Catholic Voting: How to Form Your Conscience to be Like Christ?
By Archbishop Samuel Aquila, Denver Catholic:
I have voted in every presidential election since 1972 and I have never experienced an election like this year’s. Both candidates are disliked, lack credibility, and have made comments that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. The American public is fed up with politics as usual and with the establishment in both parties. So, what should Catholics do when we vote in November?
That question is one that I have been asked by the faithful more this year than in any previous election. Recently in a dinner discussion with a group of Catholics, the conversation turned to politics and became vigorous, as some at the table supported Clinton and some Trump. All eyes turned to me and one of them asked, “Archbishop, what do you think?”
First, I shared my aversion for both candidates. Then I said that they need to reflect on the platforms of both parties, with an emphasis on the human life issues. Everyone at the table knew well the teaching of the Church on life and the dignity of life. They knew that Catholics in good conscience cannot support candidates who will advance abortion. All pretty much agreed that, when it comes to life issues, Catholic politicians on both sides of the aisle have put party ideology before their faith and living their faith in the public square.
This is the most important guidance I can give: allow your ongoing personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the Church to guide your political decisions. I say this because we believe that the truth about ourselves and the world we live in is revealed in and through him. Our society suffers and has suffered for quite some time because too few people live an integrated life – one that does not divide “the personal” from “the public.”
Looking at Life Issues, The Hyde Amendment
This year there are some critical changes to the two major parties’ platforms that some at the dinner were not aware of. Most important is that this year the Democratic party platform calls for the overturning of the Hyde Amendment, a provision that both parties have voted to include in the federal budget and on other spending bills for 40 years. The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal taxpayer money from being used for abortion. The platform is aggressively pro-abortion, not only in funding matters, but in the appointment of only those judges who will support abortion and the repealing of the Helms Amendment, which prevents the U.S. from supporting abortion availability overseas. Conversely, the Republican party platform is supportive of the Hyde Amendment and just this year strengthened its support for life by calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, banning dismemberment abortion and opposing assisted suicide.
Don’t Forget Religious Freedom
Our conversation then turned to the understanding of the freedom of religion, the freedom of conscience, and the ability for faith-based organizations like the Church to provide charity through shelters, hospitals, homes for the elderly, etc., without fear of government interference and the existence of a respect for religious values.
In that vein, the subject was raised of the Health and Human Services mandate. This regulation requires the provision of contraceptives, sterilizations and some abortifacients through employer’s health plans. Most surprising to me was that all at the table were practicing Catholics who are involved in their faith, and a couple of them had neither heard of the difficulty the Obama Administration has created for the Little Sisters of the Poor, nor the litigation that has occurred trying to force them to violate their consciences.
Life is the Fundamental Right
Catholic voters must make themselves aware of where the parties stand on these essential issues. The right to life is the most important and fundamental right, since life is necessary for any of the other rights to matter. There are some issues that can legitimately be debated by Christians, such as which policies are the most effective in caring for the poor, but the direct killing of innocent human life must be opposed at all times by every follower of Jesus Christ. There are no legitimate exceptions to this teaching.
The health of our nation depends on a deep respect for human life from the moment of conception until natural death, and the future of our society depends on how we protect that right. If we don’t, eventually we will go the way of Rome and Greece and other great civilizations that have risen and fallen.
The Church Cannot Change Her Teachings
Some, both in politics and in the Church, have stated that it is the Church that needs to change her teaching to include abortion, same-sex unions, and even euthanasia. Yet, in faithfulness to Jesus Christ, to the Gospel and to Sacred Tradition, the Church cannot change her teaching on these issues without denying Christ. She would cut herself from the vine and only wither away, as promised by Christ. The further we move away from Jesus Christ and his teachings, the more will our churches empty.
We are where we are today because too many Catholics and other people of faith have embraced the ways of the world and not the ways of Christ. They have not served as leaven that transforms society, but rather have condoned evil and the throw-away culture that Pope Francis frequently reminds us to reject.
When we fail to do this, the government will step in to fill the void. Indeed, the government will become “god” and impose its beliefs on the citizens. One only needs to look to the Health and Human Service contraceptive mandate, or the attempt by President Obama to force a transgender agenda onto public schools. We may even soon see the federal funding of abortion and the approval of physician-assisted suicide in Colorado. We are witnessing the dictatorship of relativism and the erosion of true freedom. And as Pope Francis often preaches, the devil gets in the mix quickly, especially when people no longer believe in God.
Who Forms Your Conscience, Jesus Christ or a Political Party?
So my advice to Catholics in voting in this presidential election is to first look at who forms you and your conscience. Is it your personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the Church, the voice of God which cannot contradict the truth or revelation, or is it the ideology of some political party? Secondly, look at how you have been a leaven in society. How have you sought the common good and the values of the Gospel, especially by serving the poor, the needy, the unborn and the dying. If you truly live your Catholic faith, you will not find complete alignment with any political party, and that is okay. Thirdly, look at how each party platform supports human life from conception through natural death, the freedom of religion and the freedom of conscience, the family, and the poor. Finally, do vote, as every Catholic has an obligation to participate in the political process.
For many, the presidential election will involve a choice between the lesser of two evils. On the Colorado ballot, we will also face the evil of physician-assisted suicide, known as Proposition 106. In conforming our hearts and minds with the Gospel and its clear teaching on life, all Catholics are called to vote “no” on this issue. A “yes” vote only furthers the throw-away society, and the culture of death. You will be hearing much more on this in the days and weeks ahead. Let us keep our country and state in our daily prayers, praying for God’s protection and blessings in these challenging, difficult times in which we live. And let us in charity pray for the conversion of those who support a throw-away culture of death!
Vote with a Catholic Conscience.
“A Society which Ignores Human Nature and
Natural Law will soon be without any Foundation”
by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, Archdiocese of Denver:
Vote for Life!
“A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern,” Pope Francis told governors last September.This week I want to examine what it means for Catholics to “offer the best of ourselves,” as we prepare for the November election. At my request, the Denver Catholic Register is helping with this effort by publishing a note from Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Catholics in political life over the next few weeks (click to read Part 1, Part 2).
This week’s section addresses some of the key points that must be understood for us to engage in our current political and cultural context.One subject that I want to address is the idea of “single-issue voting.” For Catholics to “meddle in politics” and “offer the best of ourselves,” we have to be well formed in the entirety of our faith. We have to know the hierarchy of truths and understand that some issues are fundamental, while others are less important for our families, fellow citizens, communities and society to truly flourish.Catholics are frequently blamed for being single-issue voters when the topics of abortion and embryonic stem-cell research are raised. But, as the note from the CDF makes clear, the right to life serves as a cornerstone for the foundation of society. Every human being, from the moment of conception until natural death, has a God-given dignity, which a just society recognizes.
The U.S. Bishops’ 2011 document Faithful Citizenship specifically mentions this when it declares, “This exercise of conscience begins with outright opposition to laws and other policies that violate human life or weaken its protection. Those who knowingly, willingly and directly support public policies or legislation that undermine fundamental moral principles cooperate with evil” (#31).
The Right to Life the Highest Consideration in Our Voting
In other words, making the right to life the highest consideration in our voting is not a matter of blindly voting for a candidate because of one issue. It is a matter of understanding that the right to life – which is directly threatened by abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and in some cases, war – is the foundation of all other rights.
When you decide how you will vote, this basic right must be considered indispensable. It is not acceptable to choose an issue of lesser importance, such as party affiliation, and let it determine your vote. Faithful Citizenship notes, “…a well-formed conscience … recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight” (#37).
In the current political landscape, this often leaves Catholics with difficult choices. It may mean deciding to vote for an imperfect candidate who you think is less likely to advance a morally flawed position and more likely to advance policies that truly benefit society and the dignity of every human being.
The Growing Spread of Relativism must be Rejected
The note from the CDF also makes a crucial distinction about living in a diverse society. It is important to not fall victim to the false and dangerous idea that there are no truths common to all people. The growing spread of relativism – the idea that each person has his or her own truth – must be rejected. People must realize that a society which ignores human nature and natural law will soon be without any foundation and will eventually disintegrate.
This November every person of voting age will be asked to exercise their faith and discern how these principles factor into who you vote for. As your shepherd, I ask that you take this responsibility seriously and work to fully form your conscience. Be not afraid to bring your faith into the voting booth, just as non-believers bring their values into the voting booth.
May the Holy Spirit pour out his gifts of wisdom, counsel and understanding on you!
Denver’s newly-appointed archbishop says the federal contraception mandate is the result of a larger push to remove religion from the public sphere. Read the full story here:
Shut It Off Because It Can Play Constantly
In Your Head
Madrid, Spain, Aug 20, 2011 / 07:51 am (EWTN News
) -Bishop Samuel Aquila used one of his World Youth Day catecheses to urge young people to scrub “evil” music from their iPods.
Bishop Samuel Aquila
“You need to look at the music you listen to and the words. Don’t fool yourself. It impacts upon you,” said the Bishop of Fargo, North Dakota, at his World Youth Day catechesis session on Aug. 19.
“There is good music out there that you can listen to, but there is also a lot of trash. And it is simply evil. It is the evil because it distorts the gift of human sexuality, the gift of sexual intimacy, the gift of human life.”
Bishop Aquila was talking to several hundred English-speaking pilgrims in the parish church of Virgen del Mar in the Madrid suburb of San Blas.
He told the youngsters how he was recently visiting a friend with two teenage sons who wanted to show him the music they had downloaded onto their cell phones. The title of one particular song grabbed the bishop’s attention.
“A few days later I read the lyrics of that song, and very honestly I was horrified,” he said. “The words used objectified women” and the woman the featured in the song “was very simply a toy for men and their sexual pleasure.”
Bishop Aquila said he’d then asked the two boys if they “would want your sisters’ boyfriends to treat them as the woman is being treated in that song?” That question “stopped the conversation completely, as these boys would defend their sisters to the hilt.”
He concluded by explaining to the young pilgrims that while the witness of a bishop can be effective, it was more important for young people to witness to each other when it comes to ditching “evil” music.
“Be not afraid to get rid of that sort of music from your iPods or your iPads or your iPhones or wherever you put that kind of music. And don’t be afraid to shut it off because it can play constantly in your head. Give witness to that.”
This morning’s catechesis session was only one of 220 being given in 27 languages all around Madrid.
The reaction to Bishop Aquila’s talk seemed overwhelmingly positive.
“I think that it’s important for the youth to hear what he said about music, because that sort of music is all over the place, it’s infected many levels, even young kids are listening to this stuff,” said 17-year-old Sean Palmer from Philadelphia.
“So it’s important that Catholics lead the charge and show the world what music is right and what music should be avoided because it affects our subconscious in ways we sometimes don’t realize,” Palmer said.
His friend, 17-year-old Andrew Parrish also from Philadelphia, agreed, saying that “music is really language and it can be used to express beautiful things or things that aren’t so beautiful.” He added, “it was important to hear that message from Bishop Aquila because you don’t hear it that often.”
So As Not To Confuse The Faithful And As A Final Call
Of Repentance To The Obstinate Politician!
By: Christine Dhanagom
The Church should seek the conversion of pro-abortion politicians, but if they remain obstinate they should be expelled from the Church, says Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo.
The Bishop proposed in an interview with Catholic World Report this week that Bishops should take their cue from the Gospel of Matthew in handling pro-abortion politicians.
“Our Lord tells us to speak to the person, and then take two or three others with us if he does not change,” he said. “If he still does not change, the Church can speak to him, which is done through the bishop. [The bishop] exercises the authority of Christ. Christ then says that if that person is still obstinate and will not change, treat them as a tax collector or Gentile. Expel him.’”
The Bishop continued: “Catholics are called to defend human life, particularly that of the unborn. The Church’s teaching is clear. If we don’t challenge public officials who reject this teaching, we leave them in their sins and confuse the faithful.”
Aquila, who has been the spiritual head of the diocese of Fargo in North Dakota for ten years, is well known for his support for the pro-life cause.
His active support for the 40 Days for Life campaign in Fargo included sending a letter to the priests of the diocese asking them to sign up for an hour of prayer outside an abortion clinic. He has also personally led prayer vigils outside Fargo’s only abortuary.
The Bishop told Catholic World Report that his commitment to pro-life advocacy began in the 1970s, when he got a glimpse of the devastating aftermath of an abortion as an orderly in an emergency room in Colorado.
“A woman who had had an incomplete abortion was brought in. Those of us working in the emergency room were pro-life and had had nothing to do with the abortion, but were trying to help the woman afterward,” he said.
“It was there I first saw the remains of an unborn child, about three and a half months along. It really impacted me. It was impressed in my mind and my heart and that this was a human life. It had now been forever destroyed. Ever since then I’ve been outspoken on human-life issues, and tried to help people to understand the dignity of human life.”
Aquila also told the news service that clergy should be outspoken in defending the Church’s teaching in other areas, as well, particularly regarding the sanctity of marriage.
“The Church has been clear that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and we need to continue to speak clearly to society on the truth, dignity, and meaning of marriage,” he said
“Bishops and Priests Should Not Apologize or Make Excuses
For the Teachings of Christ and the Church”
Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo
Philadelphia, Pa. (CNA).- When bishops and priests are hesitant in exercising their authority, the “father of lies” takes hold of the hearts and minds of the faithful, Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo warned recently.
“One must honestly ask, how many times and years may a Catholic politician vote for the so called ‘right to abortion’ … and still be able to receive Holy Communion?” the bishop said.
The continual reception of Communion by those who “so visibly contradict and promote a grave evil” creates “grave scandal” and undermines the teaching and governing authority of the Church, he warned. The faithful can interpret these actions as indifference to the teaching of Christ and the Church on the part of those who have “the responsibility to govern.”
Bishop Samuel Aquila
“If we honestly pray with the Gospel we can see that hesitancy and non-accountability is not the way of Jesus Christ, but rather it is a failure in the exercise of governance,” Bishop Aquila told a March 18 symposium in Philadelphia about the spirituality and identity of diocesan priests.
While Jesus provides criteria in Matthew 18 for correcting a brother or sister who sins, the bishop questioned whether Catholics follow this example.
If these criteria had been followed with those who dissented from Church teaching against contraception in 1968, he asked, “would we still be dealing with the problem today of those who dissent on contraception, abortion, same-sex unions, euthanasia and so many other teachings of the Church?”
He cited Pope Benedict XVI’s conversation with Peter Seewald in the book “Light of the Word,” where the Pope connected an anti-punishment mentality to the response that some Church officials have had to sexual abuse among clergy.
The awareness that punishment can be an act of love “ceased to exist,” the Pope said. “This led to an odd darkening of the mind, even in very good people.”
Pope Benedict said that love for the sinner and love for the person harmed are “correctly balanced” when the sinner is punished appropriately.
Bishops and priests should not apologize or make excuses for the teachings of Christ and the Church, Bishop Aquila exhorted. Rather, they should teach with “charity and unhesitating truth.”
The exercise of Church authority faces challenges because secular culture “makes man into god” and undermines any authority attributed to God. Bishops and priests should turn to Jesus Christ to learn how to exercise their authority in governing the Church, the Fargo bishop said.
Jesus was “direct” in calling people to conversion and to change their way of acting and thinking, he pointed out.
“This directness makes many of us uncomfortable today.
“We should follow his example and language, even if we do not use his precise words. His language is good to contemplate and definitely should challenge us to look at how we correct the faithful, including priests and bishops, and speak the truth especially with those who say they are with Christ and the Church but do not accept the teaching of Jesus and the Church.”
Jesus’ “forceful” language towards the Pharisees and Scribes “would never be tolerated today” but the Gospel writers did not hesitate to pass down his words, Bishop Aquila said.
“In love Jesus makes these direct statements to open the eyes of those whose hearts and minds are hardened. His straight talk, given in love for the person, desires the conversion and holiness of the person to the ways of God,” the bishop explained.
“(T)oo many people understand correction or punishment as not loving the other or as dominion over the other, and this is the work of ‘the father of lies.’ A reluctance or hesitancy to correct and properly punish does not invite the other into the truth that frees and ultimately fails in true charity.
“As servants of truth, of Christ, we will correct those who sin for their own good and for the love of the other, even if it leads to our own persecution and rejection,” Bishop Aquila said.
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