Protecting Human Life and Marriage
In the year one hundred and thirty AD (130ad) Diognetus wrote a letter that said, “As Christians settle in (their) cities… and conform to the customs of the country in dress, diet and mode of life in general…(and) they take part in everything as citizens. What the soul is to the body, the Christians are to society.” Catholics are not afraid to play their full part as citizens in the societies in which we live. Not only are we able to accept local customs of dress, food, or way of life; but we are also to foster all those element of society that support the full message of the Gospel. But recent studies have shown that in our desire to be a part of our society “Catholics have been too much assimilated and not enough an instrument of change.” While it is true we do not separate ourselves from society, it also true that do we not blindly conform ourselves to social expectations. We are in fact called to bring our Catholic values to bear on social structures and customs.
As Catholics, we have a serious moral obligation to exercise our right to vote. As citizens we are obliged to participate in the political community. John Paul II stated,
“All citizens are to bear in mind that it is both their right and duty to use their free vote to promote the common good.” (The Church in the Modern World 75)
There can be no doubt that a cultural war is happening in our country. Nearly every Christian moral and religious value is being questioned in public debates. It should be a serious wakeup call that we are in a society in which a Satanic ritual was openly held in a public building. At what point and time did our society lose its fear of evil? We are called to struggle for what is right.
We are in an election year and time to vote is upon us. As Catholics, this is an opportunity for us to bring our values into the public sphere and to protect the common good beginning with the right to life and the protection of the family. When it comes to our Catholic values there are five non-negotiables. These are five issues that always involve moral wrongs. They are never justifiable and are always and everywhere wrong. They can never be morally justified. These five non-negotialbes are: Abortion, Euthanasia, embryonic stem cell-research, Human cloning and same-sex unions.
As Catholics we give these five issues precedence over all other issues, and we evaluate the candidates according to these issues. Catholics may not promote or even remain indifferent to these issues. They disqualify a candidate from taking office. The Kansas Bishops have stated,
“We would commit a moral evil if we were to vote for a candidate who takes a permissive stand on those actions that (are always and everywhere wrong) when there is a morally acceptable alternative.”
It is not morally permissible to vote for someone who clearly defies one of these non-negotiables.
Now, these five issues do not deny the importance of many other issues such as: providing for the poor, managing the economy, providing education, gun laws, Immigration, universal health care, affordable housing, retirement security and even the serious issues of the death penalty and just war. There can be a legitimate diversity of opinions about them. But the five non-negotiables of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell-research, human cloning and same-sex unions do involve a direct moral wrong. As Pope Benedict says,
“Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia… There may even be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”
The guiding principle of our deciding who to vote for is this: the respect for the dignity of every human person from the moment of conception to natural death. All humans possess a fundamental right to life. John Paul II said that the right to life is “most basic and fundamental right” and “the first right, on which all others are based.” Even our constitution states,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
John Paul II goes on to say:
“The right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture is false and illusory if the right to life… is not defended with maximum determination” (Christifideles Laici 38)
Direct abortion is always and everywhere wrong and can never be justified for any purpose or in any circumstance. The unborn child is always an innocent party, and no law may permit the taking of his life. As John Paul II also says,
“it is never licit to obey a law permitting abortion, nor to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or to vote for it.” (73)
Pope Francis also states,
“Unborn children are the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. …The defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. … I want to be completely honest in this regard. …It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.” EG 213.
What I am about to say I do not say to make anyone feel bad or judged; I say this to inform consciences and to invite forgiveness and healing. A Catholic who freely chooses to have or to assist in an abortion is automatically excommunicated from the Church. Such a person cannot receive communion or any other sacraments until that excommunication is lifted, which is not difficult to do. In the Diocese of Wichita a priest can lift the excommunication in the confessional. Such a person simply needs to go to confession and in the confessional the priest can forgive the sin, lift the excommunication and then provide that person with places to go for healing.
A true understanding of marriage is also a serious part of this year’s elections. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman with three intentions: forever, for love and for children. The family is the basic cell of society and as the family goes, so goes society. Just as some illnesses are a physical mutation of the body’s cells, in the same way any mutation of the family is an illness to society. Christian marriage is undeniably the proper context for raising children and respecting spouses. There are many threats to the health of our families in our society including no-fault divorces, same-sex unions, sexual promiscuity and the contraceptive mentality. Each of these things obscures and weakens our families, society and culture. Society cannot survive without healthy families and every family is important. Promoting a Catholic understanding of family is not a form of coercion or of force, it is rather our right to make our voice heard in our country especially when it comes to the protecting the family.
The congregation for the doctrine of the faith in Rome stated,
“When legislation in favor of recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time… the Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.” (UHP 10)
And Pope Francis, when he was a cardinal in Argentina, spoke to his Bishops about same-sex unions saying,
“What is at stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be… deprived of the human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. … This is not simply a political struggle, but an attempt to destroy God's plan.”
We must vote to protect the family.
Now is a time for us to hope and not to despair; to dialogue and not to give into hate. It is not acceptable to avoid or remain ignorant of these issues, as if they will simply go away. Nor is it acceptable to be a negative pessimist who acts as though nothing can change the tide. I have heard some people even say, “My vote really doesn’t matter.” They think that the electoral college swallows up a local vote, especially in a highly republican area. That is simply not true. Every voice, every vote matters. Your vote is a stand for what is right and a weapon against what is wrong. If you are afraid that your vote lacks effect then not only vote, but also write letters! Talk to others! Educate your children, your family, your friends and most of all yourself!
We live in the greatest country in the world. Our freedom, our prosperity, our opportunities are unmatched in any other society. But it is ours to protect it from selfishness and indulgence. Remember, “As the soul is to the body, so the Christian is to society.” So let us enrich our society with the message of the Gospel and enliven it with the heart of Christ. It is ours to uphold the dignity of every human person, from conception to natural death, and to promote the value of marriage and the family. Please vote with a Catholic conscience.