It’s time for the U.S. bishops to revise their Catholic voting guide

Composite (iStock/CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Should the teaching of Pope Francis and the presidency of Donald Trump require the wholesale revision or replacement of Faithful Citizenship, the voting guide issued every four years by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops? At its June 2018 meeting, the U.S.C.C.B voted by a tally of 144 to 41 not to revise or replace Faithful Citizenship. But as it stands, does the document reflect or respond to our contemporary reality? I offer here a case for the wholesale revision or replacement of Faithful Citizenship in order to better reflect the teaching of Pope Francis and to respond to the authoritarian populist nationalism of the president and his administration.

A key aspect of Faithful Citizenship is the theology of conscience. In fact, the document’s full title is Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility. The theology of conscience in the next iteration of Faithful Citizenship should be consistent with recent work by Pope Francis on conscience. Moreover, the theology of conscience in the document should be connected with the emphasis of Pope Francis on mission—an emphasis captured by the argument of the great American Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray, who said that the freedom of the church “stands or falls” with the freedom of the people. Lastly, the theology of conscience of the next iteration of Faithful Citizenship should be connected clearly to the concept of sensus fidelium, an ancient doctrine renewed by Pope Francis.

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A theology of conscience at this time should be especially attuned to the virtues, vices, practices, norms, culture and structures that pertain to the endurance and renewal of the liberal democratic order in the United States.

But what are the signs of these deeply troubling political times to which such developments in the theology of conscience should respond?

Faithful Citizenship should focus in particular on the survival of the liberal democratic political order in itself. I have no illusions about the imperfections of such a political order. And I have hopes for its continuing reform—on the basis, among other things, of a far less individualistic, far more situated understanding of freedom. But essentially I agree with the argument recently made by the Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne: “If liberal democracy does not survive and thrive, every other problem we face becomes much more difficult.” The threat is global: the emergence of authoritarian and usually populist governments in the United States, Russia, China, Turkey, India, Egypt, Congo, Venezuela, Hungary, Poland and the Philippines (among other countries). Accordingly, I believe a theology of conscience at this time should be especially attuned to the virtues, vices, practices, norms, culture and structures—and related urgent issues—that pertain to the endurance and renewal of the liberal democratic order in the United States.

The first step is to align Faithful Citizenship with the theology of conscience of Pope Francis. The weight of the document falls on the side of constraining the conscience to vote in ways that the bishops consider consistent with the “whole truth in authentic love”—a consistency especially evident in the rejection of law and policy construed to support actions considered to be intrinsically evil. By putting things in this way, the bishops affirm that conscience derives its dignity from its correspondence with the truth, manifested especially in certain universal, negative commandments. These negative norms bear the objective weight here: The conscience of the Catholic voter plays a ratifying, functional role. One attains truth by accepting the universal, negative norm in all its apparent applicability, or one descends into subjectivism by deciding otherwise.

But Pope Francis has moved away from such a theology of conscience. To understand how, I think it can be helpful to re-imagine the meaning of the striking image offered years ago by the theologian Dr. Timothy O’Connell: that conscience kneels before the truth. Everyone agrees that this should be the case. But what can this phrase mean in a way that vindicates the potential for agency and truth and relationship of the conscience of the one kneeling? The work of the Australian theologians Thomas Ryan, SM and Dr. Daniel Fleming puts flesh on the bones of the kneeling conscience. Father Ryan draws on the work of Pope John Paul II and the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” to argue that we should think of the fundamental intuitions of conscience toward the true and the good less in terms of clear, discursive principles of practical reason and more in terms of moral intuitions arising from visceral encounters with others and with the concrete and natural world. Thus, for Father Ryan, our primary moral awareness is anchored in embodiment and relationship. Dr. Fleming, then, builds on Father Ryan’s thought to argue that conscience is best understood as kneeling first before our awareness of the call of responsibility toward concrete others—and only on that basis can one move toward the discernment of moral truth.

It is important, next, to connect conscience to mission, emphasized by Pope Francis as the very heart of his papacy. In turn, the concept of mission should be connected to religious freedom and to the sensus fidelium.

Faithful Citizenship is clear on the centrality of mission: “We are called to participate in public life in a manner consistent with the mission of our Lord,” the bishops say at the outset of the document. But there are two problems with the document’s conception of mission. First, the document adverts in its closing pages to grounding the right to religious freedom in human dignity. But more often and more prominently, the document bases the right to religious freedom in religion itself. In doing so, Faithful Citizenship shares in a mode of argument with moral theories that situate the right to religious freedom within a more fundamental set of basic goods toward which practical reason is oriented, one of the chief among these basic goods being religion itself. In this view, the right to religious freedom and its connection to human dignity is seen as necessary but functional, not so much an exigency flowing from human nature but more a means by which the truth of religion may be pursued. In a similar fashion, Faithful Citizenship renders religious freedom more as a right belonging to Catholics and less as a right belonging to human beings as such. Here religious freedom is for the sake of mission understood in the style of the “Benedict option,” a lonely witness to truth in a hostile, secular culture.

By more persuasively associating conscience with dignity and freedom, Faithful Citizenship could more clearly extend the rights of conscience to everyone within and outside the church.

But there is a better way for the next iteration of Faithful Citizenship to integrate the theology of conscience with the concepts of religious freedom and mission. First, conscience should be connected more specifically to human dignity as the ground of the right to religious freedom. This would conform more closely to the letter of the Second Vatican Council’s “Declaration on Religious Freedom.” But doing so would also allow conscience to be connected more closely to the historical and relational sense of conscience in the theology of Pope Francis. By more persuasively associating conscience with dignity and freedom, the document would more clearly extend the rights of conscience to everyone within and outside the church. Also, by associating conscience with a more historical notion of dignity, conscience would be more clearly situated in a world of conflicting claims, difficult balancing acts and hard trade-offs.

By turning to human dignity, we can also conceive more broadly of the mission of the church toward which conscience is oriented. Here I note the observation by John Courtney Murray, S.,J., that the word dignity has a personal and political reference. On the one hand, it refers to the ground of the right to religious freedom and thus to the moral basis for limits on the power of the state. On the other hand, dignity is associated with “popular constitutionalism: that is, that the people, not the state, are the main agents of the ethical direction of society, including the definition of the proper constitutionally limited role of government.” On the basis of such assumptions, Father Murray argued for understanding the mission of the church in terms of the “conjoining of the church’s freedom to exercise its rightful concern for the common good with the people’s…freedoms [with such freedoms, Murray argued, understood especially as the “interrelated and interdependent individual democratic rights”].” He added: “The two freedoms are inseparable, in fact, they are identical. They stand or fall together.”

Faithful Citizenship should pair its appropriate reluctance to tell the Catholic laity how to vote with an outspoken, prophetic advocacy for the right to vote. 

The next iteration of Faithful Citizenship should also connect the theology of conscience to mission understood in terms of the sensus fidelium. Pope Francis has recovered an emphasis on this ancient doctrine, understood as the “supernatural sense of faith of the entire people of God.” And he has made this emphasis theoretical and pastoral, discussing the doctrine in various texts and vivifying it through the open dialogue of deliberative synods. At the least, the recovery of the sensus fidelium calls into question the reliance on the more hierarchical, teaching-and-learning model of the church favored to date in Faithful Citizenship.

In his recent writing on conscience, the moral theologian James Keenan, S.J., has called for a deeper integration of the theology of conscience with the collective notion of the sensus fidelium. Moreover, he has argued, the prevailing post-World War II American view of conscience has centered almost entirely on individual freedom of conscience from imperious law or command. To be sure, the prophetic image of the uncompromising witness of conscience to the moral law in the face of coercive power has its time and place. But, Father Keenan argues, this lonely, heroic image of the American conscience has also often become a caricature, a reflexive rejectionism that represents the “arrested development of the American conscience.” We can see this rejectionism in such vices as a radical individualism that negates an appropriate sense of individuality, a blindered rejection of solidarity with the poor and with the natural world, and a rashness that reaches for the nearest gun instead of a courage that faces the racist American past erupting unredeemed into the present.

How might Faithful Citizenship integrate conscience and sensus fidelium in a way that responds to the “arrested development of the American conscience”? I would like to suggest the re-imagination of conscience and sensus fidelium in terms of the multifaceted imagery of being baptized into mission as priests, prophets and rulers. In a recent article, the theologian Father Anthony Ekpo argued for the recovery of the sensus fidelium precisely with regard to sharing in the three-fold office of Christ. By turning to the imagery of the three-fold office, he said, we can see conscience disposed to participate more fully in the grace of Christ’s prophetic, priestly and ruling mission.

With regard to the prophetic office, the document should draw on the insight of the whole people of God and especially the poor. Moreover, the document should pair its appropriate reluctance to tell the Catholic laity how to vote with an outspoken, prophetic advocacy for the right to vote (among many other matters of political practice about which to be prophetic). There is no justification whatsoever for the voter suppression tactics now being practiced throughout the United States. By taking such a stand, the document would signal that conscience is not only implicated in intra-ecclesial matters but also in the arbitrary denial by law of voting as an expression of the dignity of conscience on the part of each voter and as a right that is an inalienable freedom of the people.

In terms of priestly mission, I think especially of the mediating, sacrificial work needed in response to the greatest sign of our stunted American conscience: the way we have been misshapen by our history of slavery, lynching, police shootings, birtherism and more. Such a mission could involve in particular, as Father Keenan suggests, fostering an indispensable virtue of conscience: the humility of kneeling before the truth of this past and present. Thus it would be a humility ever ready to say with the Psalmist amid the apparent certitude of our conscience: “Cleanse me of my unknown faults.”

A new, dangerous moment is upon us. And we need a theology of conscience ready to respond to the authoritarian wolves baying at the gates of the state.

Finally, what of the ruling nature of conscience on mission to the freedom of the people? Here thinking of conscience in the sense of “rule” suggests that the next iteration of Faithful Citizenship should address what John Courtney Murray called the “constitutional consensus” by which we rule ourselves and become a people. In a recent speech, Bishop Robert McElroy described the consensus as “the glue which held America together, through common moral and spiritual values rather than ties of blood or nationalism.” But, Bishop McElroy added, the consensus has been shattered and “our national soul has truly been hollowed out.” What to do to restore this? Bishop McElroy argues that the renewal of the consensus should be founded on solidarity, understood as the recognition in light of grace that we are all debtors to the society of which we are a part. Accordingly, we should foster the formation of conscience in terms of the beliefs, norms, practices and institutions by which our democratic society of self-rule is able to exist at all. Here I think of civil dialogue and shared truth, the rejection of tribalism, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, the significance of scientific research and more.

In his book Catholicism and Citizenship, the theologian Dr. Massimo Faggioli argues that Francis’ papacy and the postmodern world offer the church an opportunity to re-imagine its relationship with politics and the state. In recent decades, conscience in Faithful Citizenship has been cast in an antimodern mode: focused on sex and fearing secularization with a wariness of state power rooted in the church’s bygone battles with the Soviet empire. But a new, dangerous moment is upon us. And we need a theology of conscience ready to respond to the authoritarian wolves baying at the gates of the state.

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Mike Macrie
1 year ago

Msgr. Charles Pope Community
Is the Catholic Church Republican? Democrat? And what are you? As for me:
* I’m against abortion, and they call me a Republican
* I want greater justice for immigrants, and they call me a Democrat
* I stand against “Gay” “Marriage,” and they call me a Republican
* I work for affordable housing, and stand with unemployed in DC, and they call me a Democrat
* I talk of subsidiarity and they say: “Republican, for sure.”
* I mention the common good, and solidarity and they say, “Not only a Democrat, but a Socialist for sure.”
* Embryonic Stem cell research should end, “See, he’s Republican!”
* Not a supporter of the death penalty, standing with the Bishops and the Popes against it…”Ah, told you! He’s really a Democrat!…Dye in the wool and Yellow Dog to boot!”
Hmm, and all this time I just thought I was trying to be a Catholic Christian. I just don’t seem to fit in. And, frankly, no Catholic should. We cannot be encompassed by any Party.
True Catholicism cannot be tamed by any political party or interest group. True Catholicism will comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. It will annoy both the right and the left, and will also affirm them, it has no permanent allies or opponents. As it was with Christ, most every one will have reason to hate the Church, and some will come to love her. We are destined to be, with Christ, a sign of contradiction (Luke 2:34) that will often be opposed, for we do not simply fit into any on world agenda or party.

John Placette
1 year ago

I love it!!

Chuck Kotlarz
1 year ago

Mr. Macrie, an interesting and insightful comment. I believe it would have fit nicely with Sunday's homily.

Paul Perez
1 year ago

Very well written, Mr. Macrie. It is go to know that there is at least one other Catholic who realizes that to be an authentic Catholic Christian, one cannot belong to either party, as the platforms of both should prevent the authentic Catholic from joining.

James Schwarzwalder
1 year ago

If you don't belong to either major party, then in some states you don't get to vote in a primary. Not a good idea.

Thien Nguyen
1 year ago

Mr. Macrie,
I thought you were talking about me.
God Bless you.

Andrew Di Liddo
1 year ago

The Catholic church in America has created legions of one issue litmus test voters, voting Republican in lock step for decades and is clearly partially responsible for the mess the country is in now from creating no conscience, no thought, no contemplation, knee jerk voting.

JR Cosgrove
1 year ago

Maybe there should not be any voting guidelines. After trying to read this gobbledygook I haven't a clue what the author is saying. Except I think he wants you to vote Democratic. He distorts and misrepresents the current political situation in the United States.

Kevin Murphy
1 year ago

Exactly. America loves these long-winded pieces that try to impress but say very little.

Jim MacGregor
1 year ago

Amen. It’s like trying to summarize Aquinas.

Terry Kane
1 year ago

^5!

George Obregon
1 year ago

Santa Clara University is a far-left Jesuit university here in Silicon Valley; Decossee's remarks track with this reality.
/geo ex machina

Michael Barberi
1 year ago

No one issue defines a Catholic or Christian political candidate. Some Catholic and Christian politicians are against abortion on demand but support terminating a pregnancy to save the life of the mother and in cases of rape and incest. Some of these politicians are for open borders and a liberal immigration policy but support same sex marriage. Some want a guaranteed minimum living wage and free college education, but do not want to overturn Roe v. Wade. Some like the policies of President Trump but not his rhetoric. Many politicians promise a lot of things, but deliver very little. Hence, honesty and integrity are very important characteristics that must be considered.

When it comes to voting, below is a good rule to follow:

> Use your God-given reason, weight the views of the candidates on the issues important to you and will create the most good for the country, your community, the people and the Kingdom of God. Then "hold your nose and vote, then hope that the politician you voted for will keep their promises".

Jim MacGregor
1 year ago

“Catholic” and “Christian” are different? Now that’s an interesting distinction that enables our moral enemies an opportunity to gloat with self satisfaction

Fred Keyes
1 year ago

Come on now. Mr. Barberi made no such distinction.

Frank T
1 year ago

Theology of Conscience- Amen.
It gets everybody out of the business of passing judgement on the struggles
of others.

James Haraldson
1 year ago

Everyone has an obligation to always stay in the business of passing judgments on the moral behavior of others. We are obligated to censure and to try to stop objectively immoral behavior as much as we are able to.

Robert Helfman
1 year ago

There is a need for a reality check inherent in the discussion in regard to the Bishop's guidelines, and the guidelines themselves.
One is sure that a generation must pass before this climate of denial has a chance of passing, but in the present, it is obviously convenient to avoid facing the fact that Trump's (pro-life?) propaganda got many a Catholic and Evangelical vote. One can avoid going into the obviously dangerous and damaging effects of this presidency at length.
There is nothing in this essentially pious nonsense that would inspire anyone, Catholic of otherwise to consult the Spirit of God dwelling in them and the primordial call of conscience in response to that indwelling Presence.
Instead, we have the usual mangled rhetoric that tries to pretend that the authority of the Church is not affected by current events and that it may continue to pronounce on morality and matters political as if it had not in a very real way contributed to the destruction of our democracy and the integrity of our institutions. The subversion of the workings of the police and the courts in PA now being investigated by the Justice Department is a case in point; more telling is the numbers of Catholics, predominantly White Catholics who helped put Trump in office with the approbation of of the US Bishops conference.
Faithful citizenship begins with recognizing one's failure to promote the common good and then seeking ways to correct that failure with renewed concern for the collaborative possibilities that abound when the People of God are working together in a collegiality that includes the laity as active moral agents who, as responsible adults can take part in the political process freely.

bill carson
1 year ago

Let me re-write this: “Catholics should vote like normal Leftists.”

There, I just captured the writer’s objective and left out his 300 unnecessary paragraphs

Larry Motuz
1 year ago

You captured nothing but your own prejudice against people working together to improve civil society.

Michael Cardinale
1 year ago

"respond to the authoritarian populist nationalism of Donald Trump and his administration."? I think he is more accurate than not. As for Leftists improving civil society, I think that is showing not to be working well. M. Sanger's eugenics program morphed into abortion rights, then into over 1M abortions/year. No fault (easy) divorce has led to a divorce rate of over 50%, and the state's complete disdain of marriage and children and family. Contraception has led to an extra-marital birth rate of about 50% (and upwards 80% in the African American community). This disregard of the nature of sexuality is encouraged and enforced by our governments to the point of overriding parental sexual guidance of their children. Schools can now "aid" (more accurately, sexually abuse) children who are gender confused. As for people working together, these "people" are courts, big foundations and businesses, and other college educated (trained?) elites who think they know what is best, not the populace, who didn't initiate any of this. Please, quit improving things.

Peter Schwimer
1 year ago

I love the way Catholics can obfuscate any issue on the planet.

This is just one example. The question remains why the Bishops even bother to post guidelines for citizenship? They should probably stick to something they actual know about. We already know that Bishops are notoriously poor managers. We already know that Bishops are perhaps the least democratic (small "d") group around. They and we would be better served if they stopped telling folks what to do and started trying to convince their own congregations of the rightness of Christianity. In case they haven't noticed, the pews are empty. I wonder why?

Mike Macrie
1 year ago

Agree !

s jason metcalf
1 year ago

I am one of those Catholics that slips out from between the lines the Church has set. I don't judge women for abortion but I counsel for adoption. I am Gay but was married 16 years, have 2 adult children and 5 grandchildren. My Gaydom wasn't learned, I was not indoctrinated I just knew I was when I was old enough to accept my sexuality. I know many Gay and Lesbian Catholics. I have asthma. I didn't learn asthma. I just grew up with it and learned to deal with it. I volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry and the First Baptist Church Food Pantry I deliver food bag to disabled people for CORD (Cape Organization for the Rights of the Disabled.) I am a Democrat. Why? Every word Trump says is a lie! Do I agree with Catholic guidelines? No. But I would be the first one standing in front of my church if Trump tried to take our religious rights away. I am against the death penalty. I try to be where Holy Spirit puts me and then do my best.

Larry Motuz
1 year ago

Thank you!
The only task of a Christian is to try to be a Christ. It's never to believe in 'dogmas' but in 'people' as such.
You're doing well.

Baron Corvo
1 year ago

VOTING GUIDE ?

What real Catholic NEEDS a "guide" to choose the politicians that CARE about veterans, the poor, the children's education, the CHILDREN themselves, the environment, justice in the workplace, fairness in municipal affairs, civil rights for all, or compassion for refugees ?

The DEMOCRATIC PARTY has been the Party of the Catholic Church and God's Children since day ONE !

Tom Friedman
1 year ago

This article strikes me as incredibly biased and simple-minded. The Jesuits who taught me years ago would have given this diatribe an F for "lack of both depth and discernment". I do not think we will ever make progress on justice issues until we begin listening and sincerely learning from each other, and stop trying to tell people what to think, especially from such a shallow and haughty perspective. And were Pope Francis to ever make such statements "ex cathedra", he would likely cause the second reformation, and justifiably so. Thankfully, like most Jesuits, Francis appears to be more intelligent than that.

Jim MacGregor
1 year ago

Yes! Why don’t we just read and try to live as Pope Francis describes in “Rejoice and Be Glad?” That letter seems to have got no press at all. Maybe because it’s not “clever” nor verbose; but just explains how our Lord wants us to live.

Ann Marie Cunningham
1 year ago

This article is utopian, I believe in today's Church Leadership. The USCCB are more concerned with power and money as seen in their vote
to revise the voting guide. We also see this in many academic articles that talk about a Church in the Middle Ages rather than the gospel of
Jesus Christ. We need the Gospel proclaimed in regard to our time in history. Then can we have a conscience formed in the commandment of Love not fear and shame.

J. Calpezzo
1 year ago

It's the bishop's themselves that should be replaced.

Jim Lein
1 year ago

Most Catholics do not favor abortion. We differ on how best to reduce the number of abortions.
Total elimination of abortion, which some self-called pro-life folks see as a goal, is unrealistic. These folks favor the approach of Caesar, the cold hard unthinking hand of the secular legal system. The other (pro-choice) folks favor the way of Jesus: meeting the needs of women with unwanted pregnancies, supporting them so they can feel able to bring another child into the world.

The facts are on the pro-choice side: the countries with the lowest abortion rates are those where it is legal and where there is a sufficient supportive program where women with problem pregnancies can better see their way through to giving birth.
So Catholics, whatever we are called, pro-whatever, can vote together, for a social system much like Jesus called us to provide: where we pool our resources so that needs are met before our wants are satisfied. This particularly means the needs of the unborn are met so that there are no unintended spontaneous abortion or miscarriages due to starvation of the unborn. Some on the right are for cutting such programs as WIC and SNAP which do exactly that: starve the unborn.
And there is one group of Catholics who could do the most to prevent abortion. Us guys could stop contributing to unwanted pregnancies. If we were more careful with our seed, so to speak, or if we did slip up, we could stand by our woman as Joseph did with Mary. The least us guys could do is shut up about forcing women to give birth.

Colin Donovan
1 year ago

Do you actually know any "prolifers."? My experience is that they do what you ascribe to prochoicers (help women, by taking care of their pre-natal and post-natal needs, so they don't feel pressured by others or by their circumstances to make the gravely wrong and tragic decision, for themselves and their child. On the other hand, I know of no pro-choicers doing it.

The culture wants responsibility-free sex, and yes, its been a boon to guys. Whatever social welfare is provided to encourage not taking a life, that fact will not change. Eventually, abortion by pill will predominant and consciences, which uttered nary a trifle of protest while babies were cut up or burned in the womb, will say "thank God, there are no more 'abortions'. Now, maybe the prolifers will finally shut up, since they no longer can "force" women to have them. They can just pop a pill."

At that point, what was just a boon to guys will become utopia.

Judith Jordan
1 year ago

I know many pro-birth people. They do try to help women during and after their pregnancies. However, the help is not comprehensive or of long duration. That massive kind of assistance requires assistance from the government.

I know many pro-choice people. They are active in trying to help the women. Further, they strongly lobby for comprehensive government help so the women would not feel such a need to turn to abortion. Pro-choice people work toward making birth control, a health issue for women, easily available. Those who make it difficult to access birth control are partly responsible for the high abortion rate

James Haraldson
1 year ago

Year it's about time they stopped supporting the expansion of poverty and mass murder by their consistently idiotic support of liberal policies. Bishops who support abortion, illegal immigration, minimum wage, and "free" college (nothing is free) should be excommunicated.

Hilary Hutchinson
1 year ago

The bigger problem for me is that most American bishops are Republicans. How can that be? Whatever happened to the preferential option for the poor? These bishops bear some of the blame for putting Trump in office. Add to that the number of US bishops who have covered up the sex abuse by clergy, and I conclude they are not the ones to tell anyone how to vote. In addition, I am more than tired of one issue elections. Can we please get off the abortion issue? There are worse things than abortion. How about war, torture, and pedophilia? Even if someone is against abortion, they can still be a very BAD person.

PATRICIA CUNEFARE
1 year ago

Just a few decades too late as shown by the shameful examples of tolerance by Catholics to sins against women and children as reported on the website of the Knights of Columbus with no indication whatever of morality consideration.

“”The world's largest Catholic family, fraternal and service organization, the Knights of Columbus, has thrown its political weight behind the campaign to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court............

The Catholic vote was a key element of the coalition that elected Donald Trump in 2016. In the top four battleground states Trump won Wisconsin (where 31 percent identify as Catholic) by 22,177 votes. In Pennsylvania (where 27.4 percent identify as Catholic) Trump won by 67,416 votes. In Florida (where 26 percent identify as Catholic) Trump won by 134,000 votes and in Michigan (where 23 percent identify as Catholic) Trump won by 10,704 votes.”“

The Church has the heft to be a true moral force but has totally failed to convey the message of Jesus Christ and the early Christians to it’s adherents. Instead it has become a one trick pony defending an easy issue, perhaps because to do otherwise might offend the money bag holders in the Temple.

John Mack
1 year ago

Things were a lot better when Catholic education stressed the Cardinal Virtues (AKA Civic./Human./Stoic)), the supernatural virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Beatitudes as the guideposts in forming a Christian conscience. Cardinal virtues: Prudenve (foresight as to consequences, avoiding dangerous risks, providing for the future), Justice (a prudent justice), Fortitude (a prudent fortitude), and Moderation (Stoic/Civic) or Mercy (Christian variation on Moderation). These human virtues were considered necessary for the formation of the Supernatural virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. Guidelines were the Gifts of the Hoiy Spirit and the Beatitudes. This teaching was was not built on a set of negatives or blind obedience or loyalty. Quite the contrary. This way of teaching Christian conscience formation made it clear that the formation is free but not arbitrary. Perhaps I am deficient, but I find the call to conscience formation in this article too vague. It would be nice if Catholics took the Cardinal/Civic virtues seriously again. These virtues were once considered necessary for a civic society. All this used to be taught in Catholic grade school. What happened?

John Walton
1 year ago

@johnmack -- couldn't agree with you more. the USCCB has hundreds of acolytes in Washington publishing wordy tomes on CST, but the American church hierarchy has largely abandoned its mission of "preaching and teaching". What a waste of money and personnel. As one of my friends told the dean of our biz school: "You've learned all your ethics by the time you've been bar mitzvahed"

George Obregon
1 year ago

Decosse clumsily opines (and without the benefit of history to guide him):
"But a new, dangerous moment is upon us. And we need a theology of conscience ready to respond to the authoritarian wolves baying at the gates of the state"

Sorry, but Obama is no longer President... finally, for the first time in 8 years, Americans finally have a President who protects freedom of Christian conscience... Little Sisters of The Poor, among others, were manhandled by Obama and his anti-life administration
/geo ex machina
`

Hilary Hutchinson
1 year ago

The current POTUS has no conscience, or morality, or ethics. How he can be protecting something of which he has no knowledge is beyond me. At least Obama wasn't corrupt, and knew how to act like a POTUS. I've never heard the term "anti-life". I know there is "pro-choice" and "pro-life", but no such thing as "pro-abortion". I suppose the Little Sisters of the Poor objected to providing birth control pills to "poor" women, or having their health insurance cover this "small" cost for things they didn't use. Picky, picky... Whatever happened to the preferential option for the poor?

Andrew Di Liddo
1 year ago

I participated as a lay person in the Faithful Citizenship curriculum as it was rolled out in the Archdiocese of Baltimore before the 2008 Presidential election. I attended events in very small rural parishes where the evening was led by Priests from Baltimore who had had a variety or work assignments throughout the diocese. What floored me at these meetings was when parishioners could not connect with the Priests' teachings as they described pastoral work they did in HIV/AIDS clinics, Hospices, Homeless Shelters, Hospitals and streets in Baltimore. Parishioners reacted to their stories about their pastoral work in the city with astonishment. One parishioner speaking for her parish asked a Priest : "How do you find out about all these people in need?" The cluelessness of that parishioner about people in need was fairly emblematic of Catholics living insulated lives. I could not believe that a Catholic was wandering around in the world with no eyes to see people in need. I often think about that parish and if Faithful Citizenship and formation of conscience ever took root there. There are many Catholics that are totally insulated from the real world and I am not sure that Faithful Citizenship or a revised Faithful Citizenship is the answer.

Elaine Liming
1 year ago

I don't 'believe we need to revised "Faithful Citizenship". Those Catholics who are practicing their faith each day and trying their best to be a sign of Christ in our fallen world are praying and doing what they can. We have a bigger problem and it begins with how we continue to educate our baptized Catholics. Young people are leaving the Church, many are not practicing their faith. Bishop Barron calls these the "NONES". The family is in crisis and parents don't know how to parent. I have been involved in Religious Education all my life from CCD to the new term Religious Education. We do a good job with young people but it is the adults that need the education. These are the Catholics who walk around saying I am a Catholic but I don't follow the religion. Then the give reasons for not following and their reasoning shows their lack of understanding and their lack of a meaningful relationship with the God who is creator, gift-giving and lover. The Church leadership has failed in this area and the need for evangelization and education should be on every bishop's agenda. The Bishops are suppose to teach and evangelize; it is time for them to answer their calling and make disciples who will live and work to build the Body of Christ and make this world better. It is time to live and sing the song " on ward Christian soldiers...……." Our country needs all of us Catholics to vote Nov. 6th and to do so by being well informed in both knowledge and conscience and in prayer that God's will be done not ours.

Andrew Di Liddo
1 year ago

Elaine: I like your post here. Especially regarding educating children and educating/supporting adults. My mother, father and younger brother were all terminally ill in a nursing home at the same time and passed away a few months apart, three funerals in a very short time. Our extended family was reeling. In the confessional, as penance, my pastor gave me my penance to start a grief support ministry in my parish which had none. I could barely stand up to walk out of the confessional room let alone start a grief ministry. Our parish is totally focused on children and in the pews I see adults reeling from circumstances in the secular and church worlds weekly. We have a reconciliation evening during Advent where five or six priests are brought in for individual confessions and an initial group service. A friend that knew I would be going there that evening met up with me there. We sat together in a pew waiting our turn and I could clearly see she was nervous not having been to confession for a while and many times expressed to me that her non Catholic husband does not support her religion, (she went to Catholic school as a child.) I came out of the confessional and sat in the pew to pray and wait for my friend. When she came out from the confessional, she was clearly shaken and could barely talk. She whispered that the priest refused to forgive her sins because of her marriage with her husband, details of which were probably brought out during the confession. I was totally unprepared to support my friend so surprised was I by this event. I really thought she could be suicidal as we left the building. Our parish had recently implement a parishioner outreach program to support parishioners in crisis. We were encouraged to refer parishioners we knew about who are in need. I referred my friend. We have an elementary school at our parish and the focus is clearly not on adults who are being barraged by all kinds of circumstances, opioid addiction, family problems, the list is endless. It is so easy, way too easy to go into the school and enjoy all the little kiddies and the Sisters in the classrooms and have a feel good feeling. Until, one looks around, and sees so many adults falling through the cracks and pews emptier and emptier each passing week.

Fred Keyes
1 year ago

I can't help thinking that America's writers do a terrific job of reflecting gospel values. The opposition in these comments is so intense, so filled with prejudice as to make me wonder where the energy comes from. The opposition here typically argues from a position not based in the gospel message but from political ideology. That ideology is filled with "Screwtape Letters" kinds of casuistry.

Ergo, Rejoice!

Dennis Hayes
1 year ago

it's time for the people of god to choose their bishops themselves, and to rid their church of useless bishops when it is called for. the people of god.

Maria Yiu
1 year ago

Anybody heard of the American Solidarity Party? You don't "have" to vote for the Republicans or the Democrats. The American Solidarity Party is pro-life, pro-marriage, and upholds all the traditional Catholic and Christian ideals. https://solidarity-party.org

Mike Reiner
1 year ago

He wrote lots of words, but really didn’t say anything. Interesting that I’m reading this on a Sunday morning where the Gospel recalls the Shema Yisrael and Our Lord’s summary of the commandments. Note what Jesus first states. Listen! So first we need to listen to the Lord. And then he simply says to Love God above all else and your neighbor (which includes your “enemies”) as yourself. I honestly don’t need a “document” on how to vote if I follow this Gospel message.

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