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October 28, 2004 Edition

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Faithful citizenship: Listen to our young people

As we wind down toward Election Day on Nov. 2, some of us are saying, "Thank God, it's almost over!" It has been a very heated election season, especially here in Wisconsin, one of the "battleground" states.

For the past eight weeks, the Catholic Herald has published a voter education series prepared by the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. It covered church teaching on key areas such as protecting human life, promoting family life, and pursuing social justice. Our paper has also published articles from Catholic News Service focusing on the presidential candidates and Faithful Citizenship issues.

Students speak out. The Catholic Herald invited students in our diocesan Catholic schools and religious education programs to design campaign buttons and write essays on issues they feel are important. They addressed their "speeches" to "My Fellow Catholic Americans."

As one of the contest judges, I was very impressed by the entries. The range of issues was comprehensive: concern for the environment, the death penalty, abortion, marriage, helping the poor, war and education. These young people expressed their opinions and backed them up with church teaching and scriptural references.

Sixth grader Matt Crowley from St. Joseph School in Dodgeville urged people over 18 to vote. "All of us are called to be involved citizens who take an active part in public life," he said. He lamented the fact that only 30 to 40 percent of people vote in the United States. "It should be around 80 to 90 percent," he said. I couldn't have said it better.

Matt also said, "Because everyone is created equally, we should oppose abortion and euthanasia." He added that we should also be against the death penalty. When Matt does become a voter, he will realize that it is often difficult to find a candidate who supports all the life issues. He - like the rest of us - will have to examine all the issues and candidates and vote his conscience.

Congratulations to these young people and their teachers. I encourage everyone to read what these voters of the future have to say. Listen to them. They offer some wonderful insights as we get ready to vote.

Political ads. On another election matter. The Catholic Herald has published several political ads. Some people have complained, particularly about ads endorsing some candidates. Our diocesan newspaper follows the Guidelines for Church Involvement in Electoral Politics published by the Wisconsin Catholic Conference and endorsed by our state's Catholic bishops. (For a complete text of these guidelines, go to www.wisconsincatholic.org)

The section on diocesan newspapers clearly state that the newspaper "accepts advertising from all candidates, political parties and voter education groups, if offered, without regard to the advertisers' positions on particular issues." We publish a disclaimer informing readers that the acceptance of political advertising does not indicate endorsement by the newspaper or the diocese.

Informed voters. I believe the Catholic Herald has provided our readers with plenty of information on the issues and Catholic teaching. Our readers should be able to make informed, conscientious decisions when they vote. Whatever the outcome of the elections, we should continue to be active, responsible participants in the political process, treating our lawmakers and fellow citizens with respect.

Mary C. Uhler, editor

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We reserve the right to edit or reject letters. Limit letters to 200 words or less. All letters must be signed. Please include your city or town of residence.

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The Catholic Herald
P.O. Box 44985
Madison, WI 53744-4985

Fax: 608-821-3071
E-mail: info@madisoncatholicherald.org
Ad misleading in teaching Catholics how to vote

To the editor:

I was sorry to see the ad, "A Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics," in last week's paper. You have every right to run the ad, and it is important to sell advertising. But it is very misleading to see a piece that purports to teach Catholics how to vote, when it has no authority to do so.

I have looked, but can find no hint that any bishop gave his approval for this publication, nor that any Catholic theologian gave it guidance. Catholic teaching on important moral issues is cited, but they are forced toward a political conclusion that is simply not warranted. Catholic teaching on abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research is quite clear. But the political choices that would best promote these teachings are not always so clear.

If they were, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' statement, The Challenge of Faithful Citizenship - a Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, could have been a lot shorter. Our bishops publish a "voters' guide" every four years to give balanced and accurate teaching to the Catholics of the United States, so we can vote responsibly. In addition, diocesan bishops have the right to teach further on the subject, as our own Bishop Morlino has done.

Catholic teaching is not in question, but political choices are. President Clinton was in favor of a woman's right to choose an abortion, but the abortion rate in the country went down during his administration. President Bush is pro-life, but the abortion rate has gone up during his administration. The opinion of a president or a Supreme Court justice is very important, but other issues (like the way poverty, jobs, and health care concerns affect a pregnant woman's life), must also be considered.

My concern in all this is what will happen to our country and our Church after the election. Neither candidate adequately supports Catholic teaching. Yet, we must vote. We are quite divided as citizens and as Catholics. But my convictions and concerns give me no right to demonize those who disagree with me.

As St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians (read at Mass last Friday), "I plead with you . . . to live a life worthy of the calling you have received, with perfect humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another lovingly. Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force" (Eph. 4:1-3).

May the Spirit of truth, right judgment, peace, and love be always with us.

Fr. Stephen J. Umhoefer,
pastor of Nativity of Mary Parish, Janesville

Laws won't reduce abortions

To the editor:

The Catholic Herald seems to be joining some of the Catholic hierarchy in leaning more and more toward the far religious right. They remind me of the Scribes and the Pharisees of biblical times. Christ did not like them so I don't know why any Catholic would align themselves with them. They suppress any views other than their own.

A case in point is their claiming that some politicians have voted for abortion. That is not true. What they have voted for is to give a woman who is having an abortion the opportunity to have it in a safe and sanitary place. Otherwise some of them die because of where, how, and by whom it is done.

Anyone who thinks that passing some law is going to reduce abortions is sticking their heads in the sand. The way to cut down on abortions is to reduce or eliminate unwanted pregnancies by providing better knowledge and means to do so. The Catholic Herald could do a lot more in that regard.

LeRoy Metcalf, Shullsburg

Unborn are 'poorest of poor'

To the editor:

Our Lord said to have a preference for the poor. The unborn are the poorest of the poor; no one is more dependent or helpless.

Please reflect prayerfully on their situation when you consider how you will vote. If Christ has a special love for the most vulnerable, we, who claim to be His followers, need to manifest that, first of all, by doing what we can to protect their right to be.

Those who care about the "poorest of the poor" also must have compassion and empathy for their mothers, who may be facing pregnancy alone or under difficult circumstances. In our area, we are privileged to be able to provide tangible assistance by supporting one of several crisis pregnancy centers and, more recently The Elizabeth House.

A slogan for Feminists of Life of America says it best: "Women deserve better than abortion." So do their babies.

Marge Karsten, Platteville

Questions if Bush is 'pro-life'

To the editor:

As President, George W. Bush ordered the bombings of Afghanistan with the intent of killing Osama-bin Laden. Maybe a good idea but it didn't work. Instead thousands of men, women, children, and babies in the womb were killed. That's pro-life?

Then against the advice of other countries, our own military advisors who couldn't tie Saddam into 9-11, our own military brass, who told him invading Iraq would be a mistake, plus the reports from the inspectors who couldn't find any weapons of mass destruction (WMD), he ordered the attack on Iraq. The result? No WMD were found but thousands of people died, including babies in the womb. That's pro-life?

Military people in Iraq are committing suicide at a higher rate than normal for war time. He put them there. That's pro-life?

Thousands of Americans, coalition forces, other nationalities, Iraqis, and Afghanistanies have died because of his actions. That's pro-life?

Wallace Keller, Mt. Horeb

Vote with our heart and soul

To the editor:

This election is not about being a Republican or Democrat. That's the old system of voting blindfolded to the facts and following the same path your parents and you have followed election after election. This election we must all vote with what is in our heart, our soul. Not Republican or Democrat.

It is one of the most important elections in our lifetime. Why? Because it is an election that will either lower our way of life to the liberalism of in-morality and un-Godliness in our public life or it will work to continue our current path of teaching God's purpose for blessing this country with so much.

The economy, the war, health insurance will take care of its self. It has before in every election, in every other war, in every hardship this country has faced. Our country has been blessed with more than any other country. But if we throw away our belief in God's blessing, then we have thrown away life as we know it today.

We have only ourselves to blame if the liberals take charge of our courts, lower our morals with same-sex marriages, and remove our view of God and all His words from every public site.

I don't want my grandchildren or my children's grandchild living in a Godless society or by liberal standards. And I think deep within your heart neither do you.

If it hurts you to vote for Bush, then stay home. One less vote for the liberals is a vote for keeping this country on the current path of faith and love in Him.

L. Billings, Madison

Put faith above political parties

To the editor:

I was offered a campaign sticker for "Catholics for Kerry." I declined since I do not support his campaign, but I did a search on the Web to see what Catholics who support Kerry had to say.

This is what I found with regard to abortion: "We believe that a human life begins at conception because there is no other logically determinable beginning. We believe that at some point in our development, humans acquire a soul endowed by our Creator - a spiritual identity, apart from the physical stuff of our human existence that can be seen under a microscope.

"Because we are so much more than our DNA, it is a matter of personal and collective religious belief as to when this 'ensoulment' occurs, and it has been reasonably argued that a soul cannot exist without the presence of some level of consciousness, presumably embodied in a central nervous system."

The teaching of the Catholic Church in the Catechism, paragraph 2270, is: "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life."

I have sent e-mails to several Catholics for Kerry Web sites to inform them of this discrepancy in their statement and church teaching. The only response I received has been from the Wisconsin group which denied any responsibility for the statement and refused to take any action.

I would like to ask politically involved Catholics to place faith in the church above faith in political parties. It is incredibly important that we do not let the Gospel message be distorted for the purpose of political gain.

Mark Nornberg, Madison

Vote for pro-life candidates

To the editor:

Catholic voters need to send a message to Democrat Party leadership that pro-abortion candidates are unacceptable. The best way to send that message is to vote only for pro-life candidates. Only then will the Democrat Party mend its pro-abortion ways.

There are several U.S. Supreme Court members over age 80. It is likely that the next president will nominate two Supreme Court justices. President Bush will nominate pro-life justices. Kerry made it plain in the debates that his litmus test would result in pro-abortion justices. The president serves a four-year term but Supreme Court justices are in office until death or choosing retirement.

We have an opportunity to change the court so that Roe vs. Wade will be overturned. Please vote George W. Bush for president and vote Tim Michels for Senate.

Bonnie Gneiser, Berlin

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