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Faithful Citizenship Decision 2016

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We are approximately 3 weeks away from what is arguably the most intense election cycle our country has ever dealt with. The intensity has cause divisions for some within their families, amongst their friends and within the workplace. I have seen social media bullying and name-calling over candidates and election issues. Many people I know, including many Catholics, and including myself, feel an internal, anxious struggle as we form our conscience surrounding the issues and the candidates. And so before I even touch the subject of faithful citizenship and politics, I ask you to take a moment to quiet your mind, take a deep breath, and pray:

Lord God, as the election approaches,
we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city, state, and country,
and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.
We ask for eyes that are free from blindness
so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters,
one and equal in dignity,
especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.
We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned,
Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom.
We pray for discernment
so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word,
live your love,
and keep in the ways of your truth
as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles
and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.
Prayer Before An Election, US Conference of Catholic Bishops

Sent Into the World

As Jesus Christ the Son was sent into the world by God the Father, so Christ sends us into the world (John 17:18). Christ has sent us to share God and to love and care for our neighbor. And so in a nation such as the United States, where we are blessed with the opportunity to have a voice in politics, we have a responsibility to live our Catholic faith at all times, including politics.

Living our faith is difficult in many circumstances and situations in our lives, as our sinful human nature causes us to struggle. Yet we find our strength in Christ. We find ourselves nourished by His Church and we become empowered by the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation to form our consciences to be strong Catholics living in the world.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that: [The] conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings” (CCC #1783).

And it is with these well-formed consciences that we are called to make decisions in the world, including in politics. Because when “Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them” (CCC #1786).

To help us form our consciences, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops revised their 2007 document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, in November 2015. This 37-page document is meant to assist us in discerning our political decisions as a teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics in the United States. It is meant not to tell us who to vote for. It is meant to aid us in forming our consciences in accordance with God’s Truth. This document has been updated to include Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, and Pope Francis’ encyclicals, Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si’, as well as to address recent domestic and foreign policies such as abortion, physician assisted suicide, the redefinition of marriage, ecological and environmental concerns, deadly attacks on Christians and religious minorities, religious freedom, economic policies, immigration and the refugee crisis and wars, terror and violence.

Sometimes people question if it’s appropriate for the Church to play a role in politics. However, because the Church is obligated to care for Her people, She has an obligation to teach and share moral truths that shape us in our entirety, not just the life we live when we are on parish property. Our entire selves, and at all times.

 

Political Relativism vs. Faithful Citizenship

We live in a relativistic society that tells us that ‘what is right for you is right for you and what is right for me is right for me, and that’s all okay because there’s nothing that’s absolutely right.’ 

This mindset carries over into specific political issues, even for Catholics, leading us to give more weight to some political issues over others. Except that as Catholics, we know that this mindset often causes the replacement of Truth with opinion. It becomes personal preferences swayed by our sinful nature instead of allowing ourselves to make morally conscious decisions in accordance with our faith. And as People of God we have “…the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. ‘He [man] must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters’ ” (CCC #1782).

Politically, we are sometimes confronted with situations in which making a moral decision is difficult, even with a well-formed conscience. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has guidelines to help us in these situations too:

      Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision       
      difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God
      expressed in divine law. To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the
      signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the
      help of the Holy Spirit and his gifts. Some rules apply in every case:
            —One may never do evil so that good may result from it;
            —the Golden Rule: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”
            —charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience: “Thus             
                  sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ.”
      Therefore “it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble.”
      #1787-1789

And from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States:

      Aided by the virtue of prudence in the exercise of well-formed consciences, Catholics are called to             
      make practical judgments regarding good and evil choices in the political arena. There are some
      things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible
      with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to
      the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be
      rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned… It is a mistake with grave
      moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of
      individual choice… The right to life implies and is linked to other human rights—to the basic goods
      that every human person needs to live and thrive. All the life issues are connected… St. Pope John             
      Paul II explained the importance of being true to fundamental Church teachings: ‘Above all, the
      common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights— for example, the right to health,
      to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and
      fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum
      determination’ (Christifideles Laici, no. 38).

      #21, 22, 25, 26

Living our faith as Catholics and living in the world are not easy. And as we make our decisions for the November 2016 election, as we are called to do for all things, we must prayerfully discern our voting decisions. And so to close, I ask you to pray daily with me and many others, for all our currently elected officials, candidates for office in November and ballot issues to be voted on.

 

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Interested in videos or audio on Faithful Citizenship? Looking for a novena for the election? Need materials to discuss the election and Faithful Citizenship with children, teens or other adults? Visit the USCCB Faithful Citizenship website.

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Advocating for the Unborn: An Interview with Dr. Alveda King

alveda kingI was recently blessed to interview Dr. Alveda King, daughter of Rev. A.D. King and niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She is a powerhouse in the pro-life community, working tirelessly to bring the horrors of abortion to light and to bring an end to the ongoing slaughter of millions of babies each year. She works with Priests for Life as the Director of African American Outreach. She is passionate about not only ending abortion but also for carrying on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality for all, including the unborn. Following in her father’s and uncle’s footsteps, she bravely speaks from her heart, stands up to the injustices she sees taking place in our world, and refuses to allow anyone to be denied their God-given right to life.

Thank you for taking a moment to read what Dr. King shared with me. Her words are a powerful reminder that there is still so much to do to end this war against the tiniest humans in our communities, against the women who bear them, against the fathers who love them, and against our family units. However, as you’ll see, Dr. King reminds us that with God’s love, forgiveness, and help, we can still overcome this scourge.

The Catholic Church takes a strong, unrelenting stance on the sanctity of all life. You are not Catholic and yet you work with Priests for Life. Why did you choose to work with a Catholic Organization?

I believe God directed me. My uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., during his “I Have a Dream” speech said that he had a dream that Protestants and Catholics, Gentiles and Jews would join together and would sing “free at last!” In that effort to join with every community of faith on the planet, I accepted the invitation from Father Frank Pavone to head up the African American Outreach to educate, inform, and activate the African American community as to the terrible scourge of abortion and how the African American community is targeted, specifically by the abortion industry headed up by Planned Parenthood, to reduce our population through the scourge of abortion.

A very dear friend of mine told me that for her, in the black community, abortion is just considered “taking care of business”. When she had her abortion, no one batted an eye but said she did what “needed to be done”.  What can we do to change this attitude so that the next generation of black families doesn’t continue to fall prey this belief?

slavery When we look at the scourge of abortion, we can go back many, many thousands of years, all the way back to the Old Testament when there was a battle between Sarah and Hagar; Sarah, the wife of Abraham and her son Isaac, the heir to the Promise, and Hagar, the concubine to Abraham, through Sarah’s agreement and arrangement. Sarah said to Abraham, “Take this woman into your bed and have a child so that you can have an heir.” But God had another plan. When human beings intervene in divine intentions there can be outcomes that are not beneficial. And so, with slavery throughout the years, you always had the wife of the master and the slave or servant of the master conspiring against each other, sometimes through jealousy. I know that’s hard to understand, but when you see an African American woman saying, “We just did what we had to do. We were taking care of business”, you look at what that business is. Often black women, slave women, would kill their babies rather than have them born into slavery. Often the slave master’s wife would say, “I’ll help you not have babies. We can abort your babies or we can sterilize you.”

That kind of thought has gone on throughout the ages, but now, here in the 21st century, the spirit of the abolitionist has risen again. Men and women of faith and conscience are saying, “We can help the mother, we can help the father, and save the baby. We can love the family.” And so, when we love a family, a woman no longer has to feel that in retaliation or desperation she must kill her child. She is now learning no matter what her ethnic group happens to be, that she is loved, the baby is loved. The father is learning that his seed does not have to be destroyed.

This is a very resonating message. It is tied into the faith and love of Jesus Christ in His shed blood, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” In that message is also love for the family. Women can learn that they are loved and protected and their babies are as well. The father can know that he can guard over his seed rather than see it destroyed.

Margaret Sanger had a very specific agenda in mind when she founded Planned Parenthood. As she said, the goal was in part “the extermination of the negro population”. While Planned Parenthood denies that this is still their goal, do you think they still target the black community?

margaret sanger eugenicsI always wonder, and I say it all the time, “Who hurt Margaret Sanger when she was a girl; what happened to her that was so bad it caused her to want to kill little babies and maim women and disregard the seed of the father?” There are many who leave Planned Parenthood like Abby Johnson and many in a group called the Centurions for example. Centurions are former abortion providers- doctors, nurses, those who have run the abortion mills, and they come out and say, “We don’t want to do this anymore.” By their testimony many have admitted that the goal of Planned Parenthood is to kill and abort babies and to provide harmful contraception and sterilization procedures. It’s not only directed at the African American community through genocide, one of their other large population is college campuses, another is the Latino and Hispanic communities, and certainly to all women.

Interestingly enough, we have discovered that throughout the history of abortion, since 1973 with Roe Vs Wade, that often in the Caucasian areas where most of the clientele was Caucasian, they would sometimes offer opportunities to help those young ladies keep their babies, but with the African American women it was always abortion. We do know that this genocidal eugenics plan has been in place by the testimony of some who used to work for Planned Parenthood but who have now left.

Planned Parenthood’s Jaffe Memo from 1969 gave ideas and suggestions regarding population control. Planned Parenthood claims these were merely a list of suggestions and were never the policies of Planned Parenthood. Do you feel like we see some of these suggestions implemented in today’s society?

There is a global eugenics and genocide plan for those who have the wealth and human power to control the population to make an ideal world, to care for the planet, to care for the environment, and to have a smaller population and in their minds, a more worthy population. That is the goal of eugenic and genocide. Birth control and abortion are two measures that are used in these experiments, but there are many other warfare experiments- fluoridation of water is another one. So there are many plans to control the population and to take over the planet… but this is an age old plan, a human plan. There again, there is a divine plan where the love of God has enough provisions for all human beings.

Your father and your uncle fought so hard for equal rights for all people. Is this fight for unborn babies to be recognized as valuable humans with the same rights as those who are born the same fight as the one your family fought so valiantly? How do you think they would feel about this epidemic in our nation?

king brothersI know that if they were here today they would agree with me when I say that a woman has the right to choose what she does with her body, but the baby is not her body. Where’s the lawyer for the baby? It is possible to get justice, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in a family without killing our children. Mother Teresa had some of the strongest and firmest testimony on those accounts. We all know that Mother Teresa dedicated her adult life to caring for the least of these and she shows us we don’t have to kill people to gain our own inheritance.

What can we do, especially within the black community, to promote the pro-life agenda and take a stand like Martin Luther King did for civil rights, when we have the Margaret Sangers of the world working in direct opposition to us?

First, I always pray for the Margaret Sangers of the world- their spirits, their hearts, and their lives must have been wounded terribly to cause them to make these terrible and lasting decisions. There’s a more lasting opportunity, through Christ and His love for us, to reach out and help others. I forgive Margaret Sanger, I forgive the doctor who did my first abortion and I forgive Planned Parenthood. Certainly I stand against the heinous agendas, those agendas are wrong, they can and must be exposed, but in working in prayer and in love, the bible says that when we pray we must forgive as our Heavenly Father forgives us. So as we forgive we move forward with the understanding that abortion kills a baby, harms a mother, robs a father of a birthright, and so hurts societies and hurts communities but we ask God to guide us out of this heinous scourge into Truth.

As Christians it is our duty to protect all life, from the moment of conception to natural death, do you have any suggestions that can help us uphold God’s laws in terms of upholding the sanctity of life?

We have an election year in November of this year and next year. As we move forward we must vote as Godly, Christian people, and if we will agree to do that we will find that we can elect men and women of good character. If we are able to do that we certainly see that we can begin to contribute by our prayers, our votes, our actions, and our support of the Bible… all those things as Christians that we have to do.

alveda king civil rights

If you would like to read more from Dr. Alveda King you can follow her on her blog at Priests for Life.

Dr. King hoped this interview would be published before Election Day so she could encourage us to vote for life. She directed me to the following quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on May 17, 1957-

“Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights. Give us the ballot and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law on the statute books of the southern states and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence. Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly citizens. Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of good will, and send to the sacred halls of Congressmen who will not sign a Southern Manifesto, because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice. Give us the ballot and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will “do justly and love mercy,” and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the divine. Give us the ballot and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court’s decision of May 17, 1954.”

Please, take your hard-earned ballot and vote for life.

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Faithful Citizen: Vote with a Well Formed Conscience

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen seems to have been a prophet before his time. His quotes appear to resonate even more today than they did during his lifetime. They certainly belie an almost otherworldly understanding of what the citizens of today will be facing when they vote. We would do well to note that Sheen, like the Church herself, had much to share that simply does not go ‘out of style’. As we approach one of the most ominous election cycles I have experienced during my 55 years, it is also good to examine what Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), has to say about our duties of forming a Catholic conscience when it comes to civic responsibility.

The Church teaches us that we, as the people of God, have duties as faithful citizens. Among these is the obligation to vote. This duty is not to be taken lightly, especially since the line in the sand has been so clearly drawn in relation to the five non-negotiable issues presented by our Holy Mother Church, and there have been alarming developments in all five areas during the past several years – especially during the current administration.

Vote according to right or wrong, not majority!

  1. Abortion is being pushed to new and ever deadlier limits – at home and abroad – all the way to infanticide. It was also just announced that 13 schools in New York City will distribute the abortifiaciant Morning After Pill to students without parental knowledge or consent!
  2. Euthanasia: With the dawn of Obamacare, the fears of ‘death panels’ and denial of care loom over the elderly and those with terminal illnesses.
  3. Embryonic Stem Cells: Although there have been no positive outcomes from many years of embryonic stem cell research, this Frankensteinian experimentation is being pushed further and further. Conversely, morally acceptable adult stem cell therapies are curing many illnesses and are a resounding success.
  4. Human Cloning is another form of ‘weird science’ that seems to be a grave temptation for today’s scientific community. As one popular meme states, ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’, yet there are reports of human cloning being eminent if not already occurring.
  5. Gay ‘Marriage’: The homosexual friendly environment of today has also forced its way into our reality. Not only are ‘tolerance’ initiatives making a mockery of the true definition of the word, the explicit lifestyle surrounding sodomy has imposed itself into schoolsGirl Scouts, and even ‘Catholic organizations, as well as prime time television shows and movies.

Are we to lose heart in all of this? Heaven forbid. Even surrounded by such perverted justice, let us remember that ‘with God, all things are possible’ and our choices are really quite clear cut when viewed with a well formed conscience. Here’s where the non-negotiable issues make our voting options very clear. These five issues represent areas for which there can be NO COMPROMISE. Unlike other topics such as just war, poverty, the death penalty, and immigration – there is simply no alternative but to completely oppose them!  Under the danger of grave sin – they are to be at the top of our list of issues!

All other issues have two (or more) sides, if you will. Good Catholics can disagree about how to handle poverty, for instance. Some may believe that the Federal Government should hand out entitlements to give aid to the poor, but it is equally acceptable to believe in subsidiarity which focuses on the lowest level at which true charity is achievable. Otherwise there is a danger of socialism – a theory that has been strongly opposed by popes throughout the ages. Pope Leo XIII’s statements in his encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris strongly criticized socialism, and it was denounced again in Quareagesimo Anno in 1931 by Pope Pius XI, and he ventured to write, “no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true Socialist”.

Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.” CCC 1883

When the principle of subsidiarity is ignored, governments often overstep their bounds in managing matters best handled on a more local or individual level.

Contrary to how some perceive the Seamless Garment theory, issues such as poverty and the death penalty also do not carry weight equal to the five non-negotiable issues. Although many bishops and Catholics of good faith are working toward a legislative end to the death penalty, there is a monumental difference between the totally innocent lives at stake through abortion, embryonic experimentation, and cloning (as well as the helpless elderly) and those who have been tried by a jury of their peers and found guilty by civil authority. This is another area where good Catholics are allowed room to disagree.

Just War is another example of an issue in which we are allowed choices. Considering that civil authority has the right and obligation to defend its citizenry, the CCC states:

Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility. CCC 2265

We must acknowledge that those privy to military intelligence and government security clearances are much better equipped to make such decisions. Again, if we have objections to the way this is being handled, we have recourse in petitioning our elected representatives in an effort to bring about a change in policy. This is, however, not one of the five non-negotiable issues.

We may also find ourselves with choices that offer two less than perfect candidates. This is where the gift of reasoning comes into play. As Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life states,

“I’m often asked what a voter can morally do if two opposing candidates both support abortion. I recommend asking a simple question: Which of the two candidates will do less harm to unborn children if elected?”

If you are tempted to retreat from your obligation to vote, you need look no further than the CCC for your answer:

Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country CCC 2240 [Rom 13:7]

Vote according to these issues first!
Vote using these issues as your top priority!

In summary, while there are many important issues facing citizens today, it is imperative that we prioritize according to the wisdom of the Church. Only a properly formed conscience – one that has been educated about the specifics of faithful citizenship – is equipped to properly and faithfully make choices in the voting booth. To blindly vote from emotion, rather than clearly discerned fact and in consideration of the five non-negotiable issues, could be gravely sinful. It is our moral obligation to learn the positions of the candidates and to know the mind of the Church. So, when choosing the candidates to represent us, we are admonished to give priority to the five non-negotiable issues:

 1) Abortion, 2) Euthanasia, 3) Embryonic Stem Cell Research, 4) Human Cloning, and 5) Homosexual ‘Marriage’

Only then will we be morally practicing the duties of Faithful Citizenship!