Catholics in political life:
Bishops respond with wisdom and clarity
Dealing with the pressures of a presidential election campaign, the U.S. Catholic bishops
responded with wisdom and clarity by issuing a statement on June 18 entitled Catholics in Political Life.
The complete text of that statement is published on Page 18 [print edition only] of this week's Catholic Herald. (Interested people can also find the text on the bishops' Web site at www.usccb.org/bishops/catholicsinpoliticallife.htm)
I encourage all Catholics to read this statement and share it with others. The bishops clearly address the subject of politics and religion. They emphasize their role as teachers and discuss moral issues while making sure people know they do not endorse political parties or individual candidates.
Here are the key points:
Protecting human life. The bishops say they need to continue to "teach clearly and help other Catholic leaders to teach clearly on our unequivocal commitment to the legal protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death." This teaching should be reflected in parishes and in educational, health care, and human service ministries.
Although many Catholic institutions are committed to respect for life, sometimes this commitment is not stated boldly for all to see. I would encourage Catholic parishes, schools, and other institutions to make respect for life a part of their mission statements and incorporate pro-life education and advocacy into the daily life of the institution's work.
Dialogue and persuasion. "We need to do more to persuade all people that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended," say the bishops. They believe this will require more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials, especially those who are Catholic. The bishops welcome conversation initiated by political leaders.
More dialogue between individual bishops and politicians should help build understanding and respect. Hopefully, politicians will listen to the bishops as moral leaders and both bishops and politicians can find common ground on which to work together for the good of all in our society.
Lay action. "Catholics need to act in support of these principles and policies in public life. It is the particular vocation of the laity to transform the world," say the bishops. The laity should examine the positions of the candidates, form their consciences, and make choices based on Catholic moral and social teaching.
We lay people play a critical role in civil society. The bishops urge us not to be afraid to take our Catholic beliefs into the public arena. We cannot separate our faith from our daily life. We cannot go to Mass on Sunday and then forget we're Catholic on Monday (or Tuesday when we go to the polls).
The bishops tell Catholic institutions to "not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles" with awards, honors, or platforms which suggest support for their actions. This is a warning especially to Catholic colleges to be cautious about granting honorary degrees.
While much has been said about denying the Eucharist to pro-choice Catholic politicians, the bishops leave this up to individual bishops. Respect for the Eucharist "demands that it be received worthily and "that it be seen as the source for our common mission in the world."
Mary C. Uhler, editor
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Reagan and 'Catholic' issues
To the editor:
With the passing of former president Ronald Reagan, millions of Americans, Catholic and non-Catholics alike, are in mourning. An article in the June 10 Catholic Herald from Catholic News Service details some aspects of his presidency from a Catholic point of view.
One of the highlights of his presidency was the fall of the Soviet Union. Some maintain
that Reagan's advocacy of increased military spending led to the downfall of the "Evil Empire" (as he called it). More accurately the efforts of a trade union movement called "Solidarity" led by a Polish electrician named Lech Walesa with the help of his priest are responsible for the fall of the Soviet Bloc.
Another highlight of Reagan's presidency was the release of a missionary held captive by Islamic militants. Fr. Jenko was the first of several hostages released under Reagan's "Arms for Hostages" program that became known as the Iran-Contra Affair. The downside of the program was the slaughter of several nuns and Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador by the same Contras.
The last issue I will mention is the firing of air traffic controllers by Reagan and the
dissolution of their union, PATCO. Catholic social teaching not only allows for but promotes the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain for better pay and a safe working environment. Although the law had for years allowed for the replacement of workers in certain instances, corporate America had never attempted it until Reagan showed them how it's done. And this was from the former president of the Screen Actors Guild.
Jerome Joyce, Madison
Vote life first, other issues second
To the editor:
Colleen Barnett clearly expresses the conundrum facing many voters. How does one balance what appears to be a multitude of sins versus abortion?
In her letter, Colleen cites several things about the Bush administration that horrify her, including environmental policies. This concerned me also, so I looked into it. What I found surprised me. For example, the Bush administration does not support the Kyoto Treaty, designed to limit CO2 emissions to combat global warming. Then I found that the United States
Senate passed a resolution 95-0 AGAINST the Treaty during the Clinton administration. It turns out the link between CO2 emissions and global warming is dubious, at best.
I found conflicting information about nearly every issue, but there is no doubt that 4,000 babies are brutally and painfully killed by abortion every day. And women are being killed, maimed, and emotionally scarred for life.
We must build a future for our children and grandchildren on the foundation of God's love,
for every woman and child. I, for one, will vote for life first, and other issues second.
Ronald Faust, Cross Plains
Respect humanity in all its forms
To the editor:
Although chastised by the pope, George W. Bush still seems to believe he is doing God's
work in Iraq. Why does Bush believe Christianity tolerates violence? Does he believe being pro-life means only opposing abortion?
Pro-life means respecting all humanity in all its forms. It includes striving for peace,
charity, justice, compassion, truth, and even clean natural resources. As U.S. Catholics, we are being asked by the pope to weigh all the issues.
Joan Olson, Lone Rock