Saturday, September 29, 2012

Are you tired of this election?

Are you tired of this election?  Me too.  We are flooded with Ads on TV, radio, internet.  I don't even want to listen to Pandora anymore because of all the Obama ads (don't know what Pandora is, ask a teenager).   One candidate bashing the other, misleading ads sponsored by the Romney Campaign and Obama Campaign.

Though I know you are probably just as tired of it as I am, it is important that amidst all the political manipulation we do hear the voice of the Truth and what the Church has to say about all of this.   


A few years ago I was blessed to visit Rwanda with Catholic Relief Services (CRS).  I learned about the genocide that happened there in 1994.  In a matter of 90 days over a million people were murdered.  This happened in a country that was 99% Catholic.  It happened because people were so manipulated by their government that they came to believe that the Tutsis were not people but cockroaches, and they needed to be exterminated.  I couldn’t believe anyone would let this happen... let alone Catholics.  As I left that country I made a promise to God that if I ever experienced anything like that I would pray for the courage to speak out.  It was shortly after I returned to America that I realized we, whether we realize it or not, are in the midst of a holocaust.  We are giving up our religious freedom and we are allowing the innocent to be murdered.  Every year 1.6 million babies are murdered in their mother’s womb, in America.  


As we prepare for this upcoming election, one of the documents we are all supposed to read is “Faithful Citizenship”.  Though I think we have tried to make it accessible, I realize that most Catholics have not read it.  When I asked at mass how many had read the document, out of the 500 in attendance, 4 people raised their hand.  So I kind of get the impression you probably haven’t read it... and I understand Church documents can seem pretty hard to read, but If you have not read it I encourage you to do so.  

In the Gospel today is this very strong warning from Jesus:


 


We have a millstone at the yard of our Amherst, City Hall... my pastor pointed out that that is what will be tied around my neck if I teach the wrong thing.  So here you have the teaching of the Catholic Church on the gravity of voting with our Faith.  



In particular, our Conference is focused on several current and fundamental problems, some involving opposition to intrinsic evils and others raising serious moral questions:

[Note that there are six highlighted issues in descending order, the church always lists the most important items first]



• Continuing destruction of unborn children through abortion and other threats to the lives and dignity of others who are vulnerable, sick, or unwanted;


• Renewed efforts to force Catholic ministries—in health care, education, and social services—to violate their consciences or stop serving those in need;


• Intensifying efforts to redefine marriage and enact measures which undermine marriage as the permanent, faithful, and fruitful union of one man and one woman and a fundamental moral and social institution essential to the common good;


• An economic crisis which has devastated lives and livelihoods, increasing national and global unemployment, poverty, and hunger; increasing deficits and debt and the duty to respond in ways which protect those who are poor and vulnerable as well as future generations;


• The failure to repair a broken immigration system with comprehensive measures that promote true respect for law, protect the human rights and dignity of immigrants and refugees, recognize their contributions to our nation, keep families together, and advance the common good;


•  Wars, terror, and violence which raise serious moral questions on the use of force and its human and moral costs in a dangerous world, particularly the absence of justice, security, and peace in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East.

So we all want the same thing right?  We all want a country where we can be free and prosper, and God wants this too.  We will generally get our country there by doing good and avoiding evil.  It’s that simple.  However, in order to get there we need to have “well-formed” consciences, deformed consciences will only lead us to do evil and avoid good.  The truth is we all need the formation because we are all sinners.  



Aided by the virtue of prudence in the exercise of well-formed consciences, Catholics are called to make practical judgments regarding good and evil choices in the political arena.


There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others” (Living the Gospel of Life.)


It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.

This is an important and bold point - our legal system is fundamentally flawed with regard to abortion.  The document goes on to point out the complexity of all of the issues mentioned above.  However, one issue, at this time, far outweighs the rest.  Remember we are talking about 1.6 million abortions EVERY year!  This is a devastating number.  For every 100 babies that are conceived 33 of have been aborted.  That means one out of three babies are aborted.  Half of the women in our country have aborted the child in their womb.   While voting is a complex issue, the gravity of this situation makes it somewhat black and white.  



Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter's intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate's opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.


There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate's unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental  moral evil.

Are you getting the seriousness here?  A Catholic cannot in good conscience vote for someone who advocates an intrinsic evil such as abortion, unless there is a truly grave moral reason to do so.  Our current president has radically and forcefully advanced abortion in our country (especially with the Abortifacients included in contraception being provided as health care), he has also taken great advances to deny our religious freedom.  Therefore, it is very evident that he has not only spoken but acted consistently against life and freedom of religion.  The idea is... is that if you still intend to vote for him you better have truly grave moral reasons to do so.  



As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate's position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter's support.   Yet a candidate's position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.

The idea here is that we should not be single-issue voter for example voting for one of our presidents because we like an issue that they support, however we can legitimately disqualify a candidate from receiving support if they are for an intrinsically evil act, especially if that act is clarified by our bishops as being of grave, widespread, current and fundamental .  Our current president has given us all the evidence that we need to disqualify him from receiving our support.  



Human life is sacred. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Direct attacks on innocent persons are never morally acceptable, at any stage or in any condition. In our society, human life is especially under direct attack from abortion.

Our Church, instituted by Christ, is warning us that human life is especially under direct attack from abortion.  Now you can try and argue any way that you want to avoid this... what about Death penalty?  The most death penaltys per year we have ever had in our country is 98 in 1998 .  Is that important?  Should it be stopped?  Yes!  but does 98 even compare to 1.6 million?  What about war?  Time magazine just reported that we now lose more soldiers to suicide than we do to casualty.  The average is about 1 per day.  Is this a horrible tragedy?  Yes!  But can you compare 343 to 1.6 million?  How much have the other presidents done to reverse this?  It may not have been reversed entirely but progress has been made  to delay women from having abortions, waiting a certain time period before making the decision, excluding late term abortions, whereas our current president has pushed the line of late term abortions, reversed a great deal of progress, and now wants to provide abortion inducing drugs as health care.  What about poverty?  This too is important, however there are more in poverty after four years of presidency and an additional 15 million on food stamps since Barack Obama took over.  All of these issues are important, however none of this compares to 1.6 million infants murdered in the womb every year!  We will all have to answer to God for allowing this in our country for far too long.  If you vote for a candidate that endorses abortion you better have very good evidence and reasoning that what they will do is going to be worth allowing abortion to continue to increase and our freedom of religion to be taken away!  These are the threats we face, they are real, they are happening and we have been far too silent!




Human Life 64. Our 1998 statement Living the Gospel of Life declares, “Abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human life and dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental good and the condition for all others” (no. 5). Abortion, the deliberate killing of a human being before birth, is never morally acceptable and must always be opposed.


We also promote a culture of life by supporting laws and programs that encourage childbirth and adoption over abortion and by addressing poverty, providing health care, and offering other assistance to pregnant women, children, and families.


Keep our nation from turning to violence to address fundamental problems—a million abortions each year to deal with unwanted pregnancies, euthanasia and assisted suicide to deal with the burdens of illness and disability, the destruction of human embryos in the name of research, the use of the death penalty to combat crime, and imprudent resort to war to address international disputes.

The second concern that the document mentions and the last I will focus on is the attack against religious freedom in this country.  Our current president has stopped all dialogue with our United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and is pushing forward on the advance of the Health Care Campaign without regard to our religious freedom.  This has been a serious concern in our country, and again something that we have been far too silent on for too long.  


We hear in the first reading from the book of numbers:


            Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!
Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!"

We have been blessed with a prophetic leader in Cardinal Dolan, who has consistently tried to dialogue and work with our President in order to protect our religious freedom.  The conversation has broken down.  Would that all of our priests and bishops spoke out has he has!


I’m going to mention him in a moment, but first here is an article that portrays the reality of how absurd our country has become in restricting our freedom of religion.  



By Father John Flynn, LC
ROME, SEPT. 28, 2012 (Zenit.org). - Two recent reports on religious liberty have amply documented the challenges believers face in practicing their faith.
The Texas-based Liberty Institute recently published “The Survey of Religious Hostility in America.” The introduction affirms that the Founding Fathers considered religious liberty as the “first freedom.”
“They understood that one’s right to worship God and follow his conscience according to the principles of his religious faith was foundational to civic tranquility,” the introduction stated.
The report went on to detail threats to religious liberty in such areas as the public display of nativity scenes, memorials to soldiers, and prayers at legislative assemblies. It noted that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has mandated that funerals for veterans at national cemeteries be completely secularized, even when the veteran or his family expressed a desire for a religious funeral.
The opposition to any form of religious expression goes to such extreme lengths as the case of Jonathan Morgan, a third-grader in Plano, Texas, who was told by school officials that he could not include a religious message in the goodie bags that he was bringing to the “Winter Party” to share with his classmates.
Then, there was the case of a Houston-area school district that banned any religious content in the Christmas and Valentine’s Day cards. The report said that: “When one student was asked what Easter meant to her, she was told that she could not say, “Jesus.”
Another case was that of an eleven-year-old student in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, who was penalized for mentioning Jesus in a Christmas poetry assignment. His teacher asked him to submit a rewrite of the poem.
Work-related cases were also numerous. A Mount Sinai Hospital nurse was forced to participate in a late-term abortion against her conscience and religious convictions. She was threatened with termination and loss of license. The nurse lost in both the district court and the Second Circuit, the report noted.
The report contains brief summaries of hundreds of cases over the last two decades of attempts to silence any religious expression in the public square of religion.
Regions of the world


No less than 75% of the world’s population “lives in countries where governments, social groups or individuals restrict people’s ability to freely practice their faith,” the report stated.

Can’t we see that our freedom is being taken from us?  The church is aware that there is a direct attack by our current President and his administration on our freedom to practice religion.  


Here’s from an interview with Cardinal Dolan about President Obama:



 

A People of Hope: Archbishop Timothy Dolan in Conversation with John L. Allen Jr.




















It's time for us to be united.   The current president is aggressively pushing forward restrictions to religion as well as aggressively advancing abortion in this country.   He has not only stated it but he has acted on it.  This is a grave and serious matter.  

I want to end by saying that if you have had an abortion, know that you are still loved by God and the Church.  There is healing available.  If you have assisted with an abortion or have committed one yourself know that confession is available.  There is no unforgivable sin.  And you will find in the Sacrament an unconditionally loving God who can forgive any sin.  You will hear the words of Christ’s absolution spoken through the lips of the priest and you can relieve yourself of such a great burden.  For more help and healing visit my blog or if you want to review how to go to confession click here.  

May we take these words from the book of Numbers to heart:  
Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!
Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!"

10 comments:

  1. Father, I cannot tell you how much your words mean to the faithful. We need this kind of preaching like we need water. And we give thanks to God when a priest summons the courage to stand in front of his people and speak the truth. Fifty years from now, what will people say about the Catholics of this moment? Have we stood against the holocaust? Will we be like those during the Nazi occupation who stood silent in fear or willful ignorance? Are we willing to give all, like St. Maximilian Kolbe, so that God's beloved may live? We are praying for you, Father... and all priests who must lead the charge against the culture of death. Thank you and thanks be to God!

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  2. Yes! Finally a voice speaks out against all the wrong that we are supposed to believe is "right" because of majority. Melody is right we NEED this kind of preaching. God Bless You Fr. Denk and thank you for speaking real words with real truth and guidance! As a matter of fact, your words have given me the courage to write this! Standing ovation to you Fr Denk!

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  3. Father, while I truly respect your words and look forward to hearing what you preach, your homily has truly troubled me this week. While I do not support abortion, when it comes to choosing our next leader, I will confess, that is not my priority. So am I a bad Catholic? Shall I confess my "intentional sin"? Then so be it. #6 on the list, regarding war, is what I hold to be one of the highest priorities in my chosen candidate. According to the list, a lesser priority is to send my husband, father of three children, spouse of eight years, over seas to war, risking his own death? However, as a Catholic, I should be more concerned with the unborn child, and not my own children? (Yes, I do understand that we need to protect and be advocates to all of the helpless, unborn childen.) Also, with regards to all of the people you spoke to this past Sunday.... how many in that congregation do you think have sons or daughters that are homosexual? And to not support gay marriage is basically saying to not support your own son or daughter....I will NEVER turn my back on my child, whatever sexuality they choose. These children are usually suffering with identity issues their whole childhood, and to think that God or their parents would turn their back against them just because they are not what we "traditionally" view as normal? I'm sorry Fr. Michael, but from what I have gathered in the years of my Christianity, the God I have come to know would NEVER turn His back on one of His own. After hearing your homily, I felt very guilty for some of the things I believed. For the past few days, I have been down on myself. Now I have lifted myself up because I have spoken to our Lord, and I love every person for who they are, no matter who they love, no matter what sins they have committed. I have no right to judge, as does no one else besides our Heavenly Father. As far as the upcoming election, I will vote for who I believe will take care of our own best. The babies already born to the poverty stricken (who is listed second on the list), lacking food and shelter.....the soldiers fighting overseas for their lives and ours (which Obama did not send them there....wasn't that President Bush?).....and I will vote for the President who will better the economy for the people who are struggling, the less fortunate, the poverty stricken (again, second on the list). May God Bless you, and I will be speaking with you soon in Reconciliation.

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  4. Not all wars are just and, in this country, when we don't agree with waging one, we citizens have a moral responsibility to oppose it. That responsibility cannot be transferred. As a democracy, it is not about our leader it is about us.
    I do understand Erica's pain and struggle with love for others less accepted, the fear for a loved one when in harms way and the precepts of our beliefs. My wife and I understand and struggle ourselves. Having been raised Catholic and having raised our four children Catholic, we find that our sense of right and wrong is often challenged in the grayness of secularism. We often struggle with our desires to deny evil and preserve the sanctity of life, mitigate the effects of poverty, love our neighbors and exercise compassion without sacrificing core beliefs.
    We have landed on the following:
    -- We extend our compassion and love to homosexuals. Further, we believe our government should support their pursuit of happiness through monogamous relationships and extend government provided considerations consistent with traditional relationships. Marraige should remain a union between man and woman. This sacrament should remain unchanged within our Faith.
    -- We believe that charity, not government largesse, is the greatest influencing factor to reduce the effects of poverty. Governments, by their nature, wield power. Those with power seek its retention. Government programs that subsidize poverty promote the status quo or grow the base to which it applies, whether intentionally or not, to retain or secure support. Christian charity to help lift up those in need is preferable to government intervention.
    -- Those who risk their lives to support our well-being (e.g., soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and domestic first responders) should earn our love for their service. Their service promotes the ideal that 'there is no greater love ..." As citizens of this country, we own the commitment of our military, law enforcement and other first responders into harms way. Our challenge is to eliminate the need not blame the government leader. In this country, we either provide complicit or implicit consent for all such commitments.
    -- There is no greater evil than killing innocents. If you believe that life starts at conception and that children are innocent, and as Catholics we do, then abortion is murder and an abomination that cannot be tolerated nor promoted. It is the greatest evil we face today. While a vote for a leader may seem, on balance, the lesser of two unsatisfactory choices, any vote for a leader who condones the murder of innocents is wrong in the absolute. Abortion constitutes a level of legalized barbarity that can only be sanctioned in a land that does not hold human life sacred and which will sacrifice other values when it becomes expedient. Bottom-line: if innocent life is not held sacred, we lack spiritual and moral foundation.
    I agree with your explanation of our Faith assessment and will not cast a vote for a candidate that I believe supports the killing of innocents or promotes the restrictions of religious freedom.
    Thank you for having the moral and spiritual courage to outline the gravity of our choices.

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  5. God bless you Father Denk for having the courage to say what all priests should be preaching. I will keep you in my prayers. We need more priests like you. Thanks and well said, Father Denk.

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  6. I hope then, Fr. Denk, that you chose to vote for someone other than Romney/Ryan. They stand against abortion and the new mandates and that is where it ends! The NCCB condemned soundly Ryans horrific budget that would leave the most vulnerable abandoned. Romney/Ryan firmly support the death penalty and the proliferation of more firearms to create more violence. Romney/Ryan's agenda runs counter to catholic Social teaching in most areas other than the first two items I mentioned. So, Fr. Denk, I hope you didn't vote for Obama/Biden or Romney/Ryan as neither fit the bill! Both, bad choices.

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  7. Dear anonymous, did you even read the homily? Please reread it because I have addressed all of your issues.

    Maybe you don't have a good idea of what intrinsic evil is? I'd be glad to share more if that is the difficult part for you to understand.

    For those of you that have voted to reelect President Obama, it will now be you duty to work with your whole heart mind and soul to overcome abortion in this country. It is now your responsibility to advocate for the unborn by writing letters to your congress representatives, the President, and to whoever else is responsible for these decisions. It is now your duty to financially support the organizations that lobby to overturn roe vs. wade, late term abortion, and all the other laws that have made this so legal and accessible. If you overlooked this intrinsic evil act in your voting and voted simply out of party loyalty or selfish interest then it would be prudent of you to refrain from receiving the Eucharist until you can go to the Sacrament of Confession with a truly contrite heart and do some public form of penance. This may be rallying and marching for life, praying peacefully in front of an abortion clinic, being trained to counsel women who have had an abortion. Here are some resources to begin with: http://www.clevelandrighttolife.org/ http://www.priestsforlife.org/ http://www.nrlc.org/ http://fathermichaeldenk.blogspot.co.il/p/healing-after-abortion.html

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    Replies
    1. Father,

      It is not only the duty of those Catholics who voted for the Obama/Biden ticket to work with their whole minds and souls to oppose abortion, we must all do it.

      Anonymous,

      No one has been abandoned in the US since the New Deal and when we become beholden to our government leaders for our bread, we will have sold our vote and foresaken our way as both Catholics and Americans.

      It is hard for me to equate Capital Punishment with Abortion. I suppose that is because, as a career soldier, I was forced to rationalize why I would/could take a life when everything I was taught and believed opposed killing. And yet, I spent the majority of my adult life learning and working to do it better than my foes.

      Abortion kills those who have no voice and no vote and our unborn have no appeal process. In fact, they have no rights until they leave the womb and even then their voice is diminished until they reach an age at which they are noticed.

      Abortion is murder of innocents for personal convenience. Murder of innocents is intrinsically evil. To be intrinsic is to be pure - without compromise. In our faith, pure evil must be opposed.

      I believe that Father Denk displayed a level of moral and spiritual courage that is uncommon among our leaders - political, social and spiritual.

      And I hope your anger is more general frustration in the lack of choice between two alternatives -- "both bad" -- than a condemnation of our beliefs. And I pray that Father Denk's forthright description of our choices has given you, I and others the opportunity to examine whether our preferences are egocentric, faith-based or overly influenced by popular trends.

      Father - thank you again for your call to action against the evils that daily confront us.

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    2. Thank you Bill for your feedback and you are correct it is all of our duty, I do believe however that people who voted for a candidate that supports abortion do have a more serious obligation to overturn the intrinsic evil that their vote contributes to. It is a simple moral equation. The truth is we all need to do more. Watch the movie Lincoln and you'll see an amazing witness of someone who stood up and took a divided country and lead us all to amending the constitution and abolishing slavery realizing that all human beings are created equal. It's really moving, profound, and inspirational.

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  8. Father,

    As a soldier, would I have a more serious obligation to defend my country and my comrades if I were a patriot or a kid given a choice between jail and enforced 'patriotism.' When the bullets are flying and we are both at risk, does it matter?

    Obligation needs no qualifiers. As Catholics, we are either obligated to fight intrinsic evil or we aren't. Can I be Catholic and favor or ignore intrisic evil?

    Is the Obama voter any less culpable than the Romney voter both of whom may minimize the abortion 'issue' as a social concern of less importance than the economic/social 'imperitives'?

    If those who have voted for Obama and his platform have a more 'serious' obligation to oppose abortion, do I then have a more serious obligation to pray for them so that they recognize their obligation? And if the answer is yes, why haven't/don't I hear/d that from my pastors every Sunday?

    Did St. Paul's martyrdom cancel Saul's predilection for killing Christians? If yes, explain this simple moral equation and equate it to where we are as a Church today.

    It isn't about blame and burden of obligation. Our obligation is equal. Our challenge is determining, "How do we energize our community to recognize the obligation?"

    As a Catholic Community, our voice is weak and divided. And, I believe, it is because the message from the pulpit has been guarded or self-serving and based not on moral certitude but parish maintenance.

    Here's why I have landed where I have...as we avoid the hard questions, we allow the members of our congregation to each choose their personal path without repercussion. Our spiritual leaders, perhaps unconsciously, promote this choice when they adopt a position that strives to maintain a continually shrinking Community (status quo) while our members seek spiritual leadership failing to find that leadership, gravitate toward a more self-serving/easier doctrine.

    Leadership is about establishing a standard and endorsing that standard with unwavering commitment. It is about rewarding those who adopt and promote the belief and excising those that don't. It is about setting a goal, establishing an expectation of hardship and celebrating accomplished and desired outcomes.

    It takes five active and engaged believers to counteract the non-believer and his/her detractions.

    As an institution, we need to recognize that it isn't about convincing the weak, it is about leveraging the strong and encouraging them to carry the banner. Those less strong will gravitate to the strength of the example and become stronger and better practioners by their desire to associate. Perhaps that is how Saul became St Paul.

    As Christ's Church, we will look back on this period with the same shame and revulsion as we look upon the cover-ups of the past 50-years. The next 50 years could be the swan song for Catholicism in America...it might even be the swan song for America...or it could be our renaissance.

    What I am suggesting is a decades-long process that can lead to a more Catholic solution. We will lose parishiners before we grow or congregation and we will be stronger with a smaller more committed congregation in the interim.

    We need to recognize and demonstrate by our actions that Christ's way is not easy and it doesn't forsake those that have strayed but it requires sacrifice by those who commit. We need to stop imploring our parishiners to act and require, as a condition of membership, that they do so.

    We should likely keep this one between us.

    If you agree to a continuing private conversation, please contact me at: wgillen@roadrunner.com

    If not, it's time that I step up and you should feel free to share my e-mail address on your blog.

    Bill



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