With the election just days away, Catholics are beginning to voice their closing arguments for candidates and causes.
A group of Catholics in Maine are voicing support for a same-sex marriage ballot measure in a year when the dioceses in that state are sitting this round out after a bitter contest in 2009. But Bishop Richard Malone did distance himself from the group:
“A Catholic whose conscience has been properly formed by scripture and church teachings cannot justify a vote for a candidate or referendum question that opposes the teachings of the church,” Bishop Richard Malone said. “The definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, open to the birth of children, is a matter of established Catholic doctrine.”
Voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will vote on a ballot question that could legalize physician assisted suicide. A coalition opposing the question includes conservative groups, like the Archdiocese of Boston, as well as liberal standard-bearers like the Massachusetts Medical Society (publisher of the New England Journal of Medicine) and Victoria Kennedy.
Washington Post columnist and Catholic writer E.J. Dionne has written about the GOP’s embrace of radical individualism and its harmful effects on society, a view that compelled him to endorse President Barack Obama in an essay appearing in Time magazine:
Obama should win a referendum on his stewardship. But this is also a choice—a “big choice,” just as Romney says—between moderation and a return to an approach to government more suited to the Gilded Age than to the 21st century. Obama is battling to defend the long consensus that has guided American government successfully since the Progressive Era. It is based on the view that ours is a country whose Constitution begins with the word we, not me, and that the private success we honor depends on a government that serves a common good and remembers the most vulnerable among us. The task of our moment is to revive that long consensus and renew it. Of the two major candidates, only Barack Obama accepts this mission as his own.
The outspoken bishop of Peoria, Daniel Jenky, is demanding that priests in his diocese read a strongly worded letter condemning the Obama administration at Masses this Sunday, in which he claims that the White House will not honor its promise to find a solution to the HHS contraception mandate. Jenky made headlines earlier in the year for lumping the contraception controversy in with the church’s struggles against Hitler and Stalin.
Jenky joins a cadre of his brother bishops who, while not explicitly endorsing Mitt Romney, have made their views on the election clear. In Springfield, Illinois, Bishop Thomas Paprocki suggested that Catholics who vote for Obama would put their souls in jeopardy, and a high ranking church official in Rockford, Illinois, implied Obama favored the rights of Muslims over those of Catholics. Religion News Service has more examples:
In Wisconsin, Green Bay Bishop David Ricken wrote an Oct. 24 letter saying that the Democratic platform’s support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage and other “intrinsic evils” made it impossible for Catholics to support the party without putting their souls at risk.
That same day, Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s column in the diocesan newspaper said that voting for a candidate who supports policies on contraception coverage and abortion rights — as Obama does — “stretches the imagination, especially when there is another option.”
Across the continent in Alaska, Juneau Bishop Edward J. Burns wrote a column in the local newspaper on Oct. 27 comparing Vice President Joe Biden’s support for abortion rights to supporting slave owners in the antebellum South, and he questioned Biden’s character and Catholic faith.
Obama is on track to capture the Catholic vote again this year, just as he did in 2008. And though still very close, marriage equality measures may pass with Catholic support in several states. If so, both will only strengthen the notion that the Catholic laity is moving beyond their bishops, widening the gap and calling into question the ability of the hierarchy to advance its views.