Do your Catholic Duty and VOTE!

It’s finally here.  We’re down to the wire for this presidential election, and now it’s time to do your Catholic duty and vote.  Why is it your Catholic duty, you ask?  Because, in the simple action of going to cast your vote this year you are participating directly in the process that will select leaders.  The choices of these leaders will have a direct effect on the practice of our Catholic Faith in the coming years.  I have written a bit on the main topics that truly matter in relation to Catholic teachings for this election cycle and you will find those links below.

I recently came across this quote from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia (who formerly presided as Archbishop of Denver):

“We are Catholics before we are Democrats, we are Catholics before we are Republicans. We are even Catholics before we are Americans.”

We have almost weathered a very difficult and contentious election year, and as we prepare ourselves to participate fully in the democratic process we will all do well to remember those words.  Prayerfully weigh your decision as you select which candidates to support this election year, and be brave in advocating for morally upright and just laws.  Speak firmly to educate undecided or misguided voters in your circle of friends.  Give no quarter to those that would ask you to hand over the unalienable rights as provided in the Declaration of Independence: Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Be a Catholic first as you enter the voting booth this year, and encourage others to do the same.  It may be the most far-reaching way we can practice our Catholicity.

Since I already voted by mail-in ballot this year, I have the opportunity to spend part of election night at Eucharistic Adoration.  I can think of no better way to let this election finally pass than to do it at the feet of our Lord that truly reigns over all.  Regardless of the outcome, no matter the trials and tribulations that may come, it is comforting to know that He is truly there.

Further Reading

Below is a list of articles I wrote to provide a digest of Church teachings as it relates to important topics from this election year, and some commentary about the election process.  I hope that recounting these articles here provide some insight to those just tuning in to the discussion:

In closing: please vote.  Encourage your friends to vote.  Vote for candidates that support or uphold moral laws that align with our Catholic Faith and allow the ability to freely practice our Faith without concession.  Finally, support our leaders with prayer, regardless of party or affiliation.  They need it every bit as much as the rest of us do.


Five Facts: The Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate

This Five Facts article focuses on objections to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate, a portion of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). This crosscuts a great deal of Church teachings previously mentioned this week, so I will focus more closely on the objections.

Five Facts: The HHS Mandate

  1. The primary objection revolves around the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
  2. The HHS Mandate requires religious employers and insurance companies to provide contraception, abortificants, and sterilization with extremely narrow exceptions.  This violates Catholic moral teachings and requires Catholics materially cooperate in evil.
  3. Should an employer or insurance agency drop their policy and refuse to participate, they will be fined $100 per employee per day.  In many cases this would amount to enough to shutter these organizations.
  4. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released several statements uniformly opposing this mandate.
  5. In addition, the USCCB corrected (with breakneck speed) false statements made by Vice President Joe Biden during the vice-presidential debates, where he claimed that no Catholic individual or organization would be required to pay for or offer contraception.

So why does this matter to you?

Honestly, I get a lot of eye-rolling from my liberal friends when this topic comes up.  They think the heart of the issue is the Catholic Church trying to legislate their agenda regarding contraception, and the religious freedom argument is a line-item overreaction.  In reality, the Church is just asking for it’s Constitutional Right to free exercise of religion.  My personal argument is that the government is forcing me to pay for things that violate my conscience.

I don’t want to pay for someone else’s abortion.  I don’t want to pay for someone else’s contraception or sterilization.  Availability isn’t a problem either – all of these things are available enough via the private sector, often at subsidized rates for those with low-income.  While I don’t want anyone to use these products and services, they are able to already  without government intervention.

As if that was not bad enough, the fines imposed by the HHS Mandate make it impossible for Catholic (or other religious) organizations to disobey this unjust law… the fines would be enough to cause them to shut down.  In the past, mandates of this kind would employ an exemption process that Churches, hospitals, and other faith-based organizations could apply for and receive.  Not so in this case.

Don’t misunderstand me: I think the overall goal of getting affordable health care to everyone is noble.  I just think in this case they went too far.  If the HHS Mandate were to allow a broad, easy-to-receive exemption for anyone who morally disagreed with the policy I probably wouldn’t be writing this article right now.  The fact of the matter is that they do not, and misinformation abounds to try to make the argument go away.

To underscore how serious the threat of eroding religious liberty is, I am reminded of a quotation from His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago:

“I expect to die in my bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

I pray it doesn’t come to that.


Get the Catholic Voting Guide App now!

The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy has produced a free mobile application to help educate Catholic voters on vital issues this election cycle.  This application is non-partisan and does not tell you who to vote for, but does outline the important issues that should matter to every Catholic voter.

I have noticed two things this election year: confusion about moral and religious topics, and apathy.  This application will help clear up the confusion, in hopes that Catholics everywhere vote on the basis of their Faith this election year.  Not Catholic?  I think there is some value here for you as well: you get a very succinct and clear outline of the Catholic stance on these issues.  God willing, these views align with your own and you too can use this tool to form your own conscience and vote accordingly this year.

Please note: aside from being a Catholic, I am not affiliated with the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.  I’m just a big fan of what they do.



Five Facts: Homosexuality and Marriage

For this Five Facts article, we explore two topics that add together to form a big issue this election year.

Five Facts: Catholic Teachings regarding Homosexuality and Marriage

  1. Marriage “is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.” (CCC 1601)
  2. In Matthew 19:4-5, Christ answers the Pharisees question on divorce and reaffirms the model of marriage between one man and one woman. Also see CCC 1605 and 1614 for further Scriptural evidence for this.
  3. The Church teaches that homosexual acts are intrinsicly disordered because this type of conjugal union removes all possibility of openness to life. (CCC 2357)
  4. The Church very clearly states that homosexual people must be treated respect, compassion, and dignity. Every sign of unjust discrimination must be avoided. (CCC 2358)
  5. The Church calls homosexuals to lives of chastity, and in doing so can fulfill God’s will in their lives through prayer and sacramental grace. (CCC 2358, 2359)

Before we begin discussing this topic, I truly want to stress the importance of compassion.  This is a very emotionally charged topic, and this discussion is framed around how marriage is properly ordered toward God and why this is an issue that Catholics must take seriously.  But we must do so with the utmost love and respect for our same-sex attracted brothers and sisters.

Why does the Church care so much about sex and marriage?

Many of the Church teachings cited in the Five Facts series are based on the concept of Natural Law – that there is a natural way that the world is ordered and should behave.  One of the primary aspects of Natural Law is the procreative nature of the world: our ability to create more human beings.  Marriage is the sacramental protection to nurture, properly order, and protect one of the most precious gifts that we receive from God: the gift of new life in children.  Because of the great power contained within human sexuality, it becomes an equally great target for misuse, abuse, and assault.  Therefore, the Church is obligated to teach on this and clearly outline the proper context and ordering of marriage within society according to God’s Will.  The “Further Reading” section below contains links to the Catechism regarding marriage, which provides the rest of the story.

So what’s the big deal?

This election year, a major issue has been made over attempts to redefine the concept of marriage.  Holding aside religious arguments for a moment, a large part of the reason that the government recognizes marriage in the first place is because it provides a common good for society: more citizens.  The financial benefits, tax breaks, and other niceties that the government provides for legally recognized marriage are there to help support the common good of the family unit so they they can prosper and create more generations of citizens to foot the many bills that government asks us to pay.

That’s nice… but why the big uproar from the Catholic community?  Here’s where we begin to get into religious and spiritual arguments.  As I outline above, sacramental marriage must be ordered toward life and Christ Himself  refers to marriage being between one man and one woman.  Being “ordered toward life” means that the possibility of life must be embraced via the natural means that God has provided man and woman.  That does NOT mean that every marriage must have children, in fact you can live an extremely grace-filled and sacramental marriage if you are unable to have children for medical reasons.  Homosexual relationships, speaking on a purely mechanical level, cannot produce offspring using natural means.  That violates the intent of the Sacrament of Marriage, so it cannot be condoned.

If you choose to take exception to the way the Magisterium has defined marriage, you can turn to Scripture.  Christ does not stutter in Matthew 19, the Scriptural foundation as outlined in Genesis is reaffirmed by Our Lord.  Without exception, Christ’s Word is good enough for me and I don’t really see a good way that any Bible-believing Christian can get around that teaching.

Can’t you just lighten up and let them do what they want?

Before I answer that question, let me be clear: homosexuality (sometimes called same-sex attraction) is a temptation just like any other thing that humans are tempted to do.  That’s not directly sinful, but acting on it is.  That’s why the Church calls those with homosexual tendencies to lives of celibacy… it’s so they can live a grace-filled and Sacramental life despite this temptation.  As a Catholic, I can’t in good conscience just turn a blind eye allow something to be normalized that takes my friends further away from God.

Within the last six months I have been called bigoted, hate-filled, and idiotic for believing this teaching.  The part that nobody seems to understand is that this teaching is grounded in love.  The Church wants everyone to turn toward God and live the way He wants us to live, and I want this for my friends as well.  It’s not denying them something they want out of fear or hate, it’s pointing at the fact that Christ is calling them to resist temptation and serve Him in a greater way.

Further Reading

For further reading on this topic, check out the following:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Marriage

The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Homosexuality

Matthew 19 (DRB)

Understanding the Economic Justice of Marriage” by Richard Aleman at The Distributist Review

Why Homosexual Unions are Not Marriages” by Catholic Answers

Catholic Answers tract on Homosexuality


Whatever happened to civil discourse?

My state of Colorado has found itself in the unenviable position of being a battleground state this year.  For the last six months or so, we have been assailed from every direction by attack ads that are getting increasingly ugly with each passing day.  When I say “every direction”, it isn’t just the usual suspects like TV ads, phone calls, and pollsters knocking on the door (although it has been all of those, in horrifying abundance).  Unfortunately, our politicians have manufactured enough of a clue to turn my beloved technology against me.  Now in addition to the traditional forms of media, I get political ads on Facebook (nonstop), Twitter, YouTube, Hulu… about the only bastion left untouched by political ads has been Netflix.  I would give anything for a device that allowed me to scan my completed mail-in ballot to turn off the stream of election-related advertisements and propaganda.  Anyone that creates such a device has a million-dollar idea on their hands!

The interesting thing is the lack of civility this year.  In years past, I remember strong disagreement but most of those advertisements and brochures took a fairly factual approach.  Not so this election year.  Instead, each advertisement has ominous music, damning sound-bytes from each candidate, opposing advertisements accusing each side of flat-out lying… it’s just ugly.  In this mix is a large amount of attack ads that focus on running down a certain candidate for being “anti-woman”, “anti-choice”, or accusing the person of the egregious concept of wanting to overturn Roe v. Wade.  When our mail-in ballots arrived a few days ago, my wife and I voted for the pro-life candidates being accused in these ads.   I find it very amusing how badly the attack ads backfired, and I hope other people are feeling (and voting!) the same way.

My point in all of this is that I would rather see civility return to the political discourse in our country.  It is possible to disagree with someone without resorting to the underhanded, sensationalist means that gripped this election year.  The Knights of Columbus (of which I am a proud member) has created an online petition to call for this very thing: Civility in America.  It may well be too late for this election cycle, but this idea is a sound one… stand up and call for our politicians to behave in a more civil way and focus on issues and policies and not individual attacks and mudslinging.

Head on over to the Civility in America site and sign the petition today, and don’t forget to vote this year!


Five Facts: Abortion

In the “Five Facts” series, I will present five key facts about Catholic teachings on a variety of topics as well as my thoughts on the matter.

Five Facts: The Catholic Stance on Abortion

    1. “Human life must be respected absolutely from the moment of conception.” (Catchism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2270)   Read that simply as “life begins at conception.”
    2. The Church teaches that all forms of abortion to be a grave matter and a violation of the 5th Commandment – thou shalt not kill.
    3. There are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, because the life of the baby and the life of the mother are considered equal.  The rationale is that you are simply compounding a grave act (rape/incest) with the murder of an innocent and this does nothing to improve the situation.
    4. Formal cooperation in an abortion incurs the penalty of a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication (CCC 2272).  This includes having an abortion or enabling/encouraging someone to have an abortion.
    5. Emergency medical procedures can be performed that would terminate a pregnancy to protect the life of the mother, only if there were no other options that included protecting the life of the unborn and the intent of the procedure was not to terminate the pregnancy.  Example: emergency surgery involving removal of a ruptured Fallopian tube, if the fate of the unborn child is unknown and no other options were present to protect both mother and child. This is known as the principle of double effect.

My thoughts

This is a very difficult topic to talk about, but the Church’s teaching is very clear: abortion is a grave matter to all those involved.

I never really gave this matter much thought until a friend experienced an unexpected pregnancy, and confided in me that she was thinking about having an abortion.  At that time, I wasn’t armed with good refutation as for why it was wrong, nor was I particularly familiar with the Catholic Church’s teaching on the matter… but I certainly had a gut reaction against terminating the pregnancy.  Honestly, this reaction was so strong that it surprised me.  At this time all of my arguments were not from a religious standpoint, but I do recall making the point that the child did nothing to warrant being killed and that adoption was always an option.  Ultimately, my friend stopped talking to me about it and did lose the baby.  I never found out if it happened on purpose or by natural causes.

This election cycle has seen this issue become more and more politicized.  There has been a bright spotlight on Catholic moral teaching in general this year, but abortion has taken a special prominence due to the pro-life/pro-choice debate.  The Church’s teachings are a hierarchy with life at the very top. All other issues fall below it in relative importance. To me, this translates down to a simple statement: it is never morally permissible to provide someone a casual, state-approved choice to kill someone.  Because I believe that life begins at conception, that’s really about all there is to the discussion.  It’s an objective truth to me, and a fairly easy one at that.

Recently, I got into an argument with some friends about whether or not you can be pro-choice and Catholic.  I don’t see how this is possible given the fact that supporting a pro-choice stance provides someone the option to destroy innocent life, which seems like formal cooperation as defined by the Church.  For that matter, so-called Catholic politicians that make exceptions for cases of rape and incest are playing a dangerous game of politics trying to win votes. The Catechism makes clear the penalty for supporting and enabling abortions, and I want no part of it.

Here’s what you can do. First and foremost, we must always remember to have compassion for those that have had abortions and their unborn children. In addition, all Catholics should read and understand the Church’s teachings about abortion and vote our Catholic conscience this year. Lastly, PRAY. Pray the rosary novena for life and liberty. Attend Eucharistic Adoration and pray for the unborn. Pray that the government learns to respect life as the inalienable right that it is. Prayer is one of the strongest weapons that we have as Catholics, and now is the time to use it.

Further Reading

For further, more detailed discussion on this challenging issue I strongly recommend:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, sections 2270 – 2275 on Abortion
Straight Talk About Abortion, a pamphlet from Catholic Answers

Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues by Fr. Robert J. Spitzer


Election Coverage next week!

Early mail-in ballots began arriving this week here in Colorado, so I’m going to devote next week to covering hot-button election year topics: abortion, homosexual “marriage”, and the Health and Human Services Mandate.  For each, I will provide the Catholic teaching as I understand it, some reflections, and some resources for further education.

My real aim is to answer the question “Why is this such a big deal to Catholics?” for each of these topics, since it’s a question I am often asked.  Why am I doing this?  Because this election year it is critical that all Christians and religious form our consciences well and vote accordingly.  This series will be my small way of helping this process.

Did I miss a topic near and dear to your heart?  Let me know on the feedback page or by posting a comment and I’ll see if I can work it in next week.