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Change for the right reasons
The word “change” is very much in the air these days, especially during this 2008 campaign season. Both political parties are increasingly appealing to change as Election Day draws near. I would like to address the need for change, but not in the way we have been hearing about it.
Let us change the way we describe ourselves during an election. We are, first and foremost, Catholics, not Democrats, Republicans or Independents. Separation of church and state does not mandate that a voter leave his or her religion at the door. Rather, the First Amendment ensures that each citizen is able to vote according to his or her conscience in a nation which does not endorse a state-sponsored religion. Therefore, we must utilize our Catholic identity as the prism through which our decisions are made. Currently, many seem to be voting primarily according to a political party, and not in accord with one’s conscience, properly informed by the Church’s official teaching. Changing that is a change I endorse.
Another arena for change: as citizens of a democratic republic, we have the ability to transform our society from a relativistic, pro-abortion mentality to a truly principled, pro-life stance rooted in both sound moral principles, as well as scientific fact. Yes, during this pre-election period we have heard many arguments regarding the important issues of the economy, healthcare and immigration. These issues are indeed significant; they are cyclical and have come up in other elections during my lifetime. But there is one issue that has been a point of contention consistently for over 30 years: the issue of life. Our country, for better or worse, has found itself in and out of war, in and out of tough economic times, but always in the struggle to protect innocent children and their mothers. We should ask ourselves: why can we recover from dire economic downturns, find peace after war, but cannot, as a country, enact change in order to protect innocent human lives? We struggle with the primary issue of life at the state and federal level in each election cycle. We must examine the facts and form our consciences and then vote accordingly. No longer can we consider issues that are always inherently and intrinsically evil as simply matters of opinion or personal choice. A change in mentality is needed, a change that I endorse.
More change. We must clearly understand and willingly share the fullness of Catholic teaching with those we encounter in our everyday lives. The depth and breadth of Catholic teaching, rooted in Sacred Scripture, Tradition and natural human reason, is a great gift from God and a resource available to us all. Unfortunately, Church teaching regarding the most vulnerable and most weak has been misrepresented time and again. The Church’s position (regardless of what any individual member of the Church might assert) is, and always has been, clear: life starts at the moment of conception and a direct abortion is, in any circumstance, an intrinsic moral evil. It would be difficult, indeed quite rare, to find an issue that is proportionate in both importance and gravity to the issue of abortion, which takes the lives of thousands of precious human beings each day in our country. On Election Day, every issue deserves our prudent deliberation, but this year we must not hesitate to identify an issue which is intrinsically and undeniably evil and overwhelming in its human cost. Change is needed regarding the fundamental issue — respect for the right to life - a change that I endorse
Even more change should occur. I would like to change the misconception that forming one’s conscience based on the aforementioned teaching of the Church, which recognizes that some issues carry more moral weight than others, and then voting accordingly, somehow makes one a “single issue voter.” This way of thinking is flawed, and it is simply not true. ALL issues, not one single issue, drive Catholics to the polls on Election Day. Furthermore, we must reject the idea that abortion is solely a “Catholic” issue. Certainly, Catholics are vocal about protecting life in all stages — the fight against the death penalty is another example of defending human life. Abortion, however, is an issue which is not only intrinsically immoral, but also unjust. In fact, it is the most fundamental injustice imaginable. An entire class of human beings is denied the most basic right of all: the right to life. Accepting the concept of a “right” to “choose” to kill an innocent unborn child requires a gross rejection of the dignity of the human person. A change in our understanding this truth is badly needed: a change that I endorse.
Finally, a change is needed regarding our understanding of the so-called Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). Our national bishops’ conference has published helpful information in this regard, “Abortion rights groups and their allies in Congress are promoting a radical bill called ‘The Freedom of Choice Act.’ If this extreme measure is enacted, widely supported and constitutionally sound abortion regulations will be knocked down nationwide. If passed into law, FOCA will impose upon the entire country an abortion regime far worse than anything brought on by Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. And the current level of 1.1 million abortions a year will go up, not down” (http://www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/abortion). A change is needed: from being uninformed and unaware of what FOCA really intends to accomplish to becoming fully informed and aware of FOCA’s goals, how these will be achieved and who has committed publicly to support this bill at various levels of the federal government. A change in awareness is truly needed, a change that I endorse.
How will change come about? Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, reminds us that change is not brought about by a random alignment of movements in society. No, we, men and women, are the true agents of change: “Man is not just the result of certain economic and social conditions. Technological progress does not necessarily coincide with the moral development of mankind. In fact without ethical principles, science and technology can be used — as has happened and unfortunately still does happen — not for the good but to the detriment of individuals and humanity” (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Young People, 14 December 2007). Let us call for and work toward a fundamental change of heart and attitude. Our Catholic social teaching does not fit neatly into the rubrics of one political party or another, so it is up to us, as faithful citizens, to take on the responsibility of educating ourselves and voting accordingly.
Our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, called us to be a part of a New Evangelization and, more recently, Pope Benedict XVI instructed us to pray, seek and work for change through a New Pentecost. This is the change to which we are called: “Show the world the reason for the hope that resonates within you. Tell others about the truth that sets you free" (Pope Benedict XVI, Message to the Young People and Seminarians at Saint. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, New York, April 19, 2008). In this politically frenzied time, are we toeing the party line or are we answering the challenge set forth by the successors of Peter? Witnessing to the truth of the Gospel of Life will set us free. That is change we so desperately need, a change that I endorse.
Yes, change is in the air. Let us bring about change — for the right reasons!