Archive for the ‘Conscience’ Category

Be Careful Who You Vote For – You could be supporting evil legislation

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Lurking in the background of this election are two crucial pieces of legislation — the “Freedom of Choice Act” (“FOCA”) in Congress, and the “Reproductive Health and Privacy Promotion Act” (RHAPP) in the New York State Legislature.

These two bills are substantially the same, and would have devastating effects on our society.

I’m not mincing words here — these bills are evil.

The supporters of FOCA and RHAPP claim falsely that they would only enact the provisions of Roe v. Wade into statutory law. Even though that would be awful enough, the bills are actually much, much worse. They would erase every reasonable regulation of abortion that has been enacted in the United States for the last 35 years, and could gravely endanger our religious liberties.

FOCA and RHAPP would declare abortion to be a “fundamental right”, and would ban any “discrimination” against that right. This means that it would be virtually impossible to regulate or restrict abortion in any way, at any time in pregnancy. Here are the kinds of laws that would be impossible to pass, if FOCA or RHAPP becomes law:

  • The partial birth abortion ban
  • Restrictions on public funding for abortions (under current federal law, the Medicaid program only pays for abortions if it was the result of rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is at risk; these bills would require Medicaid paying for all abortions, regardless of the reason)
  • Parental notification laws that require some parental involvement if a minor is seeking an abortion
  • Informed consent laws that require the doctor to reveal all the side effects of abortion (including psychological effects) and the facts of fetal development
  • Bans or restrictions on late-term abortions
  • Bans on abortions performed for sex selection or to kill handicapped children
  • Requirements that a doctor be available to treat the child if it survives an abortion
    Requirements that the mother be shown a sonogram before the abortion
    Bans on non-doctors performing abortions
    The “Mexico City Policy”, which bans aid to international organizations that promote abortion
  • In addition, FOCA or RHAPP would undermine or eliminate the conscience protections in law that protect religious liberties. Church-owned hospitals, social service agencies, and schools could be required to promote, perform, or refer for abortions. Just think about that — our schools could be required to help pregnant girls to get an abortion, or risk being sued for “discrimination”. And the licenses of doctors, nurses, and other professionals could be at risk if they don’t promote, perform or refer for abortions.

    For more information about FOCA, please visit the US Bishops’ Conference website.

    For more information about RHAPP, please visit the NYS Catholic Conference website here and here.

    These bills are extreme, and extremely evil. No Christian can call himself a true disciple of Christ if he supports laws like FOCA or RHAPP. This is the clear teaching of our Church.

    As Christians, we should do all within our power to resist this kind of evil. As St. Paul says, “”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). This includes how we vote on Election Day.

    Here are the people on the ballot in New York who are on record as co-sponsors of these bills:

    FOCA

  • Candidate for President: Barack Obama
  • Candidates for Congress: Jerrold Nadler (primary sponsor), Gary Ackerman, Yvette Clark, Joseph Crowley, Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey, Carolyn Maloney, Carolyn McCarthy, Charles Rangel, Edolphus Towns, Nydia Velazquez
  • (Note: Both Senators from New York, Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, co-sponsor FOCA, but neither is running for re-election this year)
  • RHAPP

  • Candidates for State Senate: Andrea Stewart-Cousins (primary sponsor), Eric Adams, Neil Breslin, Thomas Duane, Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Shirley Huntley, Craig Johnson, Liz Krueger, Valmanette Montgomery, Kevin Parker, Bill Perkins, Diane Savino, Eric Schneiderman, Jose Serrano, Malcolm Smith, Toby Ann Stavisky, Antoine Thompson
  • (Note: the bill has not yet been introduced in the Assembly, so there are no official co-sponsors of the bill in that house)
  • Let me tell you where my conscience stands on this. But before I do that, here’s the official disclaimer: as the sidebar to this blog already says, but I will repeat it here, this is my personal opinion, and is not the official position of the Archdiocese. Here’s the personal disclaimer: I’m going to tell you the judgment of my conscience, but I can’t judge anything about the state of anybody else’s; that’s up to God.

    Having said all that, here goes:

    Given the state of my conscience, if I were to vote for any supporter of “abortion rights”, especially the people who are co-sponsors of FOCA or RHAPP, I believe that I would be committing a mortal sin. It would mean that I was turning a blind eye to the evil of abortion, and I would be utterly failing the acid test of Christian discipleship — love thy neighbor.

    I cannot imagine a grave enough moral reason that could justify me supporting someone who can sponsor a bill like FOCA or RHAPP. I can’t see any other issue that could possibly outweigh something like this.

    How could I face Jesus with that on my soul?

    Do you want to be a disciple of Jesus? Then listen to the Apostles – and their successors, our bishops.

    Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

    Yesterday was the feast day of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles. It’s nice to see the priest in red vestments, and to say the Gloria at daily Mass. But what difference should it make to us in this day and age?

    The Gospel of the feast day (Lk 6:12-16) is very important for us, and we need to listen carefully to what it says. Jesus called his disciples together, and then selected from their midst twelve apostles. These apostles were chosen not for their academic qualifications, their personal charisma, or their influence with the powerful of this world.

    They were selected by Our Lord to be the core group of his Church, the men who would be principally responsible for leading the other disciples and for carrying on Jesus’ mission to save the world.

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it is very common for people in our age to speak of our bishops as if their opinion or position is just one other factor that they may consider — and usually reject — in forming their conscience. They speak of the bishops as if they’re on the same level as some talking head on television, some political pundit they read in the paper, or some voice calling into a late-night radio show. Just listen to some of the Catholic “intellectuals” or politicians who are trying to explain how one can vote for an ardently “pro-choice” candidate with a clear conscience and still be “pro-life”, if you want examples of this way of thinking.

    For a reality check, listen instead to what the Second Vatican Council said about the bishops:

    “… the Sacred Council teaches that bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ” (20)

    “In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent.” (25)

    “The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church. Let them follow the example of Christ, who by His obedience even unto death, opened to all men the blessed way of the liberty of the children of God.” (37)

    Please take note — that’s the actual Second Vatican Council speaking, not the amorphous “spirit of Vatican II” that some people like to talk about.

    It really can’t be clearer. We’re Catholics. We’re trying to be disciples of Jesus. We need to listen to our Church — the Church Jesus Himself founded, and left for us as the means of salvation. The only way to do that is to listen to the men He sent to us — the successors of the Apostles, our bishops — and to accept their teachings as we form our consciences. Not to tie ourselves in knots trying to reason out ways that the teachings of our Church and our bishops somehow don’t apply to us, or don’t mean what they clearly state. That’s not “religious assent”, and it’s not discipleship.

    We need to take Jesus at His word, when he spoke to his Apostles: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lk. 10:16).

    Here’s the bottom line as we try to be disciples of Christ. It’s better to listen to Jesus and His Father than to reject them. We can start by listening to our bishops and accepting their teaching.

    “Thy Will Be Done” or “My Will Be Done” – Lessons I’ve Re-Learned about Conscience from my Talks on Catholic Voting

    Monday, October 20th, 2008

    I’ve been making the rounds of the Archdiocese, giving talks about how to form one’s conscience in anticipation of the election. This has been very tough going, because so many people just don’t have a clear idea about how to form their conscience as Catholics. I hear over and over again people say that whatever the bishops might teach, they’re going to follow their conscience anyway.

    This is a dangerous path. Conscience is not just a voice in my heart telling me that everything I do is perfectly okay, simply because I’ve chosen to do it. I don’t know about you, but that’s usually my selfishness and sinfulness talking. Nobody trusts a “yes man”, nor should we trust our conscience when it always justifies whatever I do. My conscience should always make me uncomfortable; otherwise, I might as well run for office, because I’d have the classic convenient conscience of the professional politician. A comfortable conscience is one that’s sound asleep.

    Instead, a good conscience is the way to allow the will of God, guided by the teachings of the Church, to govern our conduct. The Catechism defines conscience as “a practical judgment that we make about the quality of a moral act, based on our knowledge and reason, aided by grace” (CCC 1777-78). The Second Vatican Council put it beautifully: “Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths.” (Gaudium et Spes 16)

    I like to think of conscience is a morality-detector, like a radar system for my moral judgments. If my conscience is properly tuned, it will always keep me on course to the truth and to God; if it’s not properly tuned, I’ll go off on the path to destruction.

    I have to make sure my conscience is correct about God’s will. The old saying was right — I have to form a correct and Catholic conscience.

    This means that I have to use my own human reason, but I must always be guided by the teaching of the Church. If my conscience says that something is right, but the Church teaches that it’s wrong, I’m the one with the problem. I can’t just dismiss the Church as just another source of information to take into account, or not. God gave us the Church as the authoritative teacher of His will. That belief is one of the things that makes us Catholics. If I’m not doing everything I can to conform my conscience to the teachings of the Church, then I’m not holding up my end of the bargain.

    So I have to take a close look in the mirror and see why I’m out of step with the Church. I have to be honest with myself, because my track record is not good — whenever I’ve thought that the Church was wrong about a moral issue, it was always the voice of my own selfishness talking, not the voice of God.

    In those cases, I have to seriously dedicate myself to prayer and discernment, asking God to conform my will to His. After all, in the prayer Jesus himself taught us, we ask that “Thy will be done” — not “My will be done”.

    So, when I’m thinking about voting, I have to listen to what my Church is telling me — how to evaluate the moral issues involved, according to the will of God. After all, in the end we won’t be judged based on whether we were good Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives. We’ll be judged based on how closely we followed Jesus.

    If this isn’t clear enough, then I need to re-read Matthew 25:31-46. If that passage doesn’t make my conscience uncomfortable, then I’ve got big problems.

    Here are two quotes to get us started on our discussion of the important issue of conscience and voting, and I’ll be blogging more as the election nears:

    “Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care… But being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life.” United States Bishops — Living the Gospel of Life

    “The inalienable right to life of every innocent human person outweighs other concerns where Catholics may use prudential judgment, such as how best to meet the needs of the poor or to increase access to health care for all.” New York State Bishops — Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty

    Prayerful discernment of what our Church is telling us about the will of God — that’s where formation of conscience begins.