’
US policy should promote religious liberty. Our first and most cherished freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person. There must be immunity from coercion on the part of individuals or social groups that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. In the US, religious freedom generally enjoys strong protection in our law as a culture but those protections are now in doubt; for example the longstanding tax exemption of the Church has been explicitly called into question at the highest level of government, precisely because of her teachings on marriage.
To be continued next week….