Some Issues Are Non-Negotiable

Bishop Michael Sheridan Speaks Frankly About Catholicism and Politics.

Daniel Cole, guest columnist for the Colorado Springs Gazette, sat down recently with Bishop Michael Sheridan, bishop of Colorado Springs to discuss Catholicism and politics.

Excerpts from the exchange follow:

Daniel Cole: In 2004, you made national headlines when you spoke out against Catholic politicians on the wrong side of four non-negotiables: abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. You said that these politicians, and Catholics who vote for them, may not receive Communion until they have recanted and confessed. Is that still your position?

Bishop Sheridan: It’s clear to me that the Code of Canon Law, Canon 915, says that a Catholic politician who publicly espouses positions that are contrary, not just to any teachings of the Church, but to serious moral teachings, should not receive Holy Communion until they recant those positions publicly. Voters needs a little bit more nuance, because there the question is, are we voting for those politicians precisely because of their positions on those non-negotiable issues? Here is what I would say: It would be very difficult for me to understand how, if there are two candidates quite far apart in their positions on these matters, I could vote for the one who consistently opposes these Church teachings, simply because he might be in favor of a few good things.

DC: Would support for the contraceptives mandate also disqualify Catholic politicians from receiving Communion? Is that a new non-negotiable?

Sheridan: I think we do need to add to that list (of non-negotiables) religious liberty. Absolutely, yes. I think a Catholic politician who publicly and consistently defends the mandate, which causes people to violate their conscience — yes, I think that’s right up there with the rest of them.

DC: If Vice President Joe Biden, who is Catholic, were to swing through Colorado Springs on a campaign tour and attend your Mass, would you deny him Communion?

Sheridan: He should know, and I would do everything I could do to make sure that he knows, he ought not to be receiving Communion. 

DC: In 2011, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops declared that it supports “comprehensive immigration reform,” including “earned legalization” for undocumented immigrants, or in other words, amnesty. Is that position binding on Catholics?

Sheridan: I believe that a good Catholic is always going to look out for the dignity, the welfare of every human being. There are always prudential judgments to be made about how that’s accomplished, whether it’s about immigration, or the economy, or fixing Medicare. There are going to be different opinions on that, so the simple answer is, if one person or one party proposes this plan, another proposes that plan, then you have to decide which one you believe is for the common good, for the good of the individual, etc. That’s very different, though, because you can’t make that kind of a prudential judgment on issues that are intrinsically evil. That’s a whole different category. 

DC: The USCCB has also called for an end to the death penalty, as did Pope John Paul II. Are Catholics obligated to share that position?

Sheridan: Catholics are bound to take that teaching seriously, but you’ll note that in the Catechism, it says there actually may be circumstances under which the death penalty can or should — I’m not quoting it exactly — be applied. As soon as you say that, you know you’re not talking about intrinsic evil, because there would be no circumstances under which it could be done. So again, I think a Catholic is obliged to take that seriously, but take Antonin Scalia. Very good Catholic, very bright man, defends the use of the death penalty. Is he a bad Catholic for that? I don’t think so. I think he’s a thoughtful man. So I think a Catholic is really not disagreeing if he says, “I can see circumstances in which it could be used.” But does one have to take what the pope said very seriously? Yes.

DC: Do the Church’s social justice teachings require Catholics to support government welfare programs?

Sheridan: Not that I’m not aware of. I think we recognize that the government can and should do things for people, especially people who are in great need. But really the obligation is for us as individuals, as Catholics, as believers, to be charitable toward our neighbor. I don’t know that that extends to supporting government welfare programs.

DC: With the contraceptives mandate and growing support for same-sex marriage, American culture seems to be rejecting Catholic principles. Yet for the first time, both the Republican and the Democratic candidates for Vice President are Catholic. What do you make of that?

SheridanIt certainly sets up an interesting contrast, doesn’t it? It really doesn’t permit us to say, well, he’s of a different religion, I can understand why he would think differently about this, and that muddies the whole comparison. Now you have two Catholics, two men who claim to be good, practicing Catholics, and they’re just diametrically opposed in so many areas. I’d say it gives us a pretty clear choice, that’s what I’d say. It gives me a pretty clear choice.

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13 comments to Some Issues Are Non-Negotiable

  • Hopefully, with the help of your prayers Bill, God will grant me the grace of clarity and discernment. Your prayers are needed. Thank you.

  • Bill


    We can agree on one thing, you are confused.

  • Um? I am confused Bill. Having to give an account to God, and unequivocally condemning someone to hell are not the same thing. We will all have to give an account before the judgement seat of God. No one can say who is, and who is not going to hell.

    Here is a passage from the diary of Saint Faustina on the subject of accountability.

    “Once I was summoned to the judgment [seat] of God. I stood alone before the Lord. Jesus appeared such as we know Him during His Passion. After a moment, His wounds disappeared except for five, those in His hands, His feet and His side. Suddenly I saw the complete condition of my soul as God sees it. I could clearly see all that is displeasing to God. I did not know that even the smallest transgressions will have to be accounted for. What a moment! Who can describe it? To stand before the Thrice-Holy God! Jesus asked me, Who are you? I answered, “I am Your servant, Lord.” You are guilty of one day of fire in purgatory. I wanted to throw myself immediately into the flames of purgatory, but Jesus stopped me and said, Which do you prefer, suffer now for one day in purgatory or for a short while on earth? I replied, “Jesus, I want to suffer in purgatory, and I want to suffer also the greatest pains on earth, even if it were until the end of the world.” Jesus said, One [of the two] is enough; you will go back to earth, and there you will suffer much, but not for long; you will accomplish My will and My desires, and a faithful servant of Mine will help you to do this. Now, rest your head on My bosom, on My heart, and draw from it strength and power for these sufferings, because you will find neither relief nor help nor comfort anywhere else. Know that you will have much, much to suffer, but don’t let this frighten you; I am with you.” (36)

    ~ From Divine Mercy In My Soul, The Diary of Sr. M. Faustina Kowalska ~

  • Bill

    There’s a special place in hell for those who say others are going there.

    Well, good day Bill!

    I am so glad to see that you have a firm belief in hell. Do you realize that your own statement fits the criteria for going to hell? This must be an over-site. Do you mind clarifying a little? Don’t you believe in the Church and the bible that deliberate unrepentant mortal sin gets us to hell? What determines what is mortal?

    1 John 5:
    [16] If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that.
    [17] All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.

    Looking forward to your response.

    God bless,
    John Quinn

  • Bill,

    If our nation were killing women between the ages of 35-50 with no restrictions, do you think the Catholics polled would still consider “social justice” issues the main concern? Ironically, God, the Creator of all, makes no distinction between the unborn child and any other person created in His own image. As Catholics we have to defend life as the first priority. Catholics who choose not to, will be held accountable.

  • Bill,0,7413475.story
    Catholics want more focus on poverty than abortion: survey
    Mary Wisniewski


    3:58 PM CDT, October 22, 2012


    CHICAGO (Reuters) – Most U.S. Catholics think the church should focus more on social justice and helping the poor, even if it means focusing less on issues like abortion, according to a poll released Monday by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute.

    The 2012 American Values Survey finding on Catholics goes against the focus of many U.S. Catholic bishops, who have stressed the church’s ban on abortion and artificial contraception in their public policy statements.

    The poll found that 60 percent of Catholics want a greater focus on social justice issues rather than abortion, while 31 percent support the opposite approach.

    The divide was true even among Catholics who attend church once a week or more, a group often considered more socially conservative. A slim majority of this group, 51 percent, thought the church should focus more on social justice issues.

    “The survey confirms that there is no such thing as the ‘Catholic vote,'” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the institute and co-author of the report. The survey included more than 3,000 respondents. “There are a number of critical divisions among Catholics, including an important divide between ‘social justice’ and `right to life’ Catholics.”

    U.S. bishops strongly oppose same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception. They specifically oppose the mandate in the U.S. 2010 health care overhaul which requires hospitals, universities and other institutions to provide insurance that covers artificial birth control, which is against Catholic teachings.

    The survey also found that among Catholics who attend church weekly or more often, 57 percent support a prison sentence of life without parole as opposed to the death penalty.

    This was also true among Catholic conservatives, who supported life without parole over the death penalty by 51 percent to 44 percent, compared to non-Catholic conservatives, who favor the death penalty.

    “The church has clearly had a real impact on Catholic attitudes toward the death penalty, particularly among conservative Catholics,” said E. J. Dionne, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a co-author of the report, speaking at a press event Monday morning.

    He noted that Catholics who are more conservative on the abortion issue are more “liberal” on the death penalty.

    The religiously unaffiliated is the fastest growing group in the country’s religious landscape, comprising 1 in 5 Americans and more than doubling in size since 1990, the survey found.

    The majority were raised in a particular faith, and their reasons for leaving range from a fading belief in God to negative personal experiences with religion.

    Regarding political preferences, the religiously unaffiliated, Hispanic Catholics, non-Christians and black Protestants were more likely to support President Barack Obama.

    Nearly 8 in 10 likely supporters of Republican contender Mitt Romney identified themselves as white Christians, including 37 percent who said they were white evangelicals, 19 percent who identified as white mainline Protestants and 19 percent who identified as white Catholics.

    Support for Obama among the religiously unaffiliated was high, at 73 percent, but this group was less likely to say they were certain to vote, compared to religiously affiliated Americans.

    “We are not feeling the full force of their presence at the ballot box,” said Jones.

    A third of religiously unaffiliated Americans were ages 18-29, the study found. People in this age group were also more likely to support Obama, at 70 percent.

    If younger voters continue to vote Democratic, as they have in recent elections, they could represent the “replacement generation” for the old “New Deal” generation of Democratic voters who grew up in the 1930s, Dionne said.

    The survey was taken between September 13 and September 30, before the presidential debates, and involved 3,003 respondents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent.

    (Reporting By Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune and Todd Eastham)

    Copyright © 2012, Reuters

  • Bill B.

    The Bishop was on two sides of the fence on welfare…three paragraphs from the bottom. Medicaid’s budget for 2010 was $401 billion dollars. Charity giving in the US is $300 billion….a substantial part of which is foundations and corporate and in part goes to the arts. Charity toward the needy will not double if you reduce taxes. That saved tax money will go into savings and protecting one’s family from the gradual disappearance of late life supports like social security and medicaid which right now covers 60% of the elderly in nursing homes.
    The Vatican has one billion in savings. If it gave all of that to medicaid, it would not cover one complete day of Medicaid bills. Each Catholic parish gave $3600 on average to Haiti after the quake. $3600 would help one parish widow with children for a month.
    The Vatican gave $200,000 to Haiti after the quake and the same grant to Japan after the tsunami. That amount might cover ten people for a month in a hospital to treat injuries from a quake or tsunami. Ten people. Charity is a minuscule reality compared to the real bills governments cover by compelling human giving. Catholic old age homes receive 60% of their income from Medicaid…ie. those nuns’ livelihood comes mostly from medicaid not from donations.

  • Bill Sr.

    It is far too late in these social justice debates with outright disobedience and political correctness approaches to today’s perversions of human behavior and betrayal of biblical truth for our hierarchy to simply urge the Laity into action. Our actions are of little consequence within the media and for the most part futile if we do not have the weight of authoritative clerical discipline and/or pronouncements supporting our voices.
    Unless we witness prominent church officials and bishops condemning, defrocking and excommunicating these self styled ruling class individuals who present themselves as equally prominent laymen and/or politicians who openly challenge church law while imposing pain and suffering on the people with ill fated self endowed elitist rhetoric and socially lethal legislation the laity will continue to be recognized and labeled just as our president assumes us to be, uneducated uninformed homophobes clinging to our guns and Bibles.
    It is spiritually inhumane for hierarchy and church leadership to not display promptly and publicly their condemnation of obvious Evil policies and practices by groups and individuals calling them by name defining the consequence of their actions for the discernment of the faithful as we would expect from truly devout shepherds.

  • Jeremy

    Rallies against the HHS mandate will take place in more than 140 cities around the country tomorrow, Saturday, October 20.

    Let’s make our voices heard!

  • Bill

    Andy, you’re right on. I’m little surprised that you comment got printed. I know many people who live in the CS area and they don’t take the “good” Bishop very seriously, much has folks in the Phoenix area don’t take their Bishop very seriously

  • lisag

    The constitution guarantees certain rights and when the government tries to curtail the practice of those rights with the force of the government to tax, fine and prosecute the government has overstepped its boundaries. No one forces anyone to be a Catholic. A person should remain a Catholic after understanding the Truths that the Church teaches. One’s faith should be evident in all aspects of their life including how they vote. Voting for a candidate who does not believe in the Truths of the Church only makes the government more overbearing and punitive. Supporting all stages of human life and traditional marriage which nurtures that life should be first in the mind of a Catholic voter.

  • […] Some Issues Are Non-Negotiable | Courageous Priest. Its not about the economy or jobs or foreign affairs or political personalities. These are all important, yes. But what is truly ALL important is this … Its about Life. Or death. Share this:EmailPrintFacebookTwitterStumbleUponRedditDigg Published in: […]

  • Andy

    Telling other people what to do but they don’t want the government to tell you what to do. Doesn’t that seem odd? Let people do what they want.

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