Several weeks ago I published an article in our parish bulletin entitled Catholics Care. Catholics Vote. I know these are incredibly sensitive issues and communicating well is really important in the age in which we live. One of the primary tasks of a pastor is to teach the faith and I have always done that to the best of my ability. This is the kind of information and teaching that I have done regularly at the Cathedral since becoming pastor and as a pastor I have serious duty and obligation to present the fullness of the Church’s teaching even if it isn’t attractive or appealing to some in our culture today. It was surprising to see many comments on Facebook either challenging the Church’s teaching on these issued or saying that we have no right to speak on these issues. Both of these assertions are far from the truth.
Catholics have a civic obligation to exercise their right to vote and we are called to reflect carefully on the issues at hand, bring them to prayer, know well the teaching of the Church and make thoughtful and informed decisions. I would never tell anyone how to vote – the Church does not do that. We do not support political parties or candidates. But we must be sure we are clear about the Church’s teaching on the important moral and social issues of our day. We are not one issue voters – there is no candidate that represents for us the fullness of Catholic teaching. But we need to know and to consider the issues at hand in light of what the Church teaches in order for each of us to make the best decision that we can guided by our well-informed conscience and prayer. And not all issues are of equal importance.
In The Gospel of Life, St. John Paul II wrote that “abortion and euthanasia have become the preeminent threats to human life and dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental good and the condition for all others. Abortion, the deliberate killing of the human being before birth, is never morally acceptable and must always be opposed.” Abortion has been considered an evil and grave sin since the first days of the Christian faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has expressed clearly that the inalienable right to life of every innocent human life from the moment of conception is a constitutive element of a civil society. The Second Vatican Council in Gaudium et Spes writes clearly that “life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.” I am simply reiterating Catholic teaching in writing that “abortion and euthanasia are sins of the highest degree and the gravest injustice.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear about its teaching on the nature of the family. In CCC 2202 we read, “A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority (it is the natural law), which has the obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated.” My words are a simple articulation of the teaching of the Church on the sacred nature of the marriage covenant and the family as created by God himself. This is no way diminishes or undermines the Church’s long-standing opposition to prejudice or discrimination of any kind against any person for any reason. We are a Church that welcomes everyone and includes everyone who desires to come to know and to love our Lord. This is who we are as a community of believers in which every person is a brother and sister to us in Christ Jesus and we embrace them with loving hearts.
I am concerned that some are making my words say or mean more than the words themselves convey. I am simply setting forth the Church’s teaching on (1) the need to defend and protect the sanctity of every human life, especially the unborn who have no voice of their own to protect themselves. This is a serious obligation for every Christian; (2) the need to protect the sanctity of the marriage covenant and family; (3) the call to protect the religious freedom of believers in our country to practice their faith without interference or prejudice; (4) the call to care for the poor and vulnerable among us. Social justice is not a nice thing to do but constitutive of the Gospel; (4) the call for each of us to bring our Christian ideals and values into the world in which we live and by exercising well our right to vote. These seem like very straight forward and direct summations of what the Catholic Church has long believed and taught.
I will always do my best to articulate well the fullness of Catholic teaching and to help others come to know what we believe. Each and every person must reflect on that teaching and come to make their own decisions about how to live their lives, for whom to vote, and how to put their Christian faith into practice and to exercise faithful citizenship in our country.