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Quo Vadis, Faithful Citizenship?

posted by awelborn

As we all know, the bishops are meeting next week.
Tom at Disputations takes a look at their action items.
But moving on from the general – we might surmise that Faithful Citizenship will come up for discussion.
Especially considering at least one bishop’s assertion that the document has no authority in his diocese.
Remember – any reconsideration is nothing startling or reactive – the thing is routinely rewritten.
So if you were speaking to the bishops about this document and their efforts to assist Catholics in shaping their consciences in regard to voting and participation in civic life, what would you say?
I find myself wondering about the effort. Considering that out of a 42-page document, the only passages anyone was interested in were those related to possible rationales for voting for an abortion-rights advocating candidate, the existence of the rest seems to be open for discussion.
In a way, the Faithful Citizenship endeavor, as a whole, seems to me to be in part an expression of historical anxiety – an anxiety that the patriotism and civic loyalty of Catholics might still be in question. 
I just think the bishops need to think about slimming down and focusing this particular effort.
And you? You’re speaking at a hearing. You’re an expert witness. What do you have to say?
Update:
Good comments so far – here’s what Clayton (who blogs here) has to say:

Especially since hearing Bishop Martino’s recent remarks in Scranton, I’ve begun to ask myself questions. Honestly, I don’t know the answers, but maybe someone here can clarify a few things for me.
It seems that every time the bishops want to address an issue, what ends up being created is a document. I guess that is the typical pattern of what committees do. But I wonder how effective this is. Especially today. In this age of swirling seas of data, are we swimming, or drowning, in information? Is another document really what the doctor ordered?
Another question: is the information in Faithful Citizenship unique? Does it contain information that we couldn’t find in primary sources, such as the Catechism, Compendium of Social Doctrine, encyclicals, etc?
Also, these documents seem to do the work of synthesis for us, but is that really the best approach? How seriously do we have to grapple with material when it’s been prepared and packaged for us? How invested are we in messages in which the application of principles is already, to a large extent, done for us?
A related question: do documents — disembodied from individuals who deliver them — really effect change? Conversion? Metanoia? To the average reader in the pew, I would suppose that the author is pretty much anonymous to the reader — the USCCB committee producing the document is faceless to the recipient. What kind of impact does that have? It’s certainly a different experience from receiving a letter from someone you know. It seems to me that part of the genius and dynamism of the the letters of St. Paul, for instance, is that they are a personal communication. He knows his audience, intimately. He speaks directly to them… the communication is tailored to the recipient. A father speaking to his children. A brother speaking with his brothers and sisters. A shepherd speaking with his flock. With all this in mind, it seems to me that a letter from one’s own bishop probably stirs more attention and interest than a letter constructed by committee.
Then there is the question of the teaching authority of what is produced. Does it carry the weight of a magisterial document? How is the average Catholic supposed to understand the authority of a USCCB document in comparison to say, Scripture, the Catechism, an encylical letter, or something written by their bishop?
All by way of saying: I wonder if the primary need with Faithful Citizenship is really to rearrange paragraphs, tighten prose, shorten passages, distill a series of bullet points/talking points, etc. I wonder if we shouldn’t be asking more radical, overarching questions, such as: is this sort of thing the most effective way for bishops to communicate with the faithful? The recent behavior of Catholics in this election cycle would seem to indicate that there might be better ways…



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Curmudgeon

posted November 6, 2008 at 9:28 am


I agreee that ‘trimming’ is in order. I’ve used it for years to educate folks in the pews and all they want are the highlights.
I think it should focus on (OK, I’ve said this before) taking our moral positions into public life. Not just voting. To counter the “I wouldn’t want to impose my morality on others” approach, which is idiotic. (Who wants an amoral government? We might get them from time to time, but who wants one?)
It has to include the reality that, as it says in the current version, “Politics is the art of the possible.” How do we advocate in a diverse culture?
The reality is that no political decision is pure. I think that they do a good job in making that point now – that one is constantly weighing factors and must pray for the virtue of prudence.
Yet, they need to make clear that those decisions are made on the way to an eventual goal. The goal has to be kept in sight.



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Rich Leonardi

posted November 6, 2008 at 9:58 am


Remember – this reconsideration is nothing startling or reactive – the thing is rewritten constantly.
Isn’t this part of the problem? That we have a document with no authority in the first place treated like a Wikipedia page?



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Clayton

posted November 6, 2008 at 10:17 am


Especially since hearing Bishop Martino’s recent remarks in Scranton, I’ve begun to ask myself questions. Honestly, I don’t know the answers, but maybe someone here can clarify a few things for me.
It seems that every time the bishops want to address an issue, what ends up being created is a document. I guess that is the typical pattern of what committees do. But I wonder how effective this is. Especially today. In this age of swirling seas of data, are we swimming, or drowning, in information? Is another document really what the doctor ordered?
Another question: is the information in Faithful Citizenship unique? Does it contain information that we couldn’t find in primary sources, such as the Catechism, Compendium of Social Doctrine, encyclicals, etc?
Also, these documents seem to do the work of synthesis for us, but is that really the best approach? How seriously do we have to grapple with material when it’s been prepared and packaged for us? How invested are we in messages in which the application of principles is already, to a large extent, done for us?
A related question: do documents — disembodied from individuals who deliver them — really effect change? Conversion? Metanoia? To the average reader in the pew, I would suppose that the author is pretty much anonymous to the reader — the USCCB committee producing the document is faceless to the recipient. What kind of impact does that have? It’s certainly a different experience from receiving a letter from someone you know. It seems to me that part of the genius and dynamism of the the letters of St. Paul, for instance, is that they are a personal communication. He knows his audience, intimately. He speaks directly to them… the communication is tailored to the recipient. A father speaking to his children. A brother speaking with his brothers and sisters. A shepherd speaking with his flock. With all this in mind, it seems to me that a letter from one’s own bishop probably stirs more attention and interest than a letter constructed by committee.
Then there is the question of the teaching authority of what is produced. Does it carry the weight of a magisterial document? How is the average Catholic supposed to understand the authority of a USCCB document in comparison to say, Scripture, the Catechism, an encylical letter, or something written by their bishop?
All by way of saying: I wonder if the primary need with Faithful Citizenship is really to rearrange paragraphs, tighten prose, shorten passages, distill a series of bullet points/talking points, etc. I wonder if we shouldn’t be asking more radical, overarching questions, such as: is this sort of thing the most effective way for bishops to communicate with the faithful? The recent behavior of Catholics in this election cycle would seem to indicate that there might be better ways…



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M.Z. Forrest

posted November 6, 2008 at 10:26 am


First, the document does have authority. In this particular instance, it is directly edited and voted upon by all the bishops. The degree to which it is binding is an open question. When people want to argue from authority, they seem to want to consider it binding. More importantly though, the question is whether it is accurate. We on the Internet deal with all sorts of nonbinding data, be they private letters or press conference offerings.
I wrote when FC was released that it was a poor document. I still think it is. A prerequisite for a good document would be agreement, something that a lot of people seem to be presuming. If you take a look at someone like Bishop Lori out in Connecticut who is having a difficult time defending the conscience rights of hospitals and physicians and compare the situation with bishop in South Dakota where they just had a referendum on banning 1st trimester abortions except in the case of the 3 exceptions, you are obviously dealing with different situations needing radically different responses. The principles obviously don’t change, but what is prudent to attempt to achieve does.



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SWP

posted November 6, 2008 at 10:29 am


The Bishops should frame it as more of a mandate. It should be more than an optional teaching instrument; there should be clear guidelines that pastors can implement uniformly, so that canon law is not some big joke but a directive we take seriously.
They should explicitly define what are not options, no matter how prudent we may be, with clear consequences for failure to comply, otherwise “no” means “do what you’re conscience tells you”.
You can’t inform your conscience if you’ve never been told “This is Wrong and This is a matter of Judgment and This is Just and This is Unjust.” Then people will have been informed. How they act is up to them. But they can never say, “you didn’t tell me so”.
When I care for children, I have to present options. There is clearly the Wrong option with its attendant consequences. If I don’t enforce those consequences, the kids know they can run wild. It’s time the Bishops learned how to practice the most basic parenting skills.



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Marcel LeJeune

posted November 6, 2008 at 10:39 am


Clayton – thanks for the great thoughts.
I think the Bishops need to get out of writing so many documents as well. The US Bishops’ documents are usually under-whelming, nor read by a vast majority of Catholics, and rarely, if ever, taught in the parishes.
The Bishops need to teach on a local level, support and form their priests and if then speak to the people in their local churches (dioceses). The priests and other leaders on the parish level need to work at forming adults in their faith through a greater call to prayer, education and virtue.
It takes conversion to make a good Catholic.



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Rich Leonardi

posted November 6, 2008 at 10:49 am


First, the document does have authority. In this particular instance, it is directly edited and voted upon by all the bishops.
We’ve been through this before. It simply doesn’t. A bishop can make the document the “law of the land” in his diocese, as Archbishop Pilarczkyk has done, and thereby make it a function of his teaching office, but in and of itself the document has no standing.



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Rich Leonardi

posted November 6, 2008 at 10:52 am


And I echo the praise for Clayton’s thoughts. He’s really getting at the root of things. Are these “disembodied” documents really useful? Do they encourage shepherds to outsource their teaching office?



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Fr. Steve

posted November 6, 2008 at 11:02 am


Clayton’s insights should be sent to every bishop in the United States.



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Tom Kelty

posted November 6, 2008 at 11:04 am


Does anyone see the possibilities inherent in returning to the days when Bishops were chosen and elected by the laity? Just think how this would improve transparency and performance if they were locally chosen and monitored.
The current system concentrates all power and wisdom in the Papacy. How can one man choose and monitor Bishops for the whole world as populations escalate by the billions.
It is sad to see B16 quietly trying to restore the church to a smaller, latinized liturgy, a European model with well defined boundaries. Our ordained leaders refuse to allow God to be God. They seek ways to re-create Him in their own image and likeness, foisting on Him their own preferences for languages and liturgy. And they truly expect the young ones to go along with languages they have never heard. There is nothing wrong with a model of many smaller national churches. I think the word is autochthonous. The Roman Catholic Church is already made up of such churches.



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Derek Pillie

posted November 6, 2008 at 11:24 am


I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with laying out a core group of issues that should be considered. I lean more toward the five non-negotiables as a filter for considering candidates than the bishops’ document.
The challenge is that I don’t think there is a problem among those paying attention to where the bishops’ stand on these issues. I think the bishops need to change their focus from what we believe to how we communicate our beliefs.
It’s not all that different from the challenge the Church faces saving souls and winning converts. We need to focus on how we communicate our message, not on refining what the message is… that’s pretty plain and as mentioned above available in a variety of documents.
We need to focus not so much on the particular language we use but how we shout it out!



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Laura

posted November 6, 2008 at 11:47 am


I think Clayton has summed it up. But really, what do you expect from a document written by a committee? And all the wailing over whether or not it has “magisterial authority” seems to me to be the kind of parsing that should be beyond faithful Catholics. That’s usually the refuge of scoundrels – to nitpick every little thing in the hope of finding a loophole.
OK, if you want “magisterial authority,” why not disband the USCCB (except for some issues, such as humanitarian relief where a common approach could be facilitated) and make each bishop the primary teacher in his own diocese once again? That was Cardinal Ratzinger’s criticism of the bishops’ conferences in the first place: that they too often allowed cowardly bishops to hide behind their facades without having to step up and pronounce on an issue. That’s why I loved Bishop Martino of Scranton when he said: “The USCCB doesn’t speak for me. . . . There is one teacher in this diocese and these points are not debatable.”
That should end the perpetual whining about “magisterial authority,” pronounced on by laypeople who may or may not know what they’re talking about. And it will end the practice of the USCCB perpetually issuing unread documents.



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Mary Jane

posted November 6, 2008 at 12:10 pm


As we all know, the camel was a horse designed by a committee. Documents from the bishops’ conference are often camels – add a paragraph here, take one out, change a term, rephrase, etc. – all in an attempt to produce something that everyone will get on board with. And don’t leave out anything!
I read “Faithful Citizenship” twice. I found it twisted in different directions, vague when it should have been definite, and rather purposeless. It seemed to me as though its purpose was to get everyone off the hook. Ask a bishop about the role of the Catholic in contemporary civic life and he can point to this document. End of discussion.



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SWP

posted November 6, 2008 at 12:18 pm


When I was little, I would bite in order to get my way in a scuffle. Children shouldn’t bite. In order to break me of this method, I received a spanking from my parents each time it happened. I learned not to bite my brothers when we got in a scuffle. We also learned concurrently to resolve our conflicts without resorting to scuffles by going into timeout together, from which we were not excused until we had developed a mutual plan for behaving differently.
The fact that I was spanked did not mean my parents loved me less. It meant they loved me enough to condition my behavior in line with the expectations of civility. It was not abuse; what I was doing was abusive and they were correcting me.
What the Bishops seem unable to comprehend is that love means correction. Children who don’t like correction sometimes grow on to become rebellious teenagers. That’s very evident in the Church today among the baby-boomers. They don’t like being told what to do, yet the fact remains, “As long as you’re living in my house you will abide by my rules.” This is not unfair, when parents do this. This too is part of love. If children don’t know what the boundaries are, they can’t learn to prosper self-reliantly. They don’t learn how to apply the rules to their own conduct. The problems that arise are not the Church’s fault if they stem from a recalcitrant attitude on the party of the teenager. The Church must hold its expectations yet work with the adolescent to bring about maturity and wise decision-making.
So, for many people in the Church, a healthy dose of spanking is in order. They need to learn what is wrong and right behavior. They need to be kept in line with the obligations of civility. Civility is not murdering your child. Civility is not allowing someone to murder a child. Civility is not helping or supporting someone who allows someone to murder a child. These are the basic demands of human decency.
Another method of punishment that seems to have fallen by the wayside applies here as well: if the child does not change their behavior, they are not welcome to enjoy supper. Sitting at the table is for people who have chosen to behave within the bounds of appropriate and inappropriate behavior. If you do not behave, you do not get to sit at the table. The Bishops need to employ this method as well. It does not mean you’re not a part of the family. It means you are welcome when you learn to behave like a lady or gentleman.
Right conduct is hard to teach. Unlearning certain behaiors takes time and/or force. The right exercise of force is crucial here. When a parent enforces the rules, they are acting out of love for their child. When I was spanked on my bottom, I was propped back up and my parents and I had a conversation. I understood how my actions elicited this response. I made a pledge to change my behavior.
This is not unlike the Act of Contrition. Have most Catholics in the Baby-boomer forgotten the Act of Contrition? We say to God, “I firmly intend with your help to sin no more.” Obviously, we will sin again; and when we do, we are forgiven and we strive again for the still more excellent way.
Doug Kmiec and many like him need to grow up. They need to stop imposing their teen angst on the rest of us who are trying to put into practice Faithful Citizenship. They need to stop practicing birth control, stop voting for pro-choice candidates, stop talking back to the Bishops, and start becoming mature Catholics. They need to get unstuck from the past, when Sister was mean because she told you what to do and you didn’t like it.
The more Catholics can exhibit this kind of maturity, the more authentically we will witness to the culture around us. What a travesty that this many souls, who grew up in the vibrant orthodoxy of the Pre-Vatican II era, have caused so much destruction by their inability to conform their behavior to the expectations of the Church. They hit puberty, called it a sexual revolution, made idols of their own monumental egos and called it civil disobedience, and they broke the rules, and called it being progressive.
Let’s call this nonsense what it is. Let’s demand adult conduct from these wayward teens in their fat and complacent middle age. I hope the bishops do not give in to whining. I hope they do not act like indulgent moms playing the good cop. Speaking of which, I hope the Sisters stop their Gaia-worship long enough to be effective in this area too. Babies are not less important than flowers. And yes, your job is to not wear the pants in the family. While you lust for power, your daughter is starving for effective role-modeling. Motherhood is not the same as Fatherhood. Fathers don’t have wombs.
Fathers have balls, or at least they’re supposed to. We’ll see what the plenary council reveals.



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Jim

posted November 6, 2008 at 12:38 pm


Bishops Conference pronouncements have no binding authority, unless unanimously adopted [good luck!] or approved expressly by the Vatican [more good luck!].
Once the conferences were de-fanged several years ago (at the request of some conservative archbishops), their documents are more for tail cover than practical use. A bishop now can ignore them altogether, hand them out in lieu of taking a stance personally or just selectively quote from them: in short, they are somewhat useful but ultimately useless documents.
Nothing beats having your own spine: too bad that having a spine is an episcopal career-buster.



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bill bannon

posted November 6, 2008 at 1:17 pm


I join all the chorus of assenters to Clayton. The issue was laying on a lot of minds inchoately and Clayton gave it form.
And ….I would add: take all paper work away from Bishops; give them a driver who takes them to appointments to talk to parishes and to talk to bizarre Catholics like porn star Jenna Jamieson who has a collection of Catholic religious art and let said Bishops go also to bizarre nominal Catholics in the normal media like Charlie Sheen (stage name based on Bishop Fulton Sheen by Charlie’s father) whose hit TV show …”2 and a half men” is nightly telling still another generation of young people that pre marital sex is a thrill sport like springboard diving with no eternal consequences….without telling them that it…premarital sex…. is sinful in itself since it involves emotions of the deepest sort and ones that cry out for committment and that it can lead to abortions. Let his area’s Bishop ask for a meeting with him.
Let our Bishops go…free them…..from the paperwork/finance maze….to engage key people in the interpersonal encounter process. I did it on the streets of Manhattan…it doesn’t always go well….remember the several times “they picked up stones” to hit Christ….yet He did not retreat to documents….in fact…wrote none.
For the Pope….ditto….the last Pope wrote letters to US pols to save death row murderers. Free this Pope from endless meetings and too tight a calender of hours of liturgies at this place and that place and let him write letters to people like Obama and to the head of Planned Parenthood…. to save not murderers this time ….but pre borns. Benedict could be thinking of that anyway.



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Chris Sullivan

posted November 6, 2008 at 2:08 pm


I’ve personally always found Faithfull Citizenship very helpful and it’s been a guide to me in voting in the New Zealand elections tomorrow.
I’m grateful to the US bishops for issuing this document. It’s a much better guide than some of the outlandish statements from a few extremist US bishops.
God Bless



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Clayton

posted November 6, 2008 at 2:31 pm


Which raises another question: What sort of obedience do we owe to our own bishop? If we find the committee document more pleasing to our tastes, does that trump our obligations to the local ordinary?



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Chris Sullivan

posted November 6, 2008 at 3:37 pm


Clayton,
If you’ve got some extremist local bishop trying to bully you that you’ll go to hell if you vote Obama then, yes, Faithfull Citizenship does trump that sort of ecclesiatical abuse of power.
God Bless



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Pat Rooney

posted November 6, 2008 at 4:51 pm


Well done Mary Jane and Marcel. These documents are poorly written and painful to read. An essential problem is the anonymity of the authors and the audience. No one reads a phonebook to be inspired or to be challanged. We need bishops who are discerned to be loving and faithful representatives of Christ and who, directly and through their parish priests, teach the Faith and its implications…and we need a laity who are willing to think about the Faith and its applications in light of that teaching.



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Clayton

posted November 6, 2008 at 4:57 pm


So we need committee documents to keep bishops accountable for what they teach?



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Bender

posted November 6, 2008 at 5:43 pm


What sort of obedience do we owe to our own bishop?
Ignore what Chris Sullivan said.
This is the sort of obedience we owe —
Lumen Gentium:
37. The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church. Let them follow the example of Christ, who by His obedience even unto death, opened to all men the blessed way of the liberty of the children of God.
20. bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, (15*) as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ.(149)(16*)
23. The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful.(30*) The individual bishops, however, are the visible principle and foundation of unity in their particular churches, (31*) fashioned after the model of the universal Church, in and from which churches comes into being the one and only Catholic Church.(32*) For this reason the individual bishops represent each his own church.
25. Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent.
27. Bishops, as vicars and ambassadors of Christ, govern the particular churches entrusted to them (58*) by their counsel, exhortations, example, and even by their authority and sacred power, which indeed they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the chief become as the servant.(169) This power, which they personally exercise in Christ’s name, is proper, ordinary and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately regulated by the supreme authority of the Church, and can be circumscribed by certain limits, for the advantage of the Church or of the faithful. In virtue of this power, bishops have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them and to moderate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate.
The pastoral office or the habitual and daily care of their sheep is entrusted to them completely. . . .
A bishop, since he is sent by the Father to govern his family, must keep before his eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who came not to be ministered unto but to minister,(170) and to lay down his life for his sheep. . . . But the faithful must cling to their bishop, as the Church does to Christ, and Jesus Christ to the Father, so that all may be of one mind through unity,(61*) and abound to the glory of God.



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curmudgeon

posted November 6, 2008 at 6:41 pm


I would not discount the teaching office of the bishop. (It’s one of the reasons they are there, right?)
But what amazed me this cycle is the total “Uh huh, yeah” nature of the response I received in this parish.
And we pushed this stuff. The pastor wrote about it, the priests preached about it, I offered adult ed. We had links on the web site and sent out blast emails with it included.
It can’t be chalked up to people having heard it from us before, because 80% of this parish wasn’t here four years ago. (We have incredibly high turnover in this neighborhood.)
I think that people have switched off. If people did talk to me about it, it was in the nature of “I just can’t vote for McCain after Bush and I don’t want to hear that it is a sin to vote for Obama, because I don’t think it is.”
I think that the bishops’ teaching office was trumped by the political momentum. To be honest, I think that most of these folks don’t support Obama’s pro-choice record. But I think they also were horrified at the thought of McCain managing the economy. (This is not a reflection of my own views – I’m reporting.)
I think it was just dismissed as irrelevant information when other things seemed more pressing. (Also not reflecting my views, mind you.)
So, the teaching needs to go deeper and wider. Not just hauled out at election time, when overriding factors might just drown it.



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SWP

posted November 6, 2008 at 8:44 pm


Sullivan–
what abuse of power? Why shouldn’t your bishop put a fire under your butt?
Why shouldn’t we be reminded of eternal consequences?
But this overlooks the error of your statement: Bishop Martino never said people who vote for Obama are going to hell– they are committing the sin of cooperation in an intrinsically moral evil.
They do not incur latae sententiae excommunication because they have not actually had an abortion. But they do need to repent of their sin in order to be right with God.
And voting for Obama is clearly a sin.
What part of intrinsically evil don’t you understand?
How is that an abuse of power? YOU are abusing your power by exercising your vote irresponsibly. Abortion is an abuse of power.
Bishops doing their job is praiseworthy.



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Margaret Duffy

posted November 6, 2008 at 10:28 pm


In a lot of ways this is one of the things that has been annoying me about the Church (i.e., the part that is the heirarchy) as it has become in the last few decades. For every and any occasion they seem to produce documents that few people have the time and inclination to read. Maybe it’s time the bishops stopped formulating documents and started saying things bluntly (as some did this time around). Clearly, carefully nuanced, intentionally non-partisan documents do not resonate with regular people who don’t read them anyway.
In an age of sound bits and text messaging (with pared down wording) we don’t need a 42 page document to remind people of the simple truth. We do need faithful bishops and priests who are not afraid to preach about the way things really are. Of course, there will be a lot of fallout should that actually happen. The liberal left is so passionately anti-Catholic that it won’t be comfortable for those who speak the truth. But that’s what the red of a Cardinal’s attire is all about, isn’t it?



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TerryC

posted November 6, 2008 at 11:13 pm


The very creation of the national bishop conferences was one of the great mistakes of the post Vatican II period.
No document issued by a national bishop’s conference has any authority what so ever, unless it is passed unanimously, or approved expressly by the Vatican, so my stand is that unless either of those conditions apply the national bishop conferences should not release the document. In other words if doesn’t contain mandatory teachings don’t waste my (and everyone else’s) time.
Conversely, in cases where a bishop is not a worthy shepherd, it is the right and the duty of the laity to point that out. First to the bishop himself, in Christian charity, and then to the Vatican. The bishop has a responsibility for our souls, but we also have a responsibility for his soul. A particular saint comes to mind who, though a lay woman, felt responsible enough for the soul of the Pope himself to question his actions, to the betterment of the Church, and no doubt, his soul.
Its is also time for the bishops to admit that they have failed to effect well formed consciences in well over half their flock. Wordsmithing Faithful Citizenship is not going to fix that. I’m not sure anything can at this point, barring a genuine miracle.
Perhaps its not that we have a priest shortage in the U.S. Perhaps we have just enough priests for those who are actually in the body of Christ and the Church has simply refused to admit that over half of those calling themselves Catholic, and even on the rolls and giving money aren’t really part of the Church. Perhaps the decreasing number of priests is God’s way of saying its time to revise the creed and only accept as those who will state that abortion is murder and homosexuality is disordered. It’s what the Church did in the past when they had a heresy problem.



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Gramps

posted November 7, 2008 at 12:28 am


45% of those who attend mass on a regular basis voted for Obama. If the ones who go regularly did not get the message that voting for the most radical abortion advocate and defender was gravely wrong, can we not begin to see that there is an issue with our bishops? They say nothing without trying to nuance it to a point of absurdity and frankly, if they did put out a very black and white document, what does it mean if a Catholic goes against it? We have had politicians who claim to be Catholic who have voted to make abortion the law of the land and defend it to the hilt when anyone tries to make a change. We have bishops and cardinals defending them in public. We have Cardinals siting with them at dinner and smiling at them giving them a voice. We have bishops with clear open dissent to church teaching going on under there nose and frankly it must be with their approval in parishes and universities that should be under their control. Until some of this changes, how many really care what they say?
If the Church is going to be relevent to any discussion on any moral issue, we have to start with Catholic leadership that is moral themselves, presents truth strongly, and defends the Church when it is attacked and defamed by so called Catholics.



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Jim

posted November 7, 2008 at 9:43 am


“Perhaps the decreasing number of priests is God’s way of saying its time to revise the creed and only accept as those who will state that abortion is murder and homosexuality is disordered. It’s what the Church did in the past when they had a heresy problem.”
To my knowledge, the various creeds have always been about the articles of faith, not about positions on moral issues. To start adding to the creed a laundry list of moral issues just leads us down a bad path………to say nothing of deepening divisions with other Christian churches and ecclesial communities. In the end, Christianity is about faith. If one’s faith is solid, one’s morality follows.



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Bender

posted November 7, 2008 at 12:31 pm


the various creeds have always been about the articles of faith, not about positions on moral issues
Perhaps it was not meant this way, but it should be clarified that the Church does not have “positions” on moral issues. Neither does the Church have policy on moral issues. Rather, the Church discerns and teaches on matters of moral truth.
Perhaps the decreasing number of priests is God’s way of saying its time to revise the creed and only accept as those who will state that abortion is murder and homosexuality is disordered.
No need for that. It already covers such matters when we say that “we believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” That includes being one with the entirety of Magisterial teachings.



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bill bannon

posted November 8, 2008 at 9:48 am


Today’s (Saturday’s) NY Times has a piece by Steinfels on the dichotomy in this whole event between the USCCB’s “Faithful Citizenship” concept …”Catholics are not one issue”…. versus “but this issue supercedes all issues” from individual bishops…..and I would add from Fr. Corapi in a last minute speech from EWTN played on pre election and election day….which was so late that it seemed to have been caused by audience feedback just prior to the election.



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J

posted November 10, 2008 at 4:01 pm


I think the document should be ditched or a different approach should be taken. What the USCCB’s approach seems to be on such matters is to issue a document that can pass a Nihil Obstat on a technical level, but written in vague enough terms not to “offend the diversity of Catholic faithful”. So the net result is a lovely abstract document that has enough ambiguity in it that people can read it for anything they want. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who read Faithful Citizenship as permitting a vote for Obama. In other words, people picked up the document and felt an increase in confidence that as a Catholic they could vote for the more aggressively abortion-rights candidate. If that’s not a reason to ditch the whole thing, I don’t know what is.
The bottom line is that the document fails because it presumes people know how to make prudential judgments. I will dare say it — most do not. Even among faithful Catholics. I know it is a bit uncouth these days to say such things, but someone has to speak the truth. I had friends who are otherwise incredibly faithful and intelligent Catholics justify to me their decisions to vote for Obama on the basis that if God had a problem with Obama He could have prevented him from winning the nomination. Whatever one may think of the legitimacy of voting for Obama, I’d hope we can all recognize that this is hardly something that resembles prudence or judgment. And yet this comment came to me from someone who’d be considered a very intelligent and faithful Catholic, someone with multiple degrees beyond a B.A.
Bishops need to stop presuming that the faithful are well-formed Catholics. They need to stop pretending they can give abstract hypotheticals (“if all candidates support intrinsic evil, then if x, y, z are true one could do w”). They need to accept reality. Catholics are wedded to political ideology first not the faith. Sadly, maybe even more than our evangelical brethren. So they should deal with that reality head on, instead of pretending as though the people they shepherd are 100% intentional disciples who are well schooled in how to look at these things.
For once I’d like the Bishops to admit that Catholics in this country are pretty unfaithful and have lost their way. That alone I’d think would be an improvement. But that would require having the honesty to look into the mirror and admit what we see about ourselves and our local church.



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