An interesting article http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27023915/ points up the huge debate within the Catholic Church regarding the presidential election. The tenets of the faith put pro-life above all else, but it is in the definition of “Respect for Life” that it becomes murky. For me, it is a replay of the election four years ago when my own faith was called into question.
As a life-long Catholic, I struggle too with adhering to my faith in a modern world. The issue is, however, that it is my faith, and not the faith of every other American. What is right for me in my Catholic life cannot be dictated to everyone in a free society. Issues of birth control, abortion and homosexuality are personal, intimate decisions made by individuals of many faiths. I am in agreement that I, in choosing to remain a Catholic, am bound by the tenets of my faith, but others of other faiths have no such obligations.
To say that pro-choice supporters are pro-ABORTION is ludicrous. A woman who must make the difficult decision to end an unwanted pregnancy has to be the one to come to terms with her maker. It is not for me to judge. I would hope that we would be able, through education and support, to reduce the number of abortions so no woman has to live life with that stigma or pain. Obama wants the same thing- to reduce the need for drastic measures like abortion. The church says that’s not enough. To support a pro-life candidate is to support murder.
Speaking of murder, how many soldiers and innocent Iraqis have been murdered since the war began? My Catholic faith teaches me that war and agression is also a sin. In this war, we were not defending ourselves; we were the agressor. How many unwanted and undeserved children are abused or killed every year by parents (some still children themselves) who were not ready or able to devote their lives to the welfare of a child. Parenthood is a huge commitment- a most precious gift-that demands a lifetime of love and caring that many are not able to give. Every child born should be a wanted child.
And so, four years ago, I wrote a letter to the editor of the paper to express my concern that the church, my church, was neglecting the other tenets of our faith to endorse candidates only on the pro-life issue. I pleaded with voters to consider the vast social problems that should be of major concern as well. I wrote about the increasing health costs for seniors, of children with no insurance, of a middle and lower class without the basics of life while corporate America got rich. I begged voters to consider the proliferation of assault weapons on our streets that robbed young lives and the lack of educational footholds to get people out of poverty. Caring for our elderly, disabled and disadvantaged is the basis of Christ’s work and teachings on earth. “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.” I wonder to this day how much influence my church had on the disaster of an election in 2004 that continued an administration drunk on power and disregard for the real social issues. Look where it got us.
Four years ago my political views called into question my faith and fitness to be a Catholic. One angry woman launched a tirade against my views that caught my parish priest in the middle. Feeling then, as I do now, that only my God knew the depth and breadth of my faith I was bruised by the idea that supporting John Kerry made me unfit to practice my religion. The irony was that I had been teaching adults who were becoming part of the faith and seeking baptism in the Catholic church. I taught them the rules of the church as they are put forth; doctrine is not negotiable. Still, my public expression of personal views regarding politics cast a pall over every aspect of my performance as a Catholic. I used to teach those longing for a life of faith and service to the Lord that no matter what mistakes we made in our lives, the church was the one place where we could come for forgiveness, and for unconditional love. It was hard to know that so many would judge me, and that those who supported me were afraid to express support for fear of the same judgement.
I was a Eucharistic minister, teacher, volunteer and joyful servant of my Catholic church but suddenly it was not good enough. I no longer felt that unconditional love and chose to step away from my faith family so no one had to take sides. Make no mistake about one thing. I may have stopped attending one particular parish but in my heart I remain a Catholic- always. No one can take away my baptism or faith! One day I will be judged for my actions by the only one fit to judge.
So here we are, four years later, and the church is again attempting to guilt Catholics into using the pro-life issue as the barometer for fitness to govern a country in need of a renewed conscience. While they push their doctrine on the 75% of Americans not of the Catholic faith, they are ignoring the social issues that affect the lives of millions of Americans who lack life’s basic necessities. It promotes a party that would rather spend dollars to make war for oil and corporate interests than to work to feed the world’s hungry and oppressed. They ignore the issues of the destruction of our planet and God’s beautiful creations for profit, comfort and greed.
I do not expect the Catholic church, my church, to change their doctrine or to put the stamp of approval on things that go against their teachings. I expect them to stay out of politics entirely and stop playing the God card to guilt otherwise good Catholics who are looking at the broader societal picture. God gave us free will, just as Democracy gives each of us freedom of choice. Noone said there would be no judgement at the end, but the very definition of our faith says there can be no judgement by anyone on earth.