Skip to comments.The Activist Trap, As Election Day draws near, Benedict’s warning to his flock..
Posted on 09/01/2006 1:45:35 PM PDT by Coleus
The coming campaign season is shaping up to be as rough-and-tumble any in recent memory, and religious voters are once again at the center of the action. With Election Day less than three months away, Catholics of all political persuasions are working overtime to turn out the faith-based vote.
On the Right, groups such as as Priests for Life and Catholic Answers are distributing voters guides that urge Catholics to support candidates who stand with the Church in its opposition to abortion, euthanasia, embryonic-stem-cell research, human cloning, and same-sex marriage five moral issues that are, according to official Church teaching, non-negotiable and always wrong. The voters guides make no recommendations on specific candidates or political parties, but the Priests for Life guide urges voters to consider the principles of the parties as well as the principles of particular candidates. A pro-abortion party will not normally allow pro-life legislation to come forward, no matter how pro-life the individual lawmakers may be, the guide says. Do not just look at whether the candidate is pro-life. Consider whether or not, if he or she wins, the pro-abortion party will come into power.
On the Left, Catholic leaders are urging religious voters to concentrate on other issues, namely the Iraq War. By focusing their public criticism on the President, they are hoping to make the congressional elections a referendum on Bush that energizes voters hungry for change. A group of Catholic sisters meeting in Milwaukee last month made headlines by publicly rebuking the president for policies that continue the war in Iraq, that violate human rights along our borders, that intensify poverty, that pollute our earth, and that deny our interdependence with all peoples. On Aug. 3, the name of death-penalty opponent Sr. Helen Prejean of Dead Man Walking appeared on a considerably more pointed statement in the New York Times that called for Bushs ouster on account of his support for a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism, torture, a murderous war, a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance, and attempts to curb abortion. Prejean later distanced herself from that last criticism which directly contradicts the teachings of her Church but she made no apologies for the ads vitriolic tone and comparison of Bush to Hitler. I signed the ad because as a follower of the way of Jesus and a U.S. citizen, I cannot stand by passively and silently as I witness my government wage such grievous oppression and violence, Prejean said in a statement published on her website.
So what does the leader of the Catholic Church think about all of this faith-based political activism? Pope Benedict XVI, like Pope John Paul II before him, has publicly criticized the Bush administrations decision to wage war in Iraq. But both also have condemned abortion, euthanasia, embryonic-stem-cell research, cloning, and same-sex marriage. And both clearly distinguished between acts that are considered intrinsically evil (such as abortion) and those which must be judged according to circumstances (such as individual military conflicts). As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) wrote to Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2004: Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may 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.
A war may meet the Churchs just-war criteria or it may not, but much to the chagrin of Catholic pacifists, the act of taking up arms has never been denounced by the Catholic Church as always and everywhere wrong. The same applies to a politicians refusal to raise the minimum wage, allow unlimited immigration, or repudiate the death penalty in the case of a dangerous criminal who poses a danger to society. Policies and decisions must be evaluated in light of Christian principles, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not give the same unqualified answers to such questions as it does to questions about abortion or euthanasia. As Pope John Paul explained in his 1988 apostolic exhortation, The Lay Members of Christs Faithful People, Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.
Those comments would seem to resolve the question about which issues Pope Benedict and his predecessor considered most foundational to the creation of a culture of life, and thus, of paramount importance in the political process. Of course, Church teaching clearly exhorts Catholics to work to alleviate poverty, promote peace between nations, and work toward a just society, as Benedict reaffirmed last year in his first encyclical, God Is Love. But Benedict warned Catholic activists against adopting a materialist worldview wedded to the welfare state or to utopian visions of social justice, neither of which can substitute for the authentic, person-to-person charity that is the Churchs direct concern and every Christians obligation.
Benedict also distinguished between the role of individual lay people working in the world who have a direct duty to work for a just ordering of society and the role of the Church itself which cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. This spiritual energy that transforms cultures and promotes peace concerns Benedict the most, and he has warned his flock particularly the Churchs most visible representatives against becoming so immersed in activism that they fail to fulfill their primary vocation of bringing God to the world. On Holy Thursday of this year, he urged priests to be primarily men of prayer rather than activists. The world has plenty of activists, the Pope said, but the world needs God. Benedict echoed this theme again last week, when he delivered an address about the dangers of excessive activity to an audience outside his Italian vacation home. Citing the words and example of 12th century monk St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Benedict warned his listeners that constant activism, even in pursuit of a noble cause, can lead to hardness of heart suffering for the spirit, loss of intelligence and dispersion of grace.
The activist trap that Pope Benedict warns against is a common and familiar one: The temptation to align too closely with a particular political party and demonize opponents, to equate ones personal judgments with the eternal truths of the faith, and to define the Christian position on every policy issue, thus losing focus on the few fundamental moral questions where authentic Christian witness is most countercultural and most needed. Lurking beneath those temptations is the one Benedict criticizes most forcefully: The human urge to use social and political activism to distract from our deepest questions, most intimate struggles, and most urgent longings for truth, goodness, beauty and God. While Benedicts admonition against utopian social schemes and a materialist worldview seems particularly relevant to a Catholic liberals influenced by Marxist theories, conservatives should also beware becoming co-opted by political parties, hardened by ideology, negligent in charity, and hollowed out by incessant activity. In some ways, conservatives may need to hear Benedicts message more than liberals. Those who believe most fervently in the socially transformative power of personal responsibility and personal conversion and in the existence of universal moral laws cannot expect to change the world through external activity and political victories alone. Their hope must lie in something deeper and more enduring, in the transcendent truths that can only be discovered in silence, solitude, and contemplation. As we leave summer behind and head into another contentious campaign season, Benedicts advice that we slow down, be still, and ponder the principles that inspire our activism could not be more timely.
Will Barbara Boxer call for a Vote of No Confidence for Prejean because of her rampage comparing Bush to Hitler?
Well, gee whiz. That makes things more complicated. Can't I just get the government to take of everything for me?
I am still trying to understand the last voter guide, "When a Catholic does not share a candidates stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which Can Be Permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.
Let me guess, that came from the USCCB, right? That doesn't sound like the voter's guide from Catholic Answers...
The catechism leaves questions of war to national leaders since, according to the catechism, only they are possessed of the relevant facts to make the distinctions between just and unjust war.
Finally, it is conservatives, not the leftists, who are most likely to be leading balanced lives of work, family, religion, child-raising, volunteerism, individual and local nongovernmental charity, fraternal organizations and what not. Mindless obsession with gummint solutions to everything (Who gonna come and get me before the hurricane? Who gonna pay my rent? Who gonna buy me prescription drugs? Who gonna buy me a car? etc., etc., etc. are the questions of mindless liberal activists more likely than of responsible conservatives) are not often asked here but rather at DU.
This much I know.
After watching "Dead Man Walking", I became MORE in favor of the death penalty.
Seriously, it had an absolute effect on me - but not in the way Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn were hoping for.
I believe that only applies when NEITHER candidate is considered pro-life. You could vote for the one you consider would pose the lesser threat to the unborn
Thanks, I got that guide from a friend who goes to the Catholic church.
One such situation would be when you have two pro-abort candidates, butone of them is preferable for other reasons: maybe something like a Joe Lieberman vs. Ned Lamont match-up.
Quite to the contrary. It is, in some cases, explicitly endorsed.
2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility. - CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
The author clearly believes that conservatives are stingy and give nothing to charity.
Fighting words, and the plain truth. Thank you Fr. Frank Pavone!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, the calendar mentions among the day's saints Bernard of Clairvaux, a great Doctor of the Church who lived between the 11th and 12th centuries (1091-1153). His example and teachings are proving more useful than ever, even in our time.
Having withdrawn from the world after a period of intense inner travail, he was elected abbot of the Cistercian Monastery of Clairvaux at age 25, remaining its guide for 38 years until his death. His dedication to silence and contemplation did not prevent him from carrying out intense apostolic activity.
He was also exemplary in his commitment to battle against his impetuous temperament, as well as his humility by which he recognized his own limitations and shortcomings.
The riches and merits of his theology do not lie in having taken new paths, but rather in being able to propose the truths of the faith in a style so clear and incisive that it fascinated those listening and prepared their souls for recollection and prayer. In every one of his writings, one senses the echo of a rich interior experience, which he succeeded in communicating to others with a surprising capacity for persuasion.
For him, love is the greatest strength of the spiritual life. God, who is love, creates man out of love and out of love redeems him. The salvation of all human beings, mortally wounded by original sin and burdened by personal sins, consists in being firmly attached to divine love which was fully revealed to us in Christ Crucified and Risen.
In his love, God heals our will and our sick understanding, raising them to the highest degree of union with him, that is, to holiness and mystical union. St Bernard deals with this, among other things, in his brief but substantial Liber de Diligendo Deo.
There is then another writing of his that I would like to point out, De Consideratione, addressed to Pope Eugene III. Here, in this very personal book, the dominant theme is the importance of inner recollection - and he tells this to the Pope -, an essential element of piety.
It is necessary, the Saint observes, to beware of the dangers of excessive activity whatever one's condition and office, because, as he said to the Pope of that time and to all Popes, to all of us, many occupations frequently lead to "hardness of heart", "they are none other than suffering of spirit, loss of understanding, dispersion of grace" (II, 3).
This warning applies to every kind of occupation, even those inherent in the government of the Church. In this regard, Bernard addresses provocative words to the Pontiff, a former disciple of his at Clairvaux: "See", he writes, "where these accursed occupations can lead you, if you continue to lose yourself in them... without leaving anything of yourself to yourself" (ibid).
How useful this appeal to the primacy of prayer and contemplation is also for us! May we too be helped to put this into practice in our lives by St Bernard, who knew how to harmonize the monk's aspiration to the solitude and tranquillity of the cloister with the pressing needs of important and complex missions at the service of the Church.
Let us entrust this desire, not easy to find, that is, the equilibrium between interiority and necessary work, to the intercession of Our Lady, whom he loved from childhood with such a tender and filial devotion as to deserve the title: "Marian Doctor". Let us now invoke her so that she may obtain the gift of true and lasting peace for the whole world.
In one of his famous discourses, St Bernard compares Mary to the Star that navigators seek so as not to lose their course: "Whoever you are who perceive yourself during this mortal existence to be drifting in treacherous waters at the mercy of the winds and the waves rather than walking on firm ground, turn your eyes not away from the splendour of this guiding star, unless you wish to be submerged by the storm!... Look at the star, call upon Mary.... With her for a guide, you will never go astray; ...under her protection, you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you will not grow weary; if she shows you favour you will reach the goal (Hom. Super Missus Est, II, 17).
In light of the Pope's words that I posted in reply #17, the author of this article appears to have taken some liberties in her interpretation of what Benedict XVI said. Benedict, referring to St. Bernard, spoke of "excessive activity" which is not the same thing as "constant activism."
Colleen Carroll Campbell, an NRO contributor, is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a former speechwriter to President George W. Bush, and author of The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy. Her new television show, Faith & Culture, debuts Sept. 3 on EWTN.
Ms. Campbell isn't going to last long on EWTN if she display liberal sympathies there!
"It would probably come as a surprise to most Demonrats posing as Catholics but not to most Freepers that "negligence" in charity by the GOP is rooted in a desirable resistance to socialism..."
OK. So where does this leave a Catholic Democrat FReeper? Should I be surprised or not?
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