Advice From the Pulpit

“I’ve been asked by many to address the election,” said the pastor of my church as he began his homily.

Immediately, congregants sat up in their pews and looked towards him. It became very quiet.

Father began by saying he wasn’t going to endorse a candidate. He explained that the Church’s status as a 501c3 meant he couldn’t do it. Nor would he. He wanted, however, to address five issues that were non negotiable in the view of the Catholic Church.

He explained how moral issues were like the foundation of a building. If they were not steady and secure, a structure could not survive on it. So it was with a nation. Catholics have a duty, he said, to vote. And that vote must be shaped by conscience, which in turn should be shaped by the catechism.

I watched as one black lady and then a Latina pulled out pens and began writing what he said. Was this good or bad? I don’t know.

Number one: abortion. The church considers it inherently evil in any form. It is the killing of another person, sometimes an innocent person who had not committed a sin. Even in cases of rape, the fetus is a person and must not be denied life.

That was probably not a surprise to anyone.

Number two: euthanasia. He went on to attack what is called “assisted suicide.” The state, and some such as Washington state, cannot tell you it is fine to take your own life. Nor can a doctor help you take it or prescribe it.

Three: embryonic stem cell use in research. Non negotiable. Four, cloning, follows from the others. Lastly, he listed gay marriage as another issue Catholics must not encourage by voting.

Although not naming candidates, he said it was a sin to vote for a candidate who promotes these issues. In cases where both candidates adhere to some of these, it is the Church’s position to choose the lesser of two evils.

Whether such homilies went on at other parishes, I don’t know. I did get a report from another Mass: the priest “started his homily by speaking of the danger we were in, in the way people were living their lives. That they were not living well morally. He spoke of cafeteria Catholics. I think he was skirting the voting issue but implied that the Church was under attack. All this was said in an inoffensive was so as to not offend anyone. I came away disappointed.”

Our bishop is planning an evening of prayer so that we may ask to discern God’s wishes in the upcoming election. That’s the good news. The bad is that the bishop in charge of the West Tennessee diocese in ’08 excused Catholics from determining their vote based on the abortion issue. Second in the bad news department is that the event will be held at the most liberal church in the diocese, run by a priest who votes Democrat and approves of gay marriage.

There has been talk of an increase in discussion from the pulpit about freedom of religion. That is another aspect of voting that has been called to Catholics’ attention, but went unmentioned at the Mass this week. Perhaps it will surface again. If not, Catholics can only blame themselves if Obama gets a second term and starts attacking churches, which he certainly will do.

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