Pastor’s Perspective – July 19, 2020

*  Parish Theme and Logo for   2020-21

To help focus the parish—church, faith formation, and school—on its ongoing journey as missionary disciples we have been creating a yearly parish theme and logo. Two years ago, “Step Forward in Faith.” These past twelve months, “Walk with Me.” We are introducing here our theme for the coming twelve months: Poured Out.” It takes its inspiration from the gospel story in John where Jesus changes water into wine, but also has a connection to both Baptism and Eucharist and our call as disciples to be “poured out” for the good of others. What we have received through the love of God becomes, through Jesus’ saving death and resurrection, a gift for others. As we think about each meeting we have or each event we host here at St. Regis in the coming months, let us think about it as an opportunity to give what we have received, to be “Poured Out” for others.

“Faithful Citizenship” (continued)

The Catholic bishops of the United States use the term “faithful citizenship” to capture the importance of becoming informed voters and actively participating in the political process. That necessarily means, on an individual level, participating in a partisan political process. But on the Church-wide level this involvement needs to be integrated into a non-partisan approach. The Faithful Citizenship document (hereafter FC) is the key vehicle the bishops use to lay out their understanding of the importance of a well-formed conscience, key principles of Catholic Social Teaching that can help guide an evaluation of complex social strategies, and brief descriptions of the bishops’ policies regarding many of the key issues facing us as a nation (human life, family, immigration, racism, military intervention, and more).

Because political decisions are always contingent on a mix of factors, the bishops see their teaching role as helping people to have a well-formed conscience. By definition, one must always follow one’s well-formed conscience. At the same time, it is not always easy, even with a well-formed conscience, to know who to vote for. For example, the bishops remind us that there are certain “intrinsic evils” which can never be advocated for, because “Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons” (FC, 22). They highlight abortion and euthanasia as prime examples of such intrinsically evil actions, and then go on to list many others: human cloning, destruction of human embryos, genocide, torture, targeting noncombatants in acts of terror or war, racism, treating workers as a means to an end, subhuman working conditions, treating the poor as disposable, and redefining marriage against its basic human meaning. They also remind us that it is not just a matter of looking at evil to avoid but to actively work toward the good so that every person can live and thrive (FC, 25).

Introducing the idea of intrinsic evils does lead to some questions. For example, by separating out their discussion on conscience, making prudential judgments and avoiding intrinsically evil actions from their later discussion on key moral principles of Catholic social teaching and applying those principles to various issues, the bishops could be misinterpreted as suggesting that there is a two-tiered process for making political decisions. One for what are termed “intrinsically evil” issues and another for “contingently evil” issues. That is not the case. If something is objectively, morally wrong, whether intrinsically or due to current circumstances, it is wrong. One cannot simply say, “Well, at least it is not intrinsically wrong.” The virtue of prudence (FC, 19-20) is precisely the ability to bring all of these together into a whole and make a decision that corresponds to ones deepest sense of self, ones well-formed conscience. The decision-making process, when it comes to conscience based political decisions, is not simply whether something is intrinsically evil or not. There are any number of issues that the Church puts into the category of intrinsic evil but does not bring up as core to voting (sterilization, masturbation, etc.).

At the same time, in the way the bishops are using the term “intrinsic evil” they are rightly calling attention to very serious areas of public life, beginning with the protection of every human life from the moment of conception to natural death, which must inform any judgments we make. Not all issues carry the same weight or have a moral equivalence (FC, 28). On the other hand, no one, if they truly want a mature and well-formed conscience, can ignore other issues or think that they are optional (FC, 29). This brings the bishops to the heart of the matter, when it comes to flawed politicians and parties and complex situations where no one embodies every value we would hope. How are we to vote? What does it mean to vote one’s conscience in such a situation? Can we vote for a law that supports an intrinsic evil, if it is better than the current law? Can we vote for a politician, if he/she supports something truly morally wrong (intrinsically or contingently)? More next time.

* August 25th Zoom Webinar on Catholic    Social Teaching

   I have been asked by the group Strangers No Longer (a coalition of circles of support, mostly parish-based, including one at St. Regis, who advocate for and educate regarding immigrants and issues of immigration) to give a ninety minute Zoom Webinar on Catholic Social Teaching. This will take place on Tuesday evening August 25th at 7:00 p.m. I have posted a link on our stregis.org website under “News” to register for the evening. No cost. I have shared much of the content with you in past bulletin articles on Catholic Social Teaching, but it will give people a chance to hear it as a whole and interact with others who are interested. I would truly be honored, if a number of St. Regis people signed up for it. Thank you.

Fr. Buersmeyer

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