January 6, 2016
Election Year Is No Time for Catholics to Give In
One thing that, in the minds of some, threatens the hoped-for happiness of 2016 is that it is an election year! From what I hear, a lot of us are already fatigued by the campaigning that even now seems old.
We believers cannot succumb to cynicism about politics. An interest and participation in the democratic process is a duty for us.
Your bishops summoned all of us to such engagement in our recent document, Faithful Citizenship (http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship-title.cfm). In that statement, we reminded Catholics and ourselves of our responsibility to know the issues and candidates, and to bring good judgment, enlightened by our faith, to the upcoming elections.
God’s revelation, as passed on by the Church, calls us to deep concern on an extensive menu of issues, all under the clear guiding principles of the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of human life. The right to life, especially when jeopardized by abortion, euthanasia, violence, poverty, pollution, war, or religious persecution, is a ringing concern, as is a solicitude for those whose very dignity is at risk due to harsh laws harassing immigrants and refugees. We continue to advocate for the true meaning of marriage and family, and the duties we have to our children, our elders, the sick, and those at the perilous margins of our society. Our Catholic tradition is especially enlightening in regards to economic justice.
Two issues very important to the Catholic Community—and many, many others—in this country we cherish as our earthly home are the civil rights of the baby in the womb, and the fundamental right of parents to choose the school where their children are to be educated. Sadly both these causes dear to our heart recently took a big hit in Washington.
Last year, a providential and promising piece of legislation gave a lot of people in both parties reason for hope: the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA).
As regrettable as is the abortion license in America, what’s more frightening is the fact that now, not only is abortion allowed, but our tax money goes to subsidize it, people and religious organizations are being coerced to pay for it, and physicians, nurses, and health care professionals are being more and more forced to perform the morbid procedure. The data is clear that many of our health care workers have been harassed, and even threatened with the loss of their jobs, just because of their grave objection in conscience to the termination of the fragile life of the baby in the womb.
True to our best American traditions, our government leaders have protected the rights of our medical providers not to participate in abortions. One thinks, for instance, of the celebrated Hyde Weldon Amendment. What is clear is that this helpful protection is not durable enough.
Thus, ANDA seemed just what the doctor ordered! All of our leaders say that no one should ever be forced to violate their beliefs in the noble vocation of healthcare, and this was a chance to make that more than lip service.
We saw, somberly, what happened. Republican leadership claimed they would fight for ANDA; Democratic leadership on the Hill and at the White House, opposed it.
ANDA did not make it...
And another of our favored causes—the rights of our children, especially poor kids, to receive a quality education in a school their parents choose—also missed a critical opportunity in the recently approved budget.
Thanks to both Democrats and Republicans in recent years, at least poor children in the nation’s capital had a chance to attend a successful school. Both former Speaker John Boehner and the late Senator Edward Kennedy, for instance, promoted what came to be known as the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which helped children attend excellent non-government schools, including Catholic ones.
Once again, before Christmas, there was hope that this hailed initiative, with more than a decade of proven success on its report card, would be extended for at least five years and be funded at a more adequate level, so that nervous parents would not have to fret about their children’s future in the school of their choice.
The Republican leadership and some Democrats voiced support for this Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act (SOAR), while Democratic leaders on the Hill and in the White House opposed it.
Sorry to repeat myself, but—while the program was at least mercifully continued at present low subsidies for one more year—SOAR did not leave the launching pad.
We shake our heads and wonder why. Thoughtful Catholics see other “interest groups” get all they want in Washington and state capitals, while two enlightened, promising, extraordinarily fair and helpful initiatives—ANDA and SOAR—make the obituary column, not the cheering headlines.
Two new reasons why we cannot give in to cynicism and discouragement about politics, as understandable as that would be, but continue to be informed and engaged as faithful citizens this New Year.