Clergy: Peace & Be Still

Dear Prelates and Priests, I have a suggestion about how to deal with the election of Barack Obama. Keep still and be quiet.

Father Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary’s in Greenville, South Carolina was all over the news for suggesting that parishioners who voted for Obama needed to go to confession. In fact, Father Newman’s statement, though clunky, was not as coarse as has been reported. But, elections are politically charged events. Emotions run high. It is a time when a careless remark can wound and a nuanced statement be reduced to gibberish. I am confident that the parishioners at St. Mary’s in Greenville know what the church teaches about the evil of abortion as well as other important issues. The controversy surrounding Father Newman could have easily been avoided if he had only held his tongue.

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The US hierarchy is beset by a similar problem. They spent much of their time and many paragraphs of their collective statements last week discussing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). They seem not to have realized that they are virtually the only people discussing FOCA. It has almost no prospect of passing Congress. It was not a central part of Obama’s campaign: he did not mention it in his acceptance speech in Denver, he did not refer to it in the Democratic platform, nor did he address the topic in his debates with Sen. John McCain. The last time he referenced it appears to be in July of 2007, 18 months ago.

I am all for preaching the Gospel in season and out of season. The Master Himself instructed His apostles to do so. He did not tell them to preach the Gospel and draw out the political ramifications of a recent election. So, preach the Gospel. Period. Saying nothing is a better option than saying something embarrassing.

Michael Sean Winters

 

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9 years ago
"Saying nothing is a better option than saying something embarrassing" Oh, please spare the hyperbole! I'm all for St. James' exhortation to tame the tongue, but if this dictum of yours bears any truth, then all people, including you and your fellow bloggers at America magazine, ought to take a vow of perpetual silence. We all say or write words that are subject to misinterpretation or mischaracterization. This is clearly the case with Fr. Newman, as you alluded to in your post. But an unfriendly or careless media should not compel someone to keep quiet.
9 years ago
By the way, here is one excerpt from Fr. Newman's "controversial" words. (His entire column exceeds the space limitations for posting on this blog, but you can read it on the First Things blog). Barack Obama, although we must always and everywhere disagree with him over abortion, has been duly elected the next President of the United States, and after he takes the Oath of Office next January 20th he will hold legitimate authority in this nation. For this reason, we are obliged by Scriptural precept to pray for him and to cooperate with him whenever conscience does not bind us otherwise. Let us hope and pray that the responsibilities of the presidency and the grace of God will awaken in the conscience of this extraordinarily gifted man an awareness that the unholy slaughter of children in this nation is the greatest threat to the peace and security of the United States and constitutes a clear and present danger to the common good. In the time of President Obama’s service to our country, let us pray for him in the words of a prayer found in the Roman Missal: God our Father, all earthly powers must serve you. Help our President-elect, Barack Obama, to fulfill his responsibilities worthily and well. By honoring and striving to please you at all times, may he secure peace and freedom for the people entrusted to him. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, how lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

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