October 29, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 26
Right to life called basic to all other rights
In response to Tony Magliano’s column, “Respect Life Month and the Elections” (October 15 issue), I would like to offer a few thoughts.
In this column, he appropriately points out that we as Catholic Christians need to be concerned with all life issues — abortion, poverty, immigrants, and prisoners among others.
He correctly quotes John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae that we are called to care for all life.
The painful reality is that there is no one candidate who will stand on the Church’s side on all issues — neither in this election or in any election I can recall. So we are faced with the challenging decision on how to best reflect our Catholic faith and values in the voting booth.
Mr. Magliano states, “The social doctrine of the Catholic Church links social justice, peace and pro-life issues — it doesn’t rank them!”
He is in error here — teaching documents of the Church, including those of Blessed John Paul II, do give us guidance for which issues should be considered most important in making prudential decisions in politics.
In the same document he quoted, “Evangelium Vitae,” the Holy Father writes, “It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop.”
In another document, “Christifideles Laici” (1988), he states, “Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights — for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture — is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.” (Emphasis original.)
Pope Benedict XVI says the same, “Life is the first good received from God and is fundamental to all others; to guarantee the right to life for all and in an equal manner for all is the duty upon which the future of humanity depends,” in an address to the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2007.
Although Mr. Magliano may be technically correct in that all life issues are not ranked and are linked, it is very clear from these quotes that the teaching authority of the Catholic Church states that the right to life is fundamental in working for human rights. It is the foundation on which all other rights must stand — if one is not allowed to live, there really is no reason to discuss living wage, universal health care, or other issues.
This does NOT imply that Catholics are “single issue” if they hold the right to life in primary regard when voting (or in their volunteer efforts for that matter.) I know of many “pro-life” Catholics in our parish who also enthusiastically support our outreach to economically challenged students in a nearby elementary school, who sponsor children at our twin parish in Haiti, and support other social justice initiatives. Indeed it is right that we do so.
Perhaps one day there will be a candidate who will speak and vote with the Church’s heart on all life issues. Until that time comes, though, we as Catholic Christians are called by our Church leadership to defend the right to life as foundational to all human rights.
Tony Magliano called ‘selective’ in facts
Mr. Magliano’s column in the Oct. 15 issue of the CV seems to selectively quote from the USCCB’s 2007 statement “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” while ignoring fundamental teachings contained in the document and the Bishops’ more recent Introductory Note to the document.
While it is true that a candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee support, a candidate’s position on a single issue can indeed disqualify that candidate from legitimate support by a Catholic voter. The Bishops have clearly stated that certain matters of social justice are left to the prudential judgment of civil authorities.
For example, a pillar of Catholic social teaching is the preferential option for the poor. How to exercise that preferential option is a matter on which Catholics can reasonably disagree. The foundational principles to be balanced are subsidiarity (matters handled at the level closest to the individual as feasible) and solidarity (concern for the common good).
Mr. Magliano states that “the social doctrine of the Catholic Church links social justice, peace and pro-life issues — it doesn’t rank them!”
To the contrary, the Bishops clearly state that the pro-life issues of abortion and euthanasia are pre-eminent. They are intrinsic evils that must always be opposed. The Bishops teach that all issues do not have an equal claim on a well-formed conscience.
In order to consider voting for a candidate who supports abortion you must have a proportionate and grave moral reason. On the issue of abortion the Church holds its position as non-negotiable. There is simply no moral equivalence between economic or tax policy and the deaths of over 1 million innocent children in the womb every year in the United States.
The poor must be served and provided for... Catholics can and should debate in good faith how best to help and serve. But the most vulnerable among us is the child in the womb. Their protection is of the utmost concern and we should be making our voting decisions accordingly.
Supremacy of life cannot be discarded
In regard to Tony Magliano’s article “Respect Life Month and the Elections,” Evangelium Vitae” does not allow an individual to discard the supremacy of life for a common good.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
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The document supports both the sanctity of all human life and working toward the common good. However, Church teaching does not abandon the moral law in doing so.
The poor in our society and the unborn, elderly, etc. are not mere abstractions. These are individuals who need our defense and aid.
I think the author desires to help members of society, but he argues immoral means to do so by claiming that voting just comes down to an arbitrary notion of the common good.
To achieve a just end, let’s say, healthcare, we must use just means. We cannot ignore grave evil in order to achieve that good.
The Church never abandons the moral law to achieve an end, no matter the good of the end. The good is achieved by the virtues and by avoiding sin.
Magliano’s column’s view called ‘quite ironic’
I am writing in response to Tony Magliano’s column “Social Matters” from October 15. It was quite ironic that he quoted from “The Gospel of Life” by Pope John Paul II.
In the encyclical, Blessed Pope John Paul II also warned about attempts to mislead “the faithful” with the deceit of opinions which dissent from the clear teachings of the Church.
The Catholic Church is clear on violations involving “intrinsic evil,” including abortion, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide. A faithful Catholic cannot choose to vote for a candidate who promotes that which is intrinsically evil.
The Catholic Church also teaches, in its catechism, in the works of John Paul II, and in the writings of Pope Benedict XVI that the issue of life is the most basic issue and must be given priority over any other issue.
Many pro-life issues said overlooked
In reading quite a few letters in recent editions of The Catholic Virginian, I am saddened by and reminded yet again of how overlooked or forgotten so many issues — especially many pro-life issues — are becoming.
Life from conception to birth is inherently dignified and in need of protection, yet there are myriad other issues fading from the attention of a number of Church leaders and of many Catholics.
As arguments about pro-birth considerations and sexual ethics dominate the current political and religious agendas, we are losing sight of a number of other social concerns reflected in the life of Jesus — who told us to follow his ways of being with the poor and marginalized — and in our rich body of Catholic social teaching.
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin set forth the idea of a consistent life ethic in 1983, saying, “The spectrum of life cuts across the issues of genetics, abortion, capital punishment, modern warfare, and the care of the terminally ill...Those who defend the right to life of the weakest among us must be equally visible in support of the quality of life of the powerless among us: the young and the old, the hungry and the homeless, the undocumented immigrant and the unemployed worker.”
After a child is born, our responsibility as pro-life Catholic Christians does not end. We must ensure that each member of our human family has the opportunity to live a dignified life; to have basic needs met; and to have the conditions necessary to fulfill the right and responsibility to be a contributing member of society. This is nothing to be taken lightly.
All life is sacred — whether it is the life of an immigrant forced to migrate, a farmer whose livelihood is threatened by degradation of God’s creation, a prisoner on death row, an innocent civilian in a war zone, a co-worker ostracized because of sexual orientation, an unborn child, a neighbor with a disability, or an individual trapped in the snares of poverty (among others).
Each and every life is a gift from God; failing to embrace this gift and to develop and promote systems and structures that uphold this core belief of our faith across the spectrum is an incredible injustice.
As Catholic Christians, we are called to speak for the value of all life, at whatever stage and regardless of human merit, and especially for our brothers and sisters on the margins whose voices are not heard. We must consider all issues, not only when we cast our votes on November 6, but each day as we strive to do justice, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
Prayer said needed before one votes
In reading many letters in The Catholic Virginian during this election, I am frustrated to see so many believers allowing single issues to determine how they will vote.
If we truly examine Catholic social teaching, our vote does not align fully with either party. Neither party is completely pro-life (pro from conception to death, and all that may happen in between), therefore the choice is not simple nor automatic.
We must turn to Christ in prayer to discern how the Lord is calling us to serve. We are many parts of one body and we are called to use our gifts to work for Christ’s kingdom. And because Church teaching can be found woven amongst opposing candidates’ platforms, we must listen to where we are called to make change.
Some of us may be called to vote in favor of issues for the poor, others for peace, some for life at its beginning and others for life at its end. We must look at ALL of the issues, pray for guidance, and then cast our votes where we are each called individually so that ALL of the church’s teachings are promoted.
We need to abandon the labels of liberal and conservative, and focus instead on how our vote can allow us to be Christ for others. It will take all of us advocating many issues in order to answer such a call.
Faith communities need to welcome disabled
I read with pleasure Nina Grignol’s commentary article, “Created in God’s Image” (October 15 issue of the CV). The five White Masses scheduled for individuals with disabilities is a wonderful way of affirming that persons with disabilities are all created in God’s image.
My wife and I will be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary on Nov. 17. When she turned 56 (she is now 71) she was diagnosed with MS. In the beginning stages she appeared physically normal, was employed as the church administrator, and participated in an abundance of social activities.
Gradually over time she became more and more physically handicapped and as well over time began to sense feelings of rejection or just not being welcomed as she was in the past. Ms. Grignol states that one reason is because persons don’t always know how to respond to people with disabilities.
This is true not only in one’s parish but also in one’s residential community. Most of us can relate to common examples: feeling left out, giving or receiving the silent treatment and ending a friendship or relationship.
Our faith has the capacity to sustain us, heal us, reinvigorate us, open up the awareness of a greater power, and to provide us with a community within our church. As Christians, we are taught to worship God and not self.
Families with children with disabilities may often feel unwelcome because of the looks they get in the pews or the comments made about their children making noise or movements they cannot control. It is true that the disabled may often feel isolated or shunned by others at church. Many parents are often unable to fully participate in the fellowship life of the church because of the care that their child with special needs may require.
Also consider the man or woman in a wheelchair who cannot approach the altar like others to receive communion.
An inclusive faith community commits to sharing one another’s joys and challenges. Included members love, respect and treasure each other; nurture and support one another on a journey through faith; and use their gifts and graces in ministry. This commitment does not change with the experience of a disability.
But being included means more than just being in a community, it means being a full participant with the community, in all aspects of the community — from physical space to attitudes. A community where all are welcome means that they are barrier free, accessible, accepting and engaging.
A truly welcoming faith community is one that is open to making accommodations, communication, and develop strategies to build a community where all members can grow and flourish. It is a community that looks at the needs of the full family and ministers to those needs.
CV article provided shocking statistics
I thank Nita Grignol for her commentary (“Created in God’s Image?”) that appeared in The Catholic Virginian.
Two things that struck me the most were the statistics: 90 percent of Down Syndrome babies are aborted and 80 percent of babies with other disabilities are aborted. That was shocking.
Down Syndrome children can provide so much joy that I don’t understand why they would be aborted.
Thank you for all you do to raise awareness about those living with disabilities — especially Down Syndrome.