Month: March 2012

Faithful Citizenship Friday: Political Participation as Moral Obligation

In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the US Bishops state: In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. This obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person. . . . As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life” (nos. 1913-1915). Who is responsible to participate in political life? According to Catholic social teaching, EVERYONE  While there are important distinctions made between the political activity of the Church as an institution and individual Catholics (particularly, the laity), both Faithful Citizenship and Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) establish being active in the civil and political life of the community as a responsibility of one’s baptism. It is a responsibility of one’s baptism because the challenge to work for justice and the Kingdom of God is a requirement of baptism. Christians must be conscious of their specific and proper role in the political community; they should be a shining example by their sense of responsibility and their dedication to the...

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This Saturday Celebrate Cesar Chavez Day!

      The United Farm Workers and Cesar Chavez have been in the news a lot in the last week.       President Obama has officially proclaimed Saturday March 31st, 2012 “CESAR CHAVEZ DAY.” One of our Nation’s great civil rights leaders, Cesar Estrada Chavez came of age as a migrant farm worker, witnessing the injustice that pervaded fields and vineyards across California. Facing discrimination, poverty, and dangerous working conditions, laborers toiled for little pay and without access to even the most basic necessities. Yet amidst hardship and abuse, Cesar Chavez saw the promise of change —...

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Palm Sunday: An Ethic of Extravagance

Is 50:4-7; Ps 22:8-9,17-18,19-20,23-24; Phil 2:6-11; Mk 14:1 – 15:47 Following each Palm Sunday, I find my thoughts and prayer lingering on one moment in the narrative of the Passion.  Some years I am at the tomb with the stone newly rolled, obstructing the entrance.  Other years, I am fixed before the cross or in the agonizing moments of Gethsemane.  This year, however, my contemplation is focused on an earlier episode, the anointing at Bethany (Mk 14:3-9).  After the woman breaks open the costly jar of ointment on Jesus’ head, others present become indignant, protesting that such precious ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor.  Jesus not only defends her act as a “good service” but calls for it to be linked closely with the proclamation of the Gospel:  “Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” Instead of a source of moral debasement, the extravagance of the woman’s gesture is the very basis for its goodness.  And this is somewhat surprising, given that we often speak of extravagance as a vice rather than a virtue.  Extravagance is the excess of the virtue of generosity wherein the priorities and manner of giving are distorted and contrary to right reason.  Yet, Jesus commended the woman’s act both to...

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The Affordable Care Act and Abortion Funding: the Other Shoe Finally Drops

A recent piece at National Review Online by Dorinda Borlee, Nicholas Nikas and Mark Rienzi brings into the light a very alarming new wrinkle associated with the minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Apparently, abortion providers may receive funding from federally mandated insurance premiums paid by private citizens so long as it is funneled through separate accounts which are specifically intended for allocating reimbursements for abortion procedures. This abortion allocation rule has the feel of some back-room conspiracy, but it is simply a natural outgrowth of the original minimum coverage provision of the PPACA. If the Supreme Court decides that NOT purchasing a good or service qualifies as regulable “commerce,” then there really is no concrete limit to what the government can mandate private citizens to do or not do. As long as someone can argue that a particular action or non-action by citizens sufficiently impacts the public weal, that could then serve as pretext for an enforceable federal edict. Two days ago, the Supreme Court was hearing arguments about the constitutionality of the minimum coverage provision, Judge Alito asked whether under this reasoning Congress could mandate that citizens purchase burial insurance, since it’s an eventuality that applies to everyone. Stephen Breyer replied directly that, “yes, of course they could” if it were determined necessary for the public good. The question, though, is...

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Pope Benedict in Mexico

Pope Benedict XVI, upon his arrival in Mexico [English links from Vatican transcript] on Friday,said that his goal in this apostolic visit was to encourage Mexican Catholics to “revitalize their faith” so that they may “act as a leaven in society, contributing to a respectful and peaceful coexistence based on the incomparable dignity of every human being, created by God, which no one has the right to forget or disregard.” After reading these powerful words, I expected that Pope Benedict’s public addresses over his three-day visit would focus on the Catholic Church’s social ethics and how this tradition of the Church could helpfully contribute to political discernment on what ails Mexico and what can be done. Perhaps his private conversation with President Calderon did invoke this tradition of the Church, but the rest of the pope’s public addresses focused on personal faith to the neglect of social responsibility, human rights discourse, or any mention of the role of the institutional Church in combatting violence. The theme of “hope” was apparent in all public addresses. In his welcome remarks, the pope explained: As a pilgrim of hope, I speak to them in the words of Saint Paul: “But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Th. 4:13). Confidence in God offers the certainty...

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