WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On Tuesday, September 14, 2010, the Feast of the Exaltation or Triumph of the Holy Cross, I watched with great interest as the results of a Senatorial primary in Delaware were tallied. I do not live in Delaware. However, I know that no matter how frustrating politics becomes, it is an integral part of our mission to influence human culture for the good. The Delaware race is about more than Delaware.
As a Catholic Christian, I try to inform my political participation in accordance with the truth revealed to all men and women through the exercise of reason. It is difficult in an age captive to what Pope Benedict XVI calls a "Dictatorship of Relativism". However, I MUST stay involved in politics. I have no choice. To not do so would be sinful for me. Why? Because I am convinced that it is a part of my call to live in what the Church calls "moral coherence" and change the culture. Not just to protect Christians from its hostility but for the sake of all men and women and the true common good.
U.S. Catholics can determine the outcome of this Fall election if we become what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith calls "morally coherent". That phrase was used in an instruction released in 2002 entitled a "Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life". It was directed to "the Bishops of the Catholic Church and, in a particular way, to Catholic politicians and all lay members of the faithful called to participate in the political life of democratic societies."
The teaching in the instruction is evident throughout the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" sections pertaining to the political participation of Catholics. (See, e.g. #565-574) Anyone who thinks the teachers of the Church are not clear on the duty to vote in a manner which is morally coherent, have not read Catholic teaching. Here is an excerpt:
"The social doctrine of the Church is not an intrusion into the government of individual countries. It is a question of the lay Catholic's duty to be morally coherent, found within one's conscience, which is one and indivisible. '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. . Living and acting in conformity with one's own conscience on questions of politics is not slavish acceptance of positions alien to politics or some kind of 'confessionalism', but rather the way in which Christians offer their concrete contribution so that, through political life, society will become more just and more consistent with the dignity of the human person."
In a passage concerning the "Democratic System", the Compendium cites a social encyclical called "On the Hundredth Anniversary" which states: "Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person. It requires that the necessary conditions be present for the advancement both of the individual through education and formation in true ideals, and of the 'subjectivity' of society through the creation of structures of participation and shared responsibility.
"An authentic democracy is not merely the result of a formal observation of a set of rules but is the fruit of a convinced acceptance of the values that inspire democratic procedures: the dignity of every human person, the respect of human rights, commitment to the common good as the purpose and guiding criterion for political life."
"If there is no general consensus on these values, the deepest meaning of democracy is lost and its stability is compromised. The Church's social doctrine sees ethical relativism - which maintains that there are no objective or universal criteria for establishing the foundations of a correct hierarchy of values - as one of the greatest threats to modern-day democracies."
As a Catholic I contend Christine's win was not only about the tea party. Do not get me wrong, I truly admire the movement. However, Christine O'Donnell is simply trying to be a faithful Catholic Christian. She may not remember me, but I met her many years ago. I was involved in one of several efforts I have undertaken in my life (none of which have "succeeded".. yet) of attempting to organize Catholics to inform their political participation in fidelity to the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church and a hierarchy of values - NOT based upon Partisan political labels. She espoused then what she espouses today.
That is why I am still spending time calling attention to her Senatorial race. She is the "real deal". Oh, I know some have brought up her frailties in the past. That is backfiring with the electorate. We all know public service is not reserved to the perfect, but to the willing. I for one am sick of the hypocritical effort to bring up mistakes of the past in our candidates. The past is either a tutor or a millstone. After all, we are here to learn, to grow and to love. We are also here to stand courageously for truth. I think Christine is trying to do just that.
As Catholics, our insistence upon recognition in the positive law of the fundamental Human Right to Life is not about one political issue; it is about the very foundation of freedom itself. Human rights - such as the Natural Law Right to Life - and human freedoms such as the freedom to be born - are goods of human persons. When there is no human person to exercise them all the rhetoric extolling them is nothing but empty air and sloganeering.
The Pro-Life position is not only adherence to our Catholic "religious" beliefs. It is a response to the truth revealed by the Natural Law and confirmed by medical science. The Child in the womb is our neighbor. It is always and everywhere wrong to take innocent human life. The child in the womb is innocent human life. It is thus wrong to intentionally kill him or her through procured abortion. Our faith gives us further insights into that truth and calls us to a greater obligation to insist upon the role of the Natural Law in the formation of the positive law
Pro-Life, Pro-marriage and family candidate Christine O'Donnell trounced Congressman Mike Castle. I am glad she did. Castle was an "establishment" Republican who does not support the foundational Right to Life. Oh, I know, he was wrong on other important issues. However, as a Catholic, his position against the Right to Life was enough for me. In fact, it explained everything else. Why? Because, it tells me he does not form his politics based upon the recognition of the dignity of every human person. Everything else depends upon this foundational truth.
On the predominant human rights issue of our age the leadership of the Democratic Party has lost its soul. Like many of my fellow Catholic Americans, I grew up equating being Catholic with being a Democrat because I thought Democrats cared more about the poor, the working class, the marginalized and those with no voice. I was wrong. The elite of the Democratic Party have embraced a notion of "freedom" as a power over others and "choice" as a right to do whatever one wants.
The failure to hear the cry of the child in the womb while mouthing the language of caring for the poor is unbridled hypocrisy. Medical science has confirmed what our conscience has always known, that child in the womb is one of us. His or her voice cannot be heard because it is muffled in the once hallowed home of the womb and disregarded by political opportunists. Yes, there may be a few truly Pro-Life Democrats. However, after the experience of the Health Care debate this past year, even this former Democrat is beginning to have my doubts.
However, there is a "political dualism" emerging in Republican circles which MUST be exposed and rejected. The argument is that there are "social" and "economic" issues and they must be kept "separate". Proponents claim we can "only win if we stay focused on the economic issues". Mitch Daniel and Haley Barbour are the most recent examples. WE MUST SAY NO!
For example, the reason we care about expanding economic opportunity is because we respect the dignity of every human person. The reason we want to ensure the application of the principle of subsidiarity and keep government at the lowest level is because we respect the primacy of the first government, the family. Social and political issue cannot be separated, just as the soul and the body cannot be separated.
Catholics must reject the efforts to divide the "economic" and "social" spheres. Like the earliest heresies in the Church which separated body and soul, the separation of economic and social issues is a political heresy. I encourage Christine O'Donnell to run based upon this important truth. I will be watching her race with great interest.