Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pastors, Parishes and Political Responsibility

The New York State Catholic Conference has updated its on-line material regarding political activity here. An excerpt follows:
The role and responsibilities of Catholics in public life have been the subject of much discussion throughout our nation in recent months. Catholics, virtually alone among religious denominations, are often made to feel that we should not allow our deeply held beliefs to help shape our positions on political issues. The notion that Catholics should separate their religious and moral beliefs from their actions as policy makers or voters is incorrect on its face. All people are obligated to vote according to their informed conscience, and religious beliefs play a critical role in the formation of the conscience.

In the United States of America, all citizens are blessed to have the opportunity to vote for our political leaders. This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly, and the New York State Catholic Conference renews its call to Catholic citizens to inform themselves on the critical issues of the day and to exercise their right to vote. These issues include, but are not limited to, respect for the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death, issues of war and peace, the education and formation of children, the needs of the poor, oppressed and vulnerable, and access to health care for all people, particularly the elderly and infirm.

In the document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the bishops of the United States remind us of the role of the church in the public square. “The United States Constitution protects the right of individual believers and religious bodies to participate and speak out without government interference, favoritism, or discrimination. ...Our nation’s tradition of pluralism is enhanced, not threatened, when religious groups and people of faith bring their convictions into public life. The Catholic community brings to the political dialogue a consistent moral framework and broad experience serving those in need.”

But the document goes further than asserting the rights of Catholics to participate in the political process. It notes that such participation is obligatory. “In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. ...Catholic lay women and men need to act on the Church’s moral principles and become more involved: running for office, working within political parties, and communicating concerns to elected officials.”

Turning again to Faithful Citizenship, we are reminded of the importance of a well-formed conscience: “The Church equips her members to address political questions by helping them develop well-formed consciences.” It is the exercise of conscience, aided by prudential judgment, that assists Catholics in determining effective ways to promote the common good. The Bishops state, “Catholic voters should use Catholic teaching to examine candidates’ positions on issues and should consider candidates’ integrity, philosophy, and performance. It is important for all citizens ‘to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest.’ (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 33).”

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Catholic prayer

It is good to remember, as we at Albany Catholic do on this last day of the Pope's visit to the U.S., that prayer is an integral part of our lives. There is a good collection of Catholic prayers, and prayer styles, at Beliefnet:
For readers interested in Catholic prayer, Beliefnet offers:

Features on revered Catholic prayers like the Our Father and Hail Mary

Audio and guidance for Catholics interested in contemplative prayer and practices like the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius

A Catholic prayer library searchable by need or occasion, including prayers of Roman Catholic saints like St. Francis of Assisi, St. John of the Cross, and more

Personal prayers of Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and other revered Catholic figures

Advice on prayer from retreat leaders and spiritual directors like Richard Rohr and Henri Nouwen

"How to" guides on Catholic prayer and praying styles such as Lectio Divina

Text of the Divine Office for Holy Week and Easter

Catholic prayers and readings for Advent and Lent

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Another Jeremiah

John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., a professor of philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, writes in the latest issue of America magazine about the controversial comments of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Senator Barack Obama:
By now, Senator Barack Obama’s talk, “A More Perfect Union,” delivered at Philadelphia’s Constitution Center on March 18, has been analyzed to death. For my part, I thought it a politically astute and important speech that merits reading by everyone, even though it will not save Obama’s candidacy. We have become such a soundbite, libelous culture, using snippets of information to attack our political enemies, stoking latent fears and assaulting by innuendo, that the likelihood of the senator’s nomination and election seems slimmer every day.

I have been preoccupied with the preacher whose words necessitated Obama’s speech. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the senator’s pastor for 20 years, has been known as a religious leader in Chicago and nationwide for the last two decades, but a recent spate of video snippets has now made him infamous. I have not been able to track down the full text of the sermons that dealt with AIDS or “The United States of White America.” (If he says that AIDS was targeted against blacks by the U.S. government, he has quite foolishly and incorrectly formed his judgment from street talk and unsupported conspiracy theories. If he calls our country “White America,” I would like to know the context and his point.)

I do know the context of the “chickens come home to roost” video that the networks, especially Fox News, have played hundreds of times. It is a sermon that I have read in its entirety. You should too.
. . .
As Wright continued, he pointed out that violence and hatred beget violence and hatred.

And then the preacher turned to something that possibly no one is aware of from the YouTube clips. Having been in New Jersey on that September day of “unthinkable acts,” Jeremiah Wright was drawn to examine his own relationship to God, his lack of prayer, his honesty. “Is it real or is it fake? Is it forever or is it for show?”

The full story has been willfully ignored by commentators . . .

The entire article is worth reading. It can be found here.