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A Shepherd’s Care

Bishop John F. Kinney
Bishop of St. Cloud, MN

Column posted on the Diocesan website

September 2008

Election is opportunity to put Catholic faith to work.  The political conventions have finally ended, and the nominees of each party have been selected. Now each of us must sort through the rhetoric and campaign promises and take on the very important privilege and responsibility as citizens of this United States of preparing ourselves to cast our vote in the coming election.

It is not the role of your bishop or your priests to tell you which candidate to choose when you enter your polling booth. However, the church does offer moral guidance and principles from sacred Scripture and our tradition to assist us in forming our consciences, and it gives us a clear moral framework for the decisions we need to make in November.

The church teaches that we have an obligation and a responsibility to bring our faith commitment to the protection and defense of every human life and our deep concern for the poor and most vulnerable into the public arena.

Building a better world

This election year brings with it another opportunity for each of us to put our Catholic faith to work in order to build a better world. As Catholic people, we need to “see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically and to choose political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest” (USCCB, “Living the Gospel of Life,” No. 34).

Last February Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta spoke powerful and caring words in a homily to the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, D.C.:

 “ As Catholics, we are obliged to promote the common good as rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ. ... We are not another lobby but a community that serves the poor and vulnerable every day. We are not an interest group, nor are we advocating our own narrow interests, but speaking for the voiceless and standing up for the common good. We go not to serve our own needs but to serve the ‘least of these,’ who we believe to be Jesus in their persons.” (Origins, March 27, 2008, p.658).

Later, in that same homily, Archbishop Gregory said: “ We may not know the ins and outs of Washington … but we do know this:

 • The lives of unborn children need protection.

• Poor children need justice.

• Families need affordable health care.

• Immigrants need to be treated as sisters and brothers, not enemies.

• The hungry of the world need food.

• Those living and dying with HIV/AIDS need compassionate care.

• The people of the Holy Land need a just peace.

• The unending war in Iraq requires a responsible transition.

• And we need a world that is not only safer, but better and more just.”

I have read and reread this list many times over these past weeks, as I listened to the convention speeches. I am going to use this list as my guide to help me decide how I will cast my vote this November. I encourage you to do the same.

Principles over polls

In the November 2007 statement “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” we U.S. bishops urged Catholics to vote:

• focused more on moral principles than on the latest polls;

• focused more on the needs of the weak than on the benefits for the strong;

• focused more on the pursuit of the common good than on the demands of narrow interests (No. 61).

A few days ago, someone of our diocese casually remarked to me that he was not going to vote this year because he did not really like any of the candidates. I write this column for him and any others like him. I pray that your hearts and minds be changed and you vote with an informed conscience based on our faith. God’s work on earth is now in our hands. We must be “faithful citizens,” acting in hope, sharing God’s love.

+John F. Kinney Bishop of Saint Cloud

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