Tag Archives: election

November 8 Elections – “Catholic Yes, But The Death Penalty Is Not So Important” (5/7)

As a priest I often meet good people who have a very clear understanding of the position of the Church on issues like abortion or the legal sanction of the union of same-sex couples and yet, when issues like the death penalty or immigration arise, they frown in disapproval, or at least in doubt. I would like to very briefly explain in this article and in the next as well, the doctrine of the Church on these issues:


last judgment - michelangelo giudizioRegarding the issue of the death penalty, two different levels must be distinguished: the theoretical one and the practical application of the principles. At the theoretical level, the death penalty, seen as the only possible way to defend the innocent members of a society, must be accepted by a Catholic. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this issue is taken in the context of self-defense: just as a person has the right to defend themselves against an unjust aggressor, society also has the same right which sometimes can even be a duty. The Catechism in #2266 states that penalties must always be “proportionate”, for example, it is never lawful to impose disproportionate sentences for reasons of revenge or hatred; and continuing in #2267, “The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor. ‘If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.’” [John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.]

It is hard to believe that in the United States, which is first among the world powers economically, there are no means to protect citizens without depriving the wrongdoer of his life. In the words of John Paul II in his encyclical letter, Evangelium Vitae, “It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.” ‘[John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.]
So when the Church defends human life “from conception to natural death”, the term “natural death” is referring to euthanasia which is always bad, and the death penalty when it is applied improperly. I would like to call to our attention the documents of the bishops of the United States who have unanimously called for the abolition of the death penalty. In Arizona, where the use of the death penalty exists legally, our own Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, along with the other bishops of the state, have reiterated many times in word and deed, their rejection, opposition and condemnation of the death penalty in Arizona. I invite everyone to read their joint statement which can be found on the internet.

Let us ask God, therefore, to free us from the “Catholics yes, but” and to grant us a country which promotes and defends the dignity and value of human life from conception to natural death.




Elections November 8 – “Catholic Yes, But I Am Pro-Abortion” (4/7)

impossible cube illusionThe opening statement of this article – “I am a Catholic, but I am pro-abortion” – is as impossible as suggesting the existence of a square triangle. The triangle and the square are essentially exclusive because the triangle is a geometric figure with three angles and while a square has four. It is not possible to be both at the same time: the definition of one necessarily excludes the other. Similarly, the definition of “Catholic” excludes by definition the condition of “pro-abortion” because a Catholic either defends human life from conception or is not a Catholic. The Catholic has only one clear choice: we are never allowed to support policies that promote or define abortion as a right.

Bishop Olmsted wrote: “There are other issues, such as abortion or euthanasia, that are always wrong and do not allow for the correct use of prudential judgment to justify them. It would never be proper for Catholics to be on the opposite side of these issues… We have a serious obligation to protect human life, and especially the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable among us. Whoever fails to do this, when otherwise able to do so, commits serious sins of omission. They jeopardize their own spiritual wellbeing and they are a source of scandal for others. Should they be Catholics, they should not receive Holy Communion.” (Catholics in the Public Square, 4 th edition, #16, #20)

These teachings are in line with the teaching of the Church. Let us listen, for example, to John Paul II, “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, # 38)

Catholics can legitimately disagree on particular issues that do not affect the principles of human reason (natural law). However, there are issues that are obligatory for Catholics. These are called non-negotiable principles. Pope Benedict XVI said: “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today:

  • Protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;
  • Recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family – as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage – and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;
  • The protection of the rights of parents to educate their children.” (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Members of the European People’s Party on the Occasion of the Study Days on Europe)

This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it intended to say that other issues are not important. It simply states that in these three areas there cannot be any type of compromise on the part of Catholics: in our role as disciples of Christ who defend the dignity of the human person, we cannot in any way support directly (i.e., with our vote) parties or people who support, maintain and promote any thing contrary to the three points above.

It is not valid to say, “Perhaps this politician is in favor of abortion but he has many other good points.”, just as it would not be valid to say about poisoned food, “This food has a little poison, but it also has other ingredients that are good and very tasty.” Indeed, the “non-negotiable” issues do not permit exceptions. They are the “moral absolutes” that impose a moral obligation on human beings. To act in opposition to them means, morally speaking, “to swallow the poison.”

So let us pray that the Lord may save us from the “Catholics yes, but…” and that He may grant voters the clarity to refuse to support whatever opposes the faith we profess in Christ Jesus.

Elections November 8 – “Catholic Yes, But I Do Not Want To Impose My Beliefs On Anyone” (3/7)

Many times we hear people -especially politicians- using an argument that is presented as a way of respecting the consciences of others in public life. That argument, expressed synthetically, would be: “I am Catholic, but I don’t want to impose my thinking or my beliefs on those who belong to another religion or think differently.” So in the name of tolerance, I allow others to do what they want while keeping my “beliefs” in my private life. For example: “I am against abortion, but who am I to impose my opinion on others? I do not abort, but I cannot forbid others to do so. ”

TruthThis issue is deeply discussed in a document prepared by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (eventually Pope Benedict XVI) and approved by St. John Paul II titled Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life. As stated in the document, this mentality is typical of a relativistic society in which the truth does not want to be dealt with. That relativism seems to be the condition of modern democracy: everyone has “their” truth and therefore, I cannot try to “impose” mine on anyone.

But that is not how things are. The argument quoted above, “I am a Catholic, but I do not want to impose my faith on anybody”, doesn’t hold water. It is a false argument because you do not “impose” anything: in a democracy the people choose, in other words, vote freely, for the candidate who best represents their interests. If, therefore, the Catholic politician is elected democratically, he has the legitimacy to act in accordance with the ideas and principles for which he has been elected. No one is talking about “imposing” the Faith on someone else. There isn’t, for example, an effort to force people to attend Sunday Mass or to receive the sacraments. But there are principles that bind all human beings equally, regardless of beliefs, cultures and historical periods. Respect for dignity and human life is one of them.

It is presumed that Catholic politicians are Catholic because they believe their faith is good and true, and is not just about principles, but concrete actions. When trying to make decisions in the public sphere according to these beliefs, they share with others the good that they have discovered in their own faith. To say it in another way, refusing to support or implement a policy that is in conformity with your principles means not really believing in those principles.

blue true red falseThose who do not want to “impose” their faith on others end up falling into contradiction. They always end up “imposing” other aspects of their faith, which, oddly enough, have greater social approval. The Catholic politician, who doesn’t want to “impose” personal principles on issues such as abortion, doesn’t have any problem “imposing” those same principles later on when it comes to social justice, patriotism, or care for the needy. If they were consistent with their own argument, shouldn’t they refuse to “impose” other values such as justice, love for country, or charity for the poor, in the same way they don’t want to “impose” respect for human life from conception?

Catholic politicians – and citizens – who think this way should remember the words of St. John Paul II: “There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called ‘spiritual life’, with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called ‘secular’ life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture. The branch, engrafted to the vine, which is Christ, bears its fruit in every sphere of existence and activity. In fact, every area of the lay faithful’s lives, as different as they are, enters into the plan of God, who desires that these very areas be the ‘places in time’ where the love of Christ is revealed and realized for both the glory of the Father and service of others. Every activity, every situation, every precise responsibility – as, for example, skill and solidarity in work, love and dedication in the family and the education of children, service to society and public life and the promotion of truth in the area of culture – are the occasions ordained by providence for a ‘continuous exercise of faith, hope and charity’.”

I honestly believe that the reasons behind the “I am a Catholic but I cannot impose my beliefs on others” argument are actually based on less noble motives: cowardice, reluctance to stand up for Christ, a commitment to economic power, personal recognition and adulation from the world, the desire to further a political career, the need to “win votes”, and all at the expense of marginalizing their own faith.

I want to conclude with Bishop Olmsted’s words: “Some Catholics and other believers have been frightened into silence and even confused by charges that they are imposing their morality on others. It is contended that a person’s faith should have no impact on his or her public life. This leads to the infamous “I am a Catholic but….” syndrome! Of course, if one’s faith does not impact on one’s whole life, including one’s political and social responsibilities, then it is not authentic faith; it is a sham, a counterfeit.

A democratic society needs the active participation of all its citizens, people of faith included. People of faith engage issues on the basis of what they believe, just as atheists engage issues on the basis of what they hold dear; they fight for what they think is right and oppose what they consider wrong. This is not an imposition on other’s morality. It is acting with integrity. Moreover, people of genuine faith strengthen the whole moral fabric of a country. The active engagement of Catholics in democratic processes is good for society and it is responsible citizenship.”

Let us ask God to save us from the “Catholics yes, but …”. Let us pray that He gives politicians the courage to defend their principles in public life and voters the wisdom to vote according to the faith of the Church.

Elections November 8 – “I am a Catholic, But I’m Not Interested In Politics” (2/7)

person going off cliffThere are “Catholics” who allow themselves to dissent from the doctrine of the Church as if it were not important. When asked to express their views, they may begin to present their views with the following words: “I am a Catholic, but …”. As we will see in the coming weeks, that way of being “Catholic” is actually a way of not being Catholic.

Sometimes you will hear people say, “I’m Catholic, but I am not interested in politics.” The exhaustion from so many words, so many politicians who have promised much and have done little, and the endless discussions and debates on television and radio end up “disconnecting” people from public life. And yet, as Catholics – that is, as disciples of Christ – we are obligated to worry about our country (which is an act of the virtue of justice) and participate in public life because of the importance of the issues that are at stake.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in # 2240 that the responsibility for the common good DEMANDS the exercise of the right to vote. St. John Paul II taught in Christifideles Laici (42) that the lay faithful are never to relinquish their participation in “public life”. It cannot be otherwise; it is a duty for us to participate in the common good of society. Not voting means leaving the destiny of the nation in the hands of others, renouncing my voice, however small, on the most important issues of social life. The Church would have an enormous transforming power in this country if all Catholics voted in unison according to the doctrine of the Church!

St. Thomas AquinasI want to stress the importance of voting in accordance with the teachings of the Gospel that have been faithfully transmitted by the Church. It is not enough to appeal to right of conscience and say that one can vote for any proposal as long as it is done “in good faith”.

As Bishop Olmsted reminds us, “Before following our conscience, we must form it in accord with the voice of God. Our conscience is not the origin of truth. Truth lies outside us; it exists independent of us and must be discovered through constant effort of mind and heart.” Catholics in the Public Square (15).

“In preparing to vote, Catholics need to understand their faith so that their consciences are properly formed. Subsequent to this formation, it is important to research all of the important issues and candidates that will appear on the ballot. Only after sufficient preparation and prayer, is a Catholic fully ready to discharge his or her responsibilities as a faithful citizen and cast a meaningful vote.” Catholics in the Public Square (13).

I want to remind you of the importance of the elections that are to be held on November 8th and the moral obligation to participate in them by exercising your right to vote. At the same time, I stress the importance of voting in accordance with -and not against- the teaching of the Church. This will require effort on your part to learn the Church’s doctrine and teaching, the humility to be enlightened and a sincere quest for conversion.

May God save us from being “Catholics yes, but…” and help the citizens of this country choose the option most in accordance with His Will.

November 8th Election (1/7)

Your Vote CountsAs you know, this coming November 8th all citizens of this country are called to exercise their right to vote with the purpose of choosing the next President of the United States. This is an event of great importance in the life of any nation, electing the head of its political life.  American Catholics are called to vote in this election, respecting their conscience and the moral standards found in the Gospel and the social doctrine of the Church.
I want to remind you, first of all, that legitimate authority comes from God himself: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Rm 13, 1-2.) This is precisely why that, in exercising their responsibilities, public authorities must follow God’s will and respect fundamental human rights. When public authorities separate themselves from obedience to the divine commandments, they abuse the power that has been entrusted to them and lose the right to be obeyed by their citizens. As explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1902, quoting St. Thomas of Aquinas’ teachings, laws that go against God’s will are actually “a form of violence” that a disciple of Christ cannot accept. Sadly, History offers us many tragic examples of this.

Catholics in the Public SquareAs pastor of this community, I claim my right to talk about these major issues for the importance they have not only for the good of this nation, but also for the consequences posed for the salvation of the souls entrusted to me.  “I preach the gospel…and woe to me if I do not preach it!” (1 Cor 9.16) This is, in reality, a right of the Church itself, which is teacher of faith and has the obligation to proclaim, privately and publicly, the entire message of salvation, which also includes the social dimension of the human being. Exercising the right to vote is also a duty for the Christian, who cannot walk away from the issues that affect the society he lives in. In the next few weeks, I’ll be speaking about some issues that I believe are important to consider before deciding which party -which candidate- to vote for. I want to be clear that I do not intend to address a full range of the issues (it would be impossible in such little time and space), but rather emphasize key elements that a Catholic should consider carefully before going to the polls on November 8th. In these talks I will use certain foundational documents: the Catechism of the Catholic Church and The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, as well the teaching of the Popes and the American bishops, particularly those of our beloved Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted.
I would like to inform everyone that this weekend we will distribute free of charge updated copies of the book, Catholics in the Public Square, written by the Bishop of Phoenix. I encourage everyone to read this brief and clear document slowly over the next few days to learn, in a succinct and concise way, the main elements that should be taken into consideration in order to vote with the mindset of the Church and in fidelity to the Gospel.
May God bless you.