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Bishop Loverde's pre-election letter
Bishop Paul S. Loverde

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

With Election Day now a week away, I take this final opportunity to urge you all to vote in these very important national elections. As I have communicated to you in columns, letters, homilies and statements over the past months, we as Catholics are confronted with grave challenges to our beliefs as baptized and confirmed members of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Indeed, we know that we face serious threats to our very ability to practice and live our faith in our communities as full citizens.

We are first Catholics, not Democrats or Republicans, and recognizing our Catholic identity and the immutable truths of our faith, we must make the best decision we can according to our consciences, properly informed by the Church’s official teaching. I know this can be difficult at times to discern, and I have sought in several ways to assist you, respectfully yet authoritatively, to make choices that do justice to the teachings of Our Lord and your status as His disciples in a darkened world. We must be strong, confident voices for truth and goodness in the public square, and this imperative includes the choices we make in electing our leaders.

The Church has made clear repeatedly our responsibility to take part in the political life of our nation: “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” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, para. 13). And while, as I have noted often, there are many issues that command our attention as Catholics, some challenges are so grave as to demand our focus, our serious reflection and our responsible decisions.

In the papal encyclical Evangelium Vitae, written by Blessed John Paul II in 1995, the Holy Father affirmed the clear, age old teaching of the Church on abortion and underscored its high importance in the decisions Catholics make in the public square:

58. Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an "unspeakable crime." . . .

61. . . . Christian Tradition…is clear and unanimous, from the beginning up to our own day, in describing abortion as a particularly grave moral disorder. . . .

62. . . . Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops…I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

Abortion is no abstract topic or public policy issue without consequence in the present elections. The party platforms and political advertisements we see and hear each today confirm that the lives of the unborn, the weakest and most innocent amongst us, are still squarely in the public debate, and our votes do have consequences with respect to this “unspeakable crime,” both here at home and in nations abroad. If we do not defend life at its beginning at conception, then there is no life for us to develop and protect thereafter. It is the first right.

Finally, as I have attempted to make clear all year, the ability of the Church to live fully its mission as Christ’s Church is directly infringed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring Church institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs. To date, there has been no change, solution or accommodation to the policy announced in January, thereby forcing Church institutions, and indeed all Catholic business owners, to provide reproductive services that violate our conscience. The Church’s charitable, educational and healthcare ministries are and continue to be clearly threatened by this draconian requirement that assaults our First Amendment rights as free citizens. However an individual votes this November, that decision will have a specific impact on religious liberty, which is the first freedom.

As Catholics, we must recognize that the defense of religious liberty is necessary if we, as individuals and as a Church, are to preserve our ability to practice in our daily lives and in the public square all that we profess at Mass each Sunday. In the days ahead, please take a moment to visit our diocesan religious liberty webpage – www.arlingtondiocese.org/religiousliberty – where you can find all of my previous communications and other resources to help you. And, most importantly, I urge you to pray and have recourse to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, especially under her title of “Mary, Help of Christians.”

Faithfully in the Heart of Christ,

Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde

Bishop of Arlington

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2 comments on this item

Thank you, Bishop, for your clear guidance in this column. I've known for some time how I would probably vote for the national and Commonwealth candidates. You helped me revisit the voting decisions I will make on November 6.

Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States, pray for us.

Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.

Dear Bishop Loverde:

I must say that I admire your willingness for a public posing of comments to your letter that takes an unusual willingness to openness.

I must also say I totally disagree with your letter. We both know that a large number, if not majority, of Catholic clergy approve of artificial birth control. My sample is based on conversations with at least five clergy; although, a simple way to test this would be to do what you will never allow: anonymously opinion poll the clergy on this and publish the results. Include, if you have the gumption a question on whether any clergy have ever approved of a woman having an abortion. I suspect, in the sad complexity of life, that the answer even on that one is yes.

I do know that of the five clergy I spoke with, abet years ago, four approved even of assisted reproductive technologies and several, I forget the number, even approved of using donor tissue.

My point is that on matters of sexuality, even the clergy do not follow the 'official' teachings as you so carefully say. I must add than failing to mention the unofficial reality causes one to lose confidence in your integrity.

Unfortunately, the Catholic bishops have shown no greater understanding of moral judgment than laity given their willingness to become co-conspirators with child molesters. All law suits against the Church, that the Church settles, are based on claims of the bishop conspiring with an abuser to hide the crimes. The Church knows it cannot defend these so it settles; yet, bishops call this this 'clergy abuse crisis' when the reality is that it is administrative malpractice by bishops. It should be called that! That's my point: to call it what it really is requires integrity. Sorry. But American Bishops just do not show that and your letter just serves to help prove the point.

I remain a faithful, Church-going Catholic but must say I would not want your job. It requires ignoring inconvenient facts, the shame is you lose the Faithful and for good reason or, at least, you lose Faithful who could passionately support the Church.

Yours is a complex job. Good Luck in doing it. And, yes, the Church should pay for all government health mandates and continue to prove health insurance to its employees who are already underpaid for the work they do.

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