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EPISODE #257
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRIST IN TODAY’S SOCIETY

Hosts Deacon Steve Greco and Rick Howick of the OC Catholic Radio Show team up for a timely conversation about how we can truly reflect Jesus Christ in our lives to the society at large.

This is such an important conversation to have during this election season.

 

Listen in – and you will want to SHARE this podcast with others!

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 9/6/20

ELECTION GUIDES AND HELPING VOTERS FORM CONSCIENCE BEFORE CASTING BALLOT

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholics are far from the only religion in the public-policy arena. One such Christian counterpart is the National Association of Evangelicals, which has published “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility” since 2004 and issued a revised version this year.

The NAE’s booklet dovetails in many ways with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ own “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”

Since 1976, the Catholic bishops have issued a quadrennial statement to guide Catholics “in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy.” For years titled simply “Political Responsibility,” the document published in 1999 was titled “Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium.”

The latest revision of the current document was done in 2015, and it was issued ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.

The issues, though, don’t go away just because presidential candidates are not on the ballot. In fact, this year’s midterm elections promise to deliver turnout numbers rivaling midterm voter interest in at least a generation.

“Faithful Citizenship” and “For the Health of the Nation” are both meant to provide a moral framework voters can use to analyze the issues.

One considerable difference between the two documents: “Faithful Citizenship” contains footnotes and multiple references to church teaching, papal encyclicals and previous statements by the U.S. bishops. “For the Health of the Nation” uses only Scripture passages to buttress its stands on the issues it includes.

Here is an issue-by-issue look of select passages in the USCCB and NAE documents.

— Abortion — USCCB: “Abortion, the deliberate killing of a human being before birth, is never morally acceptable and must always be opposed. Cloning and destruction of human embryos for research or even for potential cures are always wrong.” NAE: “Any serious attempt to reduce the number of abortions must therefore come to terms with unplanned pregnancy, the pandemic of extramarital sex and the complex issues surrounding contraception and other family planning methods. The church is understandably reluctant to recommend contraception for unmarried sexual partners, given that it cannot condone extramarital sex. However, it is even more tragic when unmarried individuals compound one sin by then destroying the previous gift of life.”

— Assisted suicide — USCCB: “The purposeful taking of human life by assisted suicide and euthanasia is not an act of mercy, but an unjustifiable assault on human life. … Our (bishops’) conference supports laws and policies to protect human life to the maximum degree possible, including constitutional protection for the unborn and legislative efforts to end abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia.” NAE: “Instead of supporting legislation allowing physician-assisted suicide, Christians should focus on improving care for the dying and increasing access to high-quality palliative or hospice care to alleviate needless suffering.”

— Capital punishment — USCCB: “Our nation’s continued reliance on the death penalty cannot be justified. Because we have other ways to protect society that are more respectful of human life, the USCCB supports efforts to end the use of the death penalty and in the meantime to restrain its use through broader use of DNA evidence, access to effective counsel, and efforts to address unfairness and injustice related to application of the death penalty.” NAE: No mention.

— Conduct during war — USCCB: “Genocide, torture, and the direct and intentional targeting of noncombatants in war or terrorist attacks are always wrong.” NAE: “Governments should at a minimum restrain violence by applying classical just war principles, which are designed to clarify the limited conditions under which military action is justifiable, and establish standards of right conduct in fighting a war. These principles apply to military decision-making, and congressional deliberation on the declaration of war or authorizing use of force, and to the critical evaluation of past military actions.”

— Economy — USCCB: “Social and economic policies should foster the creation of jobs for all who can work with decent working conditions and just wages. Barriers to equal pay and employment for women and those facing unjust discrimination must be overcome.” NAE: “Economic justice includes the mitigation of suffering, the promotion of equality of opportunity and the restoration of wholeness.”

— Environment — USCCB: “Effective initiatives are required for energy conservation and the development of alternate, renewable, and clean-energy resources. Our Conference offers a distinctive call to seriously address global climate change, focusing on the virtue of prudence, pursuit of the common good, and the impact on the poor, particularly on vulnerable workers and the poorest nations.” NAE: “We urge governments to support energy efficiency standards, decrease our carbon footprint, reduce pollution, provide safe drinking water, encourage sustainable use of natural resources, and ensure proper care of wildlife and their natural habitats. Both government and the private sector should also increase investment in adaptation to the effects of climate change, particularly as it impacts the most vulnerable people in our country and around the world.”

— Health care — USCCB: “Affordable and accessible health care is an essential safeguard of human life and a fundamental human right. … Health care coverage remains an urgent national priority.” NAE: “We welcome medical advances that promote human life and health. Yet, Genesis portrays attempts to transcend God-given human limitations as rebellion against God.”

— Immigration — USCCB: “Comprehensive reform is urgently necessary to fix a broken immigration system and should include a broad and fair legalization program with a path to citizenship; a work program with worker protections and just wages; family reunification policies; access to legal protections, which include due process procedures; refuge for those fleeing persecution and violence; and policies to address the root causes of migration.” NAE: “Immigration policies should prioritize family unity and avoid separating families by deportation or detention.”

— Labor — USCCB: “Catholic social teaching supports the right of workers to choose whether to organize, join a union, and bargain collectively, and to exercise these rights without reprisal.” NAE: “Labor, housing, health care, tax, immigration and education policies concern not only individuals but can significantly affect families. We commit ourselves to work for laws that protect and foster family life.”

— Marriage — USCCB: “Marriage must be defined, recognized, and protected as a lifelong exclusive commitment between a man and a woman, and as the source of the next generation and the protective haven for children.” NAE: “Marriage as a lifetime covenantal relationship between one man and one woman is a normative biblical symbol of God’s relationship with his people.”

— Media — USCCB: “Regulation should limit concentration of media control, resist management that is primarily focused on profit, and encourage a variety of program sources, including religious programming.” NAE: No mention.

— Refugees — USCCB: “We support policies and actions that protect refugees of war and violence, at home and abroad, and all people suffering religious persecution throughout the world, many of whom are our fellow Christians.” NAE: “We call on governments to offer resettlement opportunities to refugees who are unable to return to their homes, with a particular priority on the most vulnerable and family reunification.”

— Religious freedom — USCCB: “US policy should promote religious liberty vigorously, both at home and abroad: our first and most cherished freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person, a fundamental human right that knows no geographical boundaries.” NAE: “We affirm the principles of religious freedom and liberty of conscience, which are both historically and logically as the foundation of the American experiment. … Evangelical concern for religious freedom does not stop at our nation’s borders. Religious persecution is closely linked with the violation of other human rights, and often leads to civil unrest and violent conflict.”

U.S. BISHOPS ARE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO DEAL WITH POSTELECTION ANIMUS

BALTIMORE (CNS) — Like many others, the U.S. Catholic bishops are trying to figure out how to deal with a president-elect who’s different from anyone they’ve dealt with in the past and one involved in one of the most rancorous elections in modern times.

As a candidate, Republican Donald Trump, said some things that proved hurtful and worrisome to groups of Latino and black Catholics, but also gave hope to Catholics concerned about religious freedom and abortion.

At the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore in mid-November, church leaders tried to urge calm, caution and promote unity following an election season fueled by vitriol, name-calling and fear.

“The dust hasn’t settled on the election yet,” said Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, during a Nov. 14 news conference, adding that as a group of bishops, “we’ve just begun a conversation about how we’re going to move forward.”

This election, Bishop Coyne said, “it’s so beyond the pale of what we’ve faced before.”

“We knew the lay of the land when we approached a Democratic presidency or a Republican presidency, you’d go into Congress and approach them in (certain) ways,” he said. “This election has thrown all that out the window.”

“I think we need to talk about how we as bishops maintain the good news, maintain the things that we stand for as Catholics, seeking always the common good, in ways that serve the best way forward for all of us,” he said.

At the fall general meeting, bishops were peppered with questions about how they’ll work with or approach a Trump administration that made promises to anti-abortion Catholic constituencies yet insulted ethnic groups and threatened mass deportations, which some bishops have publicly opposed.

In a Nov. 15 news conference, Jesuit Father Thomas Reese asked Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who had just been elected president of the conference, whether, as USCCB president, he saw opportunities for dealing with a new Trump administration on pro-life issues and religious freedom issues, such as the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

“I have to admit at this point I’m not sure where the new administration is coming from,” he said.”My hope would be that we can sit down with the administration or meet with them in some fashion, perhaps even in terms of Congress, relative to some pro-life things. I would certainly think some aspects of the Affordable Care Act would be great if we could sit down and see them worked out, relative to, let’s say, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and analogous things.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor have been in the forefront of several Catholic entities fighting a mandate that would require them as employers to cover contraceptives in their employee health plans over their moral objections to such coverage.

Cardinal DiNardo added: “We would like to see the Hyde Amendment extended, as it has always been every year and not with the difficulties that were apparently attached earlier this year to its passage … appointments of judges are important.” The Hyde Amendment prevents federal funds from being used to pay for abortion except in cases of rape or to save the life of the mother.

The day before, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, addressing a question about Trump’s campaign promise to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits certain tax-exempt organizations from endorsing and opposing political candidates, said there was an important distinction to make.

“There’s a big difference between political promises and political action,” he said. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

What concerns him most, said Archbishop Gregory, is finding a peaceful way forward, not just for Catholics divided over the elections, but for the nation.

“One of the things we’re grappling with now is not just bringing Catholics together, but bringing America together,” he said. “We, in the life of the church, are united by our faith, by our religious conviction in liturgical life. This past election was so unusual in its hostility that it lay the foundation for this kind of unusual reaction.”

In any election, he said, there are winners and losers, but when the climate has been so inflamed, there were bound to be protests, no matter who won “because of the animus that marked the entire election,” he said.

“I would hope that we, as Catholics, no matter who you voted for, or (where you) are in the political spectrum, would be able to come together in Eucharist and say, ‘There is one Lord, there is one Eucharist, there is one church, and it’s big enough to embrace all of us,’” said Archbishop Gregory. “I am more worried about the nature of our society that seems to have taken in such violence and venom. … If we’re going to survive as a nation, we have to treat one another much more civilly.”

He also issued a reminder that no political party or political candidate embraces the full range of human life issues that the Catholic Church teaches.

“I’ve looked and I can’t find any,” he said. “There has been no political platform that has been proposed that coincides perfectly with Catholic Social Teaching on the dignity of human life … That’s why it was so difficult for people to vote … (there was) some dimension of human dignity and the respect of life on one political party, and another part on another. But there no one cohesive expression of Catholic Social Teaching can be identified with any political party.”

 

A CONSCIENTIOUS VOTE

This year’s presidential election has many Catholics praying extra hard for guidance.

To examine the crossroads of political engagement and the Catholic faith, OC Catholic reached out to Greg Walgenbach, director of Life, Justice and Peace for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.

In that role, Walgenbach oversees a network of ministers who lead ministries in parishes and advocate for public policy that affirms a consistent ethic of life regarding such issues as abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, human trafficking, immigration, fair trade and homelessness.

 

OC Catholic: What is “the Catholic vote,” and how has it been observed in the past?

Greg Walgenbach: There is no “Catholic vote,” per se. The Church does not vote. Voters vote. And somewhere around 25 percent of the electorate of potential voters are Catholic. There is, however, Catholic teaching and the Good News of Jesus Christ. Yet the Catholic electorate is divided in ways not unlike the rest of our society.

 

OCC: What does this tell us?

GW: First, it tells us that voting is not always a straight line from Catholic teaching. Assenting to a point of moral theology is not the same as voting for a candidate who has a policy position on a set of legislative positions related to an issue of moral concern.

So, there are some degrees of separation here that will inevitably be addressed as an individual voter forms his or her conscience.

Second, it also tells us that Catholics are human beings, who – as Gaudium et spes [“Joy and Hope, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” was one of the four constitutions resulting from the Second Vatican Council] put it – share “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the [people] of this age.”

That Vatican II document went on to add: “Especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted,” gesturing at the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.

But Catholic voters, like other voters, are susceptible to partisanship, ideologies, greed, narrow-mindedness, hard-heartedness and inattention to truthfulness, as well as favoring a single issue or a narrow set of priorities or self-interest.

Our bishops remind us that “as Catholics we are not single-issue voters” and “a candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee support.” However, a candidate’s promotion of an intrinsically evil act like abortion, euthanasia, racism, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, sexual abuse, or targeting of noncombatants in war, to name a few, may lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.

 

OCC: How can voting be interpreted as an expression of one’s faith?

GW: Our bishops speak of the Church’s obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society as a requirement of our faith. Teaching others what Jesus has taught us is central to our call to be, as Pope Francis reminds us, “missionary disciples.”

In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. Voting is a way that we can serve the common good and be witness to God’s truth in the political life of the nation in which we live.

It also is an opportunity for a sort of gut check or integrity check as a disciple of Jesus. We can ask ourselves, “Am I more formed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ or by the political culture of the United States?”

If our politics is not challenged by the Gospel, by the Sermon on the Mount, by Catholic social teaching, I’m not sure we’re paying attention.

 

OCC: Is there any guidance on this issue from U.S. Bishops’ documents?

GW: Yes. For example, these words come from the U.S. Bishops’ document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which lays out in great detail both the challenges of our time and the importance of the formation of conscience for enabling faithful participation in public life:

“Catholics may choose different ways to respond to compelling social problems, but we cannot differ on our moral obligation to help build a more just and peaceful world through morally acceptable means, so that the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended.”

Our fundamental principle as Catholics is the dignity of the human person, which means that we care deeply about the dignity of the unborn, the refugee and immigrant, the dignity of women, people of color, those with terminal illness, those who are exploited at work, etc.

The teaching of our Church pushes against the cultural drive to choose between victims, ever leading us to look to defend the poor, vulnerable and the outcast, which echoes the constant refrain of the Old Testament prophets and the ministry of Jesus to the orphan, the widow, and the stranger – the preferential option for the poor.

 

OCC: Are there any resources you recommend for Catholic voters?

GW: Yes, please visit rcbo.org/faithfulcitizenship, which has a variety of links to documents from our church, including a helpful Frequently Asked Questions piece that is new this year from the California Catholic Conference.

Also of interest when it comes to making decisions specific to difficult choices in voting are the following paragraphs in “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”:

Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods.

A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position.

At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

In the end, (voting) is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.

‘PRAYER FOR THE WELFARE OF THE REPUBLIC’

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As we enter the month of November, with all of its festivities–and this year, with general elections upon us–we are called more than ever to reflect on, and pray about, what it means to be part of the “City of God” and the “City of Man.” We really belong to two worlds, which sometimes seem to fit together and at other times not. St. Augustine of Hippo, of the fourth century, was faced with this same dilemma as the Roman Empire was on the verge of collapse and the Church had to come face to face with building a new culture and a “New City.” In this time, St. Augustine wrote one of his most significant works: The City of God, in which he confronted the reality of being part of two worlds. Among other noteworthy quotes he asked: “What are kingdoms without justice? They’re just gangs of bandits.” And, perhaps a little less bluntly (as he was known more often to be blunt), he also said in the same work: “What grace is meant to do is to help good people, not to escape their sufferings, but to bear them with a stout heart, with a fortitude that finds it strength in faith.”

As we are faced with the mission of building our culture again, we can turn to St. Paul, who reminded us to pray for those in authority, and also turn more recently to the “Prayer for Welfare of the Republic,” delivered nearly 225 years ago (November 10, 1791) by Bishop John Carroll, the first Bishop of Baltimore. This prayer gives us a great deal to reflect on in the next week. As we read and reflect on this prayer, it would be important, I believe, in addition to fulfilling our civic duty (which we often take for granted), to make a holy hour in our parishes, Churches, or institutions this week to pray for our country. This can certainly be done in the days of Eucharistic adoration that our parishes have, which follow from the inspiration of Bishop William Johnson, first Bishop of our Diocese, who established Eucharistic adoration to pray for vocations and to the holiness of the people of our Diocese.

 

“A prayer for the welfare of the republic”

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name. We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Francis, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation. We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty. We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability. We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal. Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed, who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

 

 

DOMINICANS HELP OTHERS SEEK OUT THE SAINTS IN A TOUGH ELECTION SEASON

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The tension and frustration that the country feels over an election season filled with insults and rancor, feels a bit more amped up in Washington, the city where the winner of the presidential race will reside.

With days to go before Election Day, the feast of All Saints seemed like a good occasion for the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, about three miles from the U.S. Capitol, to provide some respite for the weary.

While some attended Halloween festivities Oct. 31, the Dominicans filled their chapel in the evening with candles, prayer and people, as hundreds gathered for an event focused on the saints on the vigil of their Nov. 1 feast. They listened to the words of St. Catherine of Siena, St. John Paul II and St. John Chrysostom as well as Pope Francis’ remarks on one of the newest saints of the church: St. Teresa of Kolkata.

Recognizing the tension in the country, Dominican Brother Isaac Morales said he hoped the evening would provide “a sense of hope” and connection with the saints during a tough period. After all, he said, the saints, too, faced seasons of trouble. He recalled St. John Paul’s trials and tribulations as well as Mother Teresa’s.

He said it was edifying to see the chapel packed with those seeking prayer and serenity.

“I came seeking spirituality,” said Yorgos Schwartzmann, who attended the event for the first time and said the meditation helped him find a better understanding of others.

Rachelle Nigro told Catholic News Service she attended because of the peace the event brings, particularly in the serenity of the chapel, where the Dominican brothers offered their prayer in song while celebrating the saints.

Rachael Osborne, of Washington, held a candle in one of the hallways and concentrated on the Litany of the Saints as one of the brothers blessed the hundreds who lined the cloister walk.

“I’m grateful to celebrate this,” said Osborne, who said the event helped her feel close and connected to the saints.

During the vigil, Dominican Brother Irenaeus Dunlevy said the saints help people find mercy and goodness, they help people see the face of Jesus in others, and that this can help people grow in mercy. To participate in God’s mercy is to act, he said, adding that God’s mercy is not a thing but an action: giving life, redeeming, strengthening, empowering and elevating others.

“The saints exemplified this acting of mercy,” he said.

The saints also reflect God’s light into the world, he said.

“We need that light today,” he said. “Because without it, we’re capable of committing the darkest acts in the name of mercy.”

He reminded those present that the District of Columbia’s city council was voting, on the feast of All Saints, on a bill that “suggests it is merciful to kill those who are near death. Without the light of wisdom, we might kill in the name of mercy,” he said.

He asked those present to call out to the saints, “our friends,” to be transformed in the image of mercy, reflecting God’s love “toward all those we meet.”