U.S. Catholics encouraged to weigh issues carefully as they enter voting booth

(UPDATED with Bishop Zubik statement and a new column by Cardinal-designate Tobin.) 

(CNS photo/Kamil Krzaczynski, EPA)

(CNS photo/Kamil Krzaczynski, EPA)

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In the weeks leading up the hotly contested Nov.8 election, many Catholic bishops have written columns, issued statements or preached homilies encouraging their people to weigh the issues carefully as they enter the voting booth.

Many of the statements draw on “Faithful Citizenship,” the quadrennial document issued by the bishops to help guide Catholics in weighing the issues deciding whom to support.

Some of the statements express dismay at the choices presented in the persons of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, put it bluntly: “The political climate in the United States is chaotic and dispiriting. The Presidential nominees of both major political parties seem scandal-plagued and corrupt. America deserves better but perhaps these two contenders for our nation’s highest political office are simply a reflection of the citizenry.”

As Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput wrote in his column, “Both candidates for the nation’s top residence, the White House, have astonishing flaws.”

The archbishop went on to say: “This is depressing and liberating at the same time. Depressing, because it’s proof of how polarized the nation has become. Liberating, because for the honest voter, it’s much easier this year to ignore the routine tribal loyalty chants of both the Democratic and Republican camps.”

“The deepest issues we face as a church and a nation this year won’t be solved by an election,” he said in another column. That’s not an excuse to remove ourselves from the public square. We do need to think and vote this November guided by properly formed Catholic consciences. But as believers, our task now is much more difficult and long-term. We need to recover our Catholic faith as a unifying identity across party lines.”

Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik issued a statement Oct. 27 urging all parishes in his diocese to keep their churches open for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament Nov. 7 so people could prayerfully prepare for Election Day Nov. 8. ““Encourage your people to come before the Lord present in the Eucharist and ask for God to guide our nation and shape the consciences of its citizens, he said. In his column in today’s issue of the Pittsburgh Catholic, he urges Catholics to “pray before you enter that voting booth.”

For Bishop Donald J. Kettler of St. Cloud, Minnesota, it was important to encourage some of his flock: “’Do not be afraid,’ Jesus told his disciples. In this election year, as we prepare to vote for candidates who will make important decisions for our country and our state, I would add: ‘Do not be discouraged!’”

“We modern-day disciples face many challenges when it comes to voting and living out our civic responsibilities,” he wrote. Being a responsible voter isn’t easy, he acknowledged, but “Our Catholic voices are needed more than ever this election year.”

For Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Catholics must form their consciences rightly and seek the common good, not simply a partisan agenda. “The common good is not identifiable with any party platform or ideology. Catholics should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group. Nor is the common good what the majority of people want. It is rather ‘the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and easily.’”

For Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, it is important that the clergy not dictate who to vote for or to intervene directly into the political process. In a column in his archdiocesan newspaper, Cardinal Wuerl wrote: “Each year in which we move toward a national election, I remind my brother priests that we are in the pulpit as proclaimers of the Gospel, not as political leaders. No one elected us as their political representative and there might be serious reason to believe they probably would not.”

(CNS photo/Joe Raedle pool via Reuters)

(CNS photo/Joe Raedle pool via Reuters)

“This presidential election presents all Americans with a difficult choice. Both major political parties have nominated very flawed candidates,” wrote Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, in his column in The Leaven, the archdiocesan newspaper. “In making your decision as a voter, I encourage you to think not only of the candidate, but who they will appoint to key Cabinet and other powerful government positions if he or she becomes president. We are choosing not just a president, but an entire administration.” He joined other Kansas bishops in recording a video message about the elections.

Writing in “Angelus,” the online news outlet for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez noted that many issues facing the country have not really been discussed — from abortion and racial injustice to homelessness to the death penalty and growing support for euthanasia and assisted suicide. “At the heart of the discontent in American life, I see a confusion about the human person. … We don’t know what it means to be a human person. Democracy cannot stand without a proper understanding of the human person.”

Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis has addressed the U.S. election in now nine of his columns in The Criterion,  the archdiocesan newspaper. His latest was published Nov. 4: “Despite the challenges we face, we should approach the coming election with gratitude to God for the freedom we have to exercise our right to select our public officials and participate in setting direction for our local, state and federal governments.”

“The bishops do not tell us whom to vote for, but they do advise us on the moral principles that must be applied to each major issue,” he wrote in an earlier column. “Then it’s up to us to study the positions of candidates and the platforms of political parties, and determine where they stand in relationship to fundamental moral values. … An informed conscience is one that looks beyond political correctness and the ideologies of the left and the right to find the truth.”

On behalf of Georgia’s bishops, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory recorded a video series on “Faithful Citizenship.” “The church does not support or oppose candidates or politicians for any public office. Indeed, it is clear that no political party reflects the fullness of Catholic social teaching in its entirety,” he said. “In the Catholic tradition, participation in the political process is a moral obligation, rooted in our baptismal commitment. It is a duty for us as both Americans and as Catholics.”

The bishops of Minnesota likewise recorded a video message on the elections released by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, their public policy arm. “Stop complaining and start praying. Use our Election Day novena to prayerfully prepare yourself for faithful citizenship on Nov. 8 and beyond,” says the conference website.

Writing in America magazine back in February, San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy examined “four central pillars of life” he said are “at stake in the political common good” of the country this election year: abortion, poverty, care of the earth and assisted suicide. “Each of them reflects the ‘throwaway culture’ that Pope Francis has identified as a central cancer of our modern world,” he said.

ELECTION LIFE ISSUES

(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“Allow your ongoing personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the church to guide your political decisions,” Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila wrote in his column on the archdiocese’s Denver Catholic news website. “I say this because we believe that the truth about ourselves and the world we live in is revealed in and through him. Our society suffers and has suffered for quite some time because too few people live an integrated life — one that does not divide ‘the personal’ from ‘the public.'”

In Vermont, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington told Catholics in the statewide diocese: “My first encouragement is that each of us who can vote in this November’s election do so. Do not abdicate your right to vote. It is a privilege and a duty. … We must exercise that right to vote and have our voices heard. Secondly, I ask that as people of faith we not leave that faith in Jesus Christ and in his church at the door of the voting booth but allow that faith to inform the choices we make in that booth. I encourage you to spend some time in prayer prior to voting, asking the Holy Spirit to infuse you with her guidance in making choices that are in keeping with our faith and the common good of all.”

“Like many of you, I lament the current climate of division, and the mean-spiritedness and intolerance of some toward those who do not agree with candidates and positions that do not fit their worldview,” wrote Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, in a letter to Catholics posted on the diocesan website.

“If you think you are confused and slightly battered by the noise, public protests and private misgivings,” Bishop Murphy said, “you have every reason to be so. But as responsible citizens and faithful men and women of God, we have to exercise our right to vote in a way that is serious, well-informed and reflective of who we are as Americans and Catholics.” He also talked about voting in the October issue of The Long Island Catholic diocesan magazine.

Voters this election year “need a great deal of ambiguity tolerance,” said Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, in a message on the diocese’s website. “You and I have a lot to pray for between now and Election Day — especially for a renewed politics that focuses on moral principles, the defense of life, the needs of the weak and the pursuit of the common good. And of course we must also consider each candidate’s integrity, philosophy and performance. We don’t just need ambiguity tolerance this election cycle, we need the wisdom of Solomon and the guidance of the Holy Spirit!”

After such a “contentious and unsettling presidential race,” Bishop Patrick J. McGrath of San Jose, California, asked in a blog post that Catholics and all people of goodwill “come together on Nov.  8th and 9th and on all of the days that follow to continue to forge one nation, subject to the rule of law and to unite as one American people, committed to the common good.”

In urging Catholics in his archdiocese to look to “Faithful Citizenship” for guidance for the elections, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, said that by offering that guidance, “some accuse the bishops of trying to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote, thus embroiling the church in partisan politics. Others think that the bishops are timid, and that they should be more pointed in telling Catholics exactly how to vote in light of the gravity of the moral issues.”

But in the document, he said, “the bishops state flatly: ‘The church is involved in the political process but is not partisan. The church cannot champion any candidate or party.’ What the church is calling for is ‘a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by the moral convictions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable.’”

In New Mexico, Archbishop  John C. Wester of Santa Fe, too, reminded Catholics of the bishops’ document.  “As we near the finish line of this election cycle” Nov. 8, it is understandable that emotions are running high,” he said. “This is certainly true for those of us who care deeply about the sanctity of human life, particularly vulnerable human life in the womb.  Yet these emotions do not give us license to espouse positions that do not embrace the full moral teaching of our Catholic tradition.  Nor do they allow leaders in the church to endorse or denounce a candidate because of his or her position on a given issue.”

In the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, Bishop Mark J. Seitz in a blog post likewise pointed to “Faithful Citizenship.” He acknowledged the dilemma facing Catholic voters this year, but he also said that beyond Election Day, “we desperately need citizens of character, committed to the common good and guided by revealed wisdom, to step up and be involved if our democratic republic is to continue to be a place of well-being for its people and a source of hope for the world.”

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Oct. 30, 2016

"You spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!" -- Wisdom 11:26-12:1

“You spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!” — Wisdom 11:26-12:1

 

Oct. 30, Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Wisdom 11:22-12:2

      Psalm 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14

      2) 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2

      Gospel: Luke 19:1-10

 

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

Amid last summer’s series of tragic shootings in cities across the country, a news story reported that the alleged gunman who killed several police officers in Dallas had received tactical instruction at a private self-defense academy two years earlier.

According to the story, an instructor at the school recalled that the man had attended training there, but said, “I don’t know anything about Micah … he’s gone. He’s old to us. I have thousands of people.”

Naturally, this school spokesman wanted to distance the academy from the tragedy. But someone he’d once called by name in his class now had become to him a nonperson forgotten in a faceless crowd.

That gunman is an extreme example of a person lost from God.

While society no longer desires to claim him, today’s Scriptures tell us that God still does.

As unbelievable as that may seem, the Book of Wisdom explains the Creator’s unconditional love: “You love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made.”

Whether it is an extreme case or a mild case of someone turning away from God, Wisdom says God has “mercy on all” and “overlook(s) people’s sins that they may repent.”

It is unimaginable to the human mind, but the depth of God’s love and mercy is such that he forever seeks out the fallen and failed of his children to lift them free of evil and redeem them for a new life.

Simply put, that’s why he sent Jesus.

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus embraces the reviled, sinful tax collector Zacchaeus, who then, transformed by love, responds by becoming the good man God created him to be. Jesus explains, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

He wants us to believe it — and to be part of it — even today when we see our world rocked and riven by meanness, violence and hatred.

Because we ourselves are blessed and redeemed by God, when we encounter a person in the throes of evil or otherwise lost from God, we need to remember here is someone who was preciously made by him in love. Then Jesus’ mission becomes ours: to seek and save the lost.

QUESTIONS:

What are some specific examples of God’s love and saving grace in your life that inspire you to more intently seek out and embrace others who are lost? Who do you know who is lost from God?

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Oct. 23, 2016

"Oh God, be merciful to me a sinner." -- Luke 18:13

“Oh God, be merciful to me a sinner.” — Luke 18:13

 

Oct. 23, Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18

      Psalm 34:2-3, 17-19, 23

      2) 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

      Gospel: Luke 18:9-14

 

By Deacon Mike Ellerbrock
Catholic News Service

When I pointed out in a homily that not all saints are officially canonized, a woman said to me after Mass, “That may be true, but the great saints get to wear a crown in heaven, like St. Paul in today’s epistle!” It got me to thinking: Are there trophies for us in heaven, blue ribbons as eternal accessories?

The real underlying issue in today’s Scriptures is: Why is it OK for Paul to boast of his faith, but not for the Pharisee in the Gospel to declare his virtues superior to the tax collector? Actually, the distinction is clear.

Paul boasts of his unwavering trust in the Lord, not of his own earthly merits. Conversely, the Pharisee believes that his diligent efforts obligate God’s praise and eternal reward, especially relative to the despised tax collector.

Like Paul, the humble tax collector gets it. Unable to proudly raise his face to God’s, he simply bows and begs for God’s mercy.

We cannot make deals with God, punching our ticket to paradise. Salvation is attained not by virtuous acts — adherence to the law — but by our acceptance of Jesus’ redemption on the cross, which was perfect and complete. We could never do enough good works to demand eternal residence with God.

Our task is to humbly accept God’s gratuitous love and respond by living a life of gratitude. Hence, we are eucharistic people: The Greek term “eucharisteo” means to give thanks. We must do good works, not to earn salvation, but because it is the only logical response to Jesus’ free and unmerited gift to us.

Note that Paul proclaims the crown is available to all, whereas the arrogant Pharisee bases his self-righteousness relative to other sinners.

The heavenly crown, trophy or ribbons we might receive upon crossing that threshold may be the sacred privilege of seeing firsthand the wounds Christ bore for us. What greater testimony do we need of his love for us?

It has been said that the Bible can be summed up in one word: trust. Salvation history is written by the Author of Life. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament, God constantly promises his covenant with humanity and never fails us. Of that we can boast.

QUESTIONS:

Is doing good works out of guilt or fear a help or hindrance to our spiritual growth? How can we improve our consciences to better understand our motivations?

In the midst of debate nastiness, a nun provides relief on Twitter

While some are letting out a sigh of relief that the last of the presidential debates — and the prime time nastiness that’s accompanied them — is over, part of me will miss the running debate commentary of @onegroovynun.

If there’s a tweet that describes how most voters feel this presidential election season, Sister Miriam James captured it here:

I first heard about her tweets from Michele Dunne, a lay Franciscan during a Washington reception. If I need a laugh and distraction from some of the particularly disagreeable language, egregious allegations and bitterness the election has sown, a quick glance at @onegroovynun and her, perhaps, unintentional Twitter ministry makes me smile, at least briefly.

Her low-budget cast of characters employs sidekick Sister Mary and various bobbleheads of saints of the pope to make her point.

Here are other goodies from her Twitter feed:

Duterte’s war on drugs: Filipinos weigh in with mixed reviews

Images from the Philippines' war on drugs. (CNS layout/Images by Reauters, EPA)

Images from the Philippines’ war on drugs. (CNS layout/Images by Reauters, EPA)

By Tyler Orsburn

Filipino American History Month is October in the United States. Feelings between the Philippines and the United States have been good for a long time, although the U.S. military presence has been an ongoing source of tension among some Filipinos.

Legend has it when U.S. troops liberated the mostly Catholic country from Japanese occupation during World War II, locals swapped their home-cooked meals for GI MREs. This simple gesture of camaraderie may have been the beginning of Filipinos’ legendary fascination with corned beef and canned meats.

Today, another topic of conversation among Filipinos in and outside the country is President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, and several shared their thoughts with Catholic News Service. Reuters reported Oct. 17 that Philippines police killed nearly 2,300 people since June 30, with another 1,300 murders by vigilantes.

Ariel Turalio, a small-business owner in Antipolo, supports Duterte’s drug policy. He told CNS his country has a massive drug addiction problem and that people want to earn easy money by pushing drugs.

“Filipinos are lucky to have a president who has the will to fight illegal drugs,” he wrote. “What will become of future generations if everyone is addicted to drugs?”

Jesuit Father Joel Tabora in Mindanao echoed those sentiments.

An alleged drug user is arrested during a police operation against illegal drugs in Manila Oct. 6.(CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)

An alleged drug user is arrested during a police operation against illegal drugs in Manila Oct. 6.(CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)

“Are the means unnecessarily illegitimate?” he asked the British news agency Reuters from Davao, where Duterte was mayor for 22 years. “People are dying, yes, but on the other hand, millions of people are being helped.”

Many islanders think like Turalio and the Catholic priest. According to a recent survey, Reuters reports, Duterte and his drug war command a 76 percent satisfaction rating.

But for those old enough to remember President Ferdinand E. Marcos and the 1970s, martial law may be just around Duterte’s domestic policy corner.

“Filipinos’ compassionate culture is now being corrupted by Duterte’s counterfeit war on drugs, which I suspect is just a prelude or dress rehearsal to a more violent form of martial law,” a parishioner at Santisima Trinidad Catholic Church in Manila told CNS. He said his father was incarcerated during martial law in the 1970s and ’80s, and that he will oppose it through peaceful means when it returns.

“I’m against extrajudicial killings,” wrote a former Catholic college student from Sibuyan Island. She said she believes people have the right to defend themselves through legal matters.

Back in Seattle, Washington, an 84-year-old Filipino-American is baffled by what’s going on in her motherland.

“Like most of my peers I am appalled with the way the Philippine president has dealt with the drug problem in his country,” said Dorothy Laigo Cordova, who, with her late husband, founded the Filipino American National Historical Society. “(I) seem to see a parallel with Duterte and other dictatorial leaders. He fails to realize that the Philippines needs the U.S. to help with the growing encroachment by China in the China Sea.”

On Oct. 19, the Philippine president, accompanied by hundreds of business leaders, was in Beijing to discuss what he called a new commercial alliance.

Pop art pope wins graffiti game of peace

UPDATE: After being up less than half the day, the city’s waste collectors came to scrape everything off. Like two years ago, spray paint graffiti, trash and unsanitary mementos of a canine kind remain…

Screengrab from Twitter feed of Rome-based journalist @FrancoisVayne

Screengrab from Twitter feed of Rome-based journalist @FrancoisVayne

VATICAN CITY — In a clandestine graffiti game of Tic-Tac-Toe, an artistic rendition of Pope Francis turns the O’s into peace signs and makes the win while a Swiss Guard acts as the lookout.

A removable paper art piece by Rome artist Mauro Pallotta. (CNS photo/ Carol Glatz)

A removable paper art piece in the “Borgo” historic neighborhood near the Vatican by Rome artist Mauro Pallotta. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Mauro Pallotta, who signs his work, “Maupal,” pasted his latest creation to a corner store wall near the Vatican today in the historic neighborhood of “the Borgo.”

The Rome-born artist draws and paints removable street art onto paper that he then glues to building walls with a water-based adhesive in an effort to display street art in a way that doesn’t damage the buildings that become his canvas.

"Super Pope" by Mauro Pallotta appeared briefly near the Vatican in January 2014. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

“Super Pope” by Mauro Pallotta appeared briefly near the Vatican in January 2014. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

The easy removal of his works, however, meant an early demise for his “Super Pope” piece from 2014.

Affixed in the same “Borgo” neighborhood on a side street, that wall art only lasted a few days when city “decorum police” had it peeled off and repainted the wall. Its mere three-day “exhibition” still attracted a large amount of international attention.

 

p.s. Can you find the “mistake” in the new piece? While lots of passersby praised the work, one older gentleman immediately saw an anomaly that I didn’t catch until he mentioned it.

 

 

Poet and pope — or laureate and saint

Pope John Paul II greets American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 1997. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via EPA)

St. John Paul II greets American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 1997. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via EPA)

So Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Some folks would have much preferred someone else had won. To others, it’s a welcome recognition of his lyric gifts.

Nineteen years ago, Catholic New Service ran a guest commentary by Ivan Kubista, then editor of The Courier, the newspaper of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota, who recalled his college days when he and Dylan were classmates. Kubista also was a struggling folk singer trying to land a few gigs to pay for college tuition. He sometimes shared a stage with Dylan in their native Minnesota. When Dylan announced he was dropping out of school to head to the West Coast to get a job as a backup musician, Kubista tried to discourage him. A couple of years later Dylan released an album of his own songs. “It was already apparent to me, if not to the rest of the world, that Bob’s genius was in his compositions, not his performing,” Kubista noted.

He described following Dylan’s career over the years and had high praise for his lyrics at least: “He has become a poet of the highest caliber, articulating the human condition with a clarity unmatched by any of his peers.”

Kubista’s reflections came on the eve of Dylan performing before St. John Paul II — and about 350,000 of the pope’s closest friends — at a concert in Bologna, Italy, as part of an Italian eucharistic congress in 1997. It was heralded as the first rock concert ever attended by the pope, or any pope for that matter. There was a to-do over the appropriateness of Dylan being invited to perform at a religious gathering, but it never reached the controversy of Dylan “going electric” at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Dylan was invited because his music was “true and beautiful” and “the church welcomes whatever is true and beautiful and good,” said Msgr. Ernesto Vecchi, a vicar of the archdiocese. Dylan sang “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and “Forever Young” in his set, and shook St. John Paul’s hand. The pope acknowledged the true of the refrain of one Dylan staple, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.” “Not, however, in the wind that blows everything away into nothingness,” he said, “but in the wind that is the breath and voice of the Spirit, the voice that calls and says, ‘Come!'”

Then there was Dylan’s “born-again” period. Sometimes people turn to religion when they’ve reached a low ebb. His 1978 studio album, “Street-Legal,” was poor compared to the  masterwork “Blood on the Tracks” just three years prior, and his “Live at Budokan” followup was nearly unlistenable. But then comes a new Dylan, and his “Slow Train Coming” garnered at least as much debate as it did sales, reaching No. 3 on the U.S. charts and gaining platinum status. “Saved,” which mined the same field of Christian rock,” didn’t fare as well, and “Shot of Love” sold even fewer copies.

But “Infidels” got Dylan back to gold-record status. Although he didn’t do such overtly Christian albums again, you could still see elements of faith every now and again in his subsequent work.