My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
The last two weeks we have been exploring our Catholic faith and the matter of political responsibility. We have established already that the purpose of individuals coming together and forming a government is to serve a common good. Last week we spoke of “religious freedom” as a lynchpin of any society. This week we will take up the question of social justice.
We ask ourselves where the candidates stand on how we as a people may best “make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1908)
Previously, we established that the dignity and sanctity of human life is the foundation for all other rights. Support of partial-birth abortion, which can only be described as near infanticide, is in the minds of many disqualifying for the office of President of the United States. Moreover, the Democratic Party Platform now calls for taxpayer funding of abortion. Taken together, these pose an almost insurmountable hurdle for any Catholic voter that takes his or her faith seriously.
At the same time, we as Roman Catholics, do not believe that our responsibilities towards one another end after birth. Indeed, education and healthcare are fundamental rights. Many Americans are being deprived of a quality education and many more are being crushed beneath the skyrocketing costs associated with healthcare.
A vigorous private sector is essential in a liberal democracy. Schools instill values – secular, religious and irreligious. Support for voucher programs and tax credits are a lifeline for many families who are concerned with providing a quality education in an environment that supports their own values and beliefs.
The costs of a college education seem entirely disproportionate. Many families and/or students are saddled with several hundred thousand dollars in debt because of student loans. This places undue burdens upon those looking to start a career and a family. Some have proposed creative policies that would help more students have access to American higher education.
With respect to healthcare, we must strive towards the goal of ensuring that all Americans have a minimum coverage of quality health care. Yet, this goal has not been met. Furthermore, many working class families are burdened by the costs of many exchange plans. Our government must work to alleviate this stress to families on the margins. At the same time, we strongly oppose the serious and ideologically driven flaws in current law. Neither Catholic nor other faith-based institutions ought to be forced to cover any procedures they deem in direct opposition to deepest held beliefs, such as funding for contraception, sterilization and abortion.
An area where the left and the right agree, but we have heard precious little about, is criminal justice reform. The greatest single exercise of force in a citizen’s life is imprisonment. We must demand that the curtain be pulled back on our prisons for all to see the systematized violence and brutality of an industry more interested in punishment than rehabilitation, simply because it is more profitable. The American prison industry must be deconstructed, and be replaced with true rehabilitation centers
In his Encyclical, “Laudato Si” (On Care for Our Common Home), our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminded us “I would point to the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policies, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle.” (16)
Many Catholics fail to recognize our obligation to be stewards of the environment. This means that we must advocate for policies that care for the environment at both a macro and a micro level. How can we not value clean air? Do we wish our children to suffer from chronic asthma? Visits to the developing world are the evidence of the profoundly negative impact of carbon emissions upon quality of life. Should we not be concerned also for those who manufacture the goods we consume? Not surprising, many of the same voices that resist “Green Policies” also have little concern for the poor.
As so many of you know, I am particularly interested in migration issues. Pope Francis who visited the Greek island of Lesbos, where refugees have come to escape violence in their home lands, reminded us, “We must never forget… that migrants, rather than simply being a statistic, are first of all persons who have faces, names and individual stories.”
As a diocese that has for hundreds of years been home to immigrants, those with papers and those without, we as a nation must be on the side of the stranger. Frankly, the language directed towards many immigrants throughout this election has been insulting with one candidate demeaning and alienating immigrants and offering no reasonable solution for those who wish to come to the United States legally. At the same time, the other candidate has made unobtainable promises to immigrants, which might serve political purposes but also offers no real resolution.
As we put out into the deep in our final analysis of the issues facing Catholic voters, we will explore the issue of the stability and security of a just order. In the meantime, we must continue to ask the Lord to bestow upon us all the virtue of prudence as we prepare to go to the polls next week.