||This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.
If you weren’t certain before, after this current election season, I hope you’ve now come to understand and believe that we are not in heaven!
I love the United States of America. I truly believe that our Founding Fathers had it right in so many ways, and that we have enjoyed a country that has provided — albeit still imperfectly — levels of freedom and opportunity for more people than any other in history. Nevertheless, I never made the mistake of thinking that this was heaven, or that some perfect candidate or party was ever going to usher in God’s Kingdom here on earth.
Even still, in my lifetime I’ve always enjoyed a relative sense of certainty that the vast majority of Americans and even politicians desired a future for our country that was good and just, in accord with the highest good, truth, and justice itself. And, I have to admit that it’s hard to maintain that sense of certainty anymore.
It would seem that many people and politicians have now abandoned, even theoretically, the notion that there is a highest good or objective truth or justice, much less try to work out policy and platforms in order to strive for the good in accord with that conviction.
About future of our country
Nowhere is this lack of certainty more clear than in our presidential election this year. When I look at our two major-party candidates, I am not convicted to vote for either one of them. But this election is about far more than “Hillary and Trump”. It’s not only about two candidates. This election is about the future of our country and its direction.
Now, before I go any further, I’ve certainly had people tell me to vote “third party,” or to write someone in. I’m not drawn to do that in this election either. There’s no doubt that I’m not happy about either Secretary Clinton or Mr. Trump, and I certainly wish there was another option. But at this point there really is not. We are going to get one of those two.
Now, if Americans (and especially Catholics) who share a belief in virtue-based society desire candidates who once again strive for the highest good, truth, and justice, then they need to work hard to achieve that end, day-in and day-out, during election years and, especially, in non-election years.
That being said, at present, the realistic choice we have before us is between two individuals running for president. In my opinion, writing someone else in is not going to be an effective means of bringing about that end in the present race.
As I’ve said, this is one of the strangest votes for me in the 50-some years I’ve been a voter. Nevertheless, I do believe that the future of America is at stake in a very real way, in this vote.
In searching my own conscience, formed as best as it can be by the laws of human ecology and the teachings of our Church, I’ve come to believe that the very best that I can do is to vote to prevent a future where, because of constant attacks and assaults against our human ecology (the natural law) the potential is there for the complete “annihilation of humanity,” in the words of Pope Francis.
There are very real differences between the two candidates for president and their parties on so many issues, but in forming our consciences we remember always that there are priorities made clear by the Church. And in weighing the platforms of parties on issues, clear and certain weight is immediately given to fighting policies or planks that provide direct attacks on our human ecology.
Issue of abortion
Of course the most devastating issue facing our nation today is the continued destruction of over one million completely innocent lives every year by legalized abortion in our country. It is simply a fact that the Republican Platform asserts the sanctity of human life and affirms the fundamental right to life of the unborn.
On the other hand, the Democrat Platform states unequivocal support of free access to abortion, and — for the first time, this year — even goes so far as to include the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents at least some federal funds from going toward the provision of abortions, and the Helms Amendment, which prohibits U.S. foreign aid dollars from going to abortion. That is to say, not only do they wish to assert that the wholesale destruction of unborn children should be legal, both here and abroad, but they demand that all of us pay for it.
This issue continues to outweigh each and every other issue facing the nation at present. Do we desire to choose a future in which the wholesale destruction of a portion of the population is not only legal, but even increasingly paid for by our dollars?
Marriage and human sexuality
A second fundamental issue on which the two major parties have divergent stands has to do with the understanding of marriage and of human sexuality. Here too, we must ask whether we want a future for our country in which the fundamental understanding of marriage, and even of human sexuality, is so eroded that those basic foundations of society are not only brushed aside, but even attacked.
As Americans, and as a Catholic people especially, we are called to respect the rights of every person, to love each person as a cherished son or daughter of God, and to treat them with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. This issue is not about discrimination or about treating any person with anything less than charity, but it is about offering the truth, in love, and about providing clarity in charity.
We cannot allow for the destruction of marriage, which has always been the most stable and secure starting point for human society, nor can we allow for the complete annihilation of our humanity by way of “gender theory.” We must consider these issues in the context of our future.
And thirdly, we must offer consideration to the defense of our religious liberty. Already I can imagine the complaints I’ll receive for this column. It will be stated that I am being “political.” In fact, I am not. I am being your pastor and am undertaking my duty to inform your consciences of some of the most pressing issues of our day.
I am making reference to the choice you have before you between candidates and parties, yes. And I am discussing my own sadness at the state of our world. But no, I am not being “political,” I am being human. And I am sharing my own conviction that I must act to vote for the future of humanity here in these United States and to avoid a future in which our nation’s policies are oriented to the annihilation of humanity.
Am I certain that I can prevent such a future anyway? No! What I am certain of is that one candidate has committed to policies and one party platform contains planks which would seek to continue direct attacks against our human ecology, in a clear and undeniable way.
Responsibility to vote
What’s at stake for the future makes it irresponsible not to vote. And in voting, I find myself, for the first time, voting to avoid something rather than to choose something or someone.
All I can say is that it is incumbent upon you to take seriously your responsibility for the future as well. If you wish to draw a conclusion from what I have said above, please do not mistake your drawing that conclusion for my having told you for whom to vote.
And in the meantime we can remember that our help is not in any candidate or any party. Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth!
We pray hard for our country and for our world. We work hard to make them better. But we remember that our hope lies not in anything or anyone in this world, but in Jesus Christ and in the world to come. Thanks be to God!
Thank you for taking the time to read this! Praised be Jesus Christ!