The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

What My Catholic Faith Has Taught Me

I’m Catholic. My father comes from a working class Irish Catholic family; my mom is from a large Catholic family of German and Lithuanian decent. My brothers, sister, and I all attended Catholic school and growing up we attended Friday fish fries during Lent and church polka fests in the summer. I’m an active member of a Catholic church in St. Paul. And soon, my wife and I will celebrate the baptism of our daughter into the Catholic Church.

I’m also voting no on the anti-marriage and voter restriction amendments.

Some have asked how I can embrace a faith whose leadership has taken such a hard line against gay and lesbian equality, and which is painfully quiet on the threat to limit voting rights. I understand why people ask this question. For me, my decision to vote no is not in spite of my Catholic faith, it’s because of it.

When I was 10 my parents divorced. A couple years later my mom came out to my family as lesbian. By then she no longer felt welcome at church and stopped going to mass, though she has remained a deeply spiritual person. This one case of social exclusion is deeply meaningful to me, but is nothing compared to political decision by church leadership to spend millions of dollars to limit the freedom to marry in Minnesota. By doing so church leaders seek to permanently exclude gays and lesbians from the civil rights and benefits straight couples enjoy.

But here’s the thing: I’m still getting my daughter baptized. And I’m still Catholic. And I’m still voting no on both amendments in November.

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Links of Awesomeness: September 28, 2012

Apparently even Tim Cook doesn't use the new maps app on iPhone 5. Shocker.

Also, some Grandmas meet Star Wars, Algae gets fed by an opera singer, someone took some sweet Iceland photos, and some Portland people have created a cologne that can make hipsters with beards smell like campfires! These links are awesome.

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Is Democratic Optimism Grounded in Reality?

I’m a fan of TIME Magazine. It offers concise, intelligent summaries and opinions on the news that help keep me up with current events. They had an interesting article in the last few weeks about the factors that seem to affect a political party’s election results in the upcoming cycle. From their findings, it’s the party perceived to be most optimistic about the nation’s future that tends to come out on top. A fascinating bit of psychology, if not necessarily scientifically rigorous in its conclusions.

And then, in the most recent issue, there’s a pages-long piece by Bill Clinton called “The Case for Optimism,” which outlined five reasons to look ahead with hope toward our collective future. Coincidence? Maybe. But the timing of the two pieces, particularly only weeks out from a presidential election, seems more than a little bit opportunistic.

Call me cynical, but never let it be said that I’m above holding the Democrats’ feet to the fire when they pander. Yes, both parties do it, but it seems to me it’s most effective when it’s a little less in-your-face about it. President Obama rode a tide of optimism into the White House four years ago, only to watch his support erode after the reality didn’t live up to the speeches in many cases. But we wanted to hear it, and it worked. So it’s no surprise they’re giving it another go-round.

But are there grounds for such high hopes?

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Pope to Society of St. Pius X: You Must Accept Second Vatican Council

Pope Benedict XVI has reportedly told the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) that they must accept the Second Vatican Council, a move that might seal the fate of years of negotiations to bring the group fully back into the Catholic fold.

The Italian religion news portal Vatican Insider reported on Sept. 27 that SSPX Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais revealed at a conference in France on Sept. 16 that Benedict wrote a letter “with his own hand” to the group's superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay.

According to Tissier de Mallerais, Benedict stated in the June 30 letter that the SSPX, “in order to be truly reintegrated into the Church,” must “truly accept the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar Magisterium.”

Vatican sources confirmed the report's accuracy.

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Vatican Lifts Suspension of Priest who Altered Prayers at Mass

An Illinois priest who was forced out of his parish by his bishop for improvising prayers during Mass has had his suspension reversed by the Vatican.

The Vatican decided in favor of the Rev. William Rowe on one of three counts, saying Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville, Ill., had not followed the proper procedure.

The Vatican's reversal means he can celebrate Mass in another diocese, Rowe said, as long as he has the local bishop's approval. Others, however, disputed that interpretation of the decree. 

In a letter that accompanied the document, Monsignor Antonio Neri, an undersecretary of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, said Rowe could only return to celebrating Mass “when you shall have acknowledged your error and formally promise to dispose yourself to adhere to the rights and rubrics of the sacred liturgy set down by the lawful ecclesiastical authorities.”

The Vatican sided with the bishop on two counts: upholding his removal from the parish, and agreeing with the bishop's withdrawal of the priest's "faculties" — or his license to practice ministry under church law.

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American Cardinal Raymond Burke Sparks Controversy, Exerts Influence

When some American Catholics worry that the hierarchy is tilting toward the Republican Party, or taking the church back to the 19th century (or earlier), they often point to Cardinal Raymond Burke as Exhibit A.

That’s understandable, because love him or loathe him — and few are on the fence  Burke’s many pronouncements on politics and the culture wars have given both fans and critics plenty of ammunition for their respective views. 

Back when he was archbishop of St. Louis in 2004, for instance, Burke touched off a fierce debate by declaring that Catholic politicians such as John Kerry who support abortion rights should be denied Communion. Voters who supported them were in grave peril too, he added.

Burke doubled down on those views after Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to a top Vatican job in 2008, saying that under President Obama the Democratic party “risks transforming itself definitively into a ‘party of death’.” In 2009, Burke fueled another controversy when he said that the late Sen. Edward Kennedy should have been denied a church funeral for his support of abortion rights and gay rights.

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Pope’s Butler to Face Trial on Saturday

The Vatican's most sensational trial since the end of the Inquisition might end fairly quickly — and with a surprisingly light sentence.

Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict's former personal butler, goes to trial on Sept. 29 for stealing the pontiff's private papers and leaking them to the press. His crime proved a global embarrassment for the Vatican, revealing infighting and allegations of corruption among the secretive top echelons of the Catholic Church.

But, according to professor Giovanni Giacobbe, a Vatican prosecutor, a conviction carries a maximum jail term of only four years in the lenient legal system of the world's smallest state.

Gabriele was arrested by Vatican police on May 23, and will be tried for “aggravated theft” together with Claudio Sciarpelletti, a computer technician at the Vatican's Secretariat of State who has been charged with aiding and abetting Gabriele.

 

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Why Voting Matters

At its best, Christian faith provides a moral compass for advancing the common good. At worst, Christianity can be hijacked by partisan political agendas that divide and destroy. Sojourners encourages you to develop a robust and well-informed conscience around elections, measuring candidates and their platforms against Christian ethics and values. While we must be careful about translating scripture directly into public policy positions, there are principles and suggested approaches on a range of issues that can provide a critical framework to shape our perspective on public policy.

As we have since 2004, Sojourners has published an issues guide of principles and policies for Christian voters. We encourage you to use this guide to educate yourself on these issues. This can inform you as you write letters to candidates or to your local newspaper, call radio talk shows, and ask candidates at forums or town hall meetings questions based on these principles. Think and pray about whom, you would entrust with the responsibility to lead your community, state, and nation. 

Download FREE Voting Guide

Download the infographic!

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On the Incalculable Power of the People

According to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Similarly, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution declares “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise of; or abridging the freedom of speech…” 

While certain opponents exist, most of us agree that free speech is an essential ingredient for a mature democracy, thus it should be encouraged, protected, and further developed. With these thoughts in mind, while we should indeed celebrate the numerous positive outcomes of free speech in the USA, we should also account for its costs, for even the most worthy of causes – such as free speech – bring an assortment of unintended negative consequences.

As our November Election Day draws closer, we are mindful that a defense of free speech has led to millions of dollars directed toward ads, phone calls, literature distribution, and other activities that seek to sway the electorate. As countless studies have shown, the totality of these campaign strategies holds a significant impact on voter decisions and overall turnout.

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A Christian With Conjunctions

For most of my life, I have been a “Christian with conjunctions.”

So I’m a Christian BUT… I’m not like that street preacher who yells about hell and damnation on the downtown corner.

I’m a Christian BUT I’m different from the televangelist who raises his fist in the air and screams about salvation.

My own priest, the Rev. Thomas Murphy, first described himself as a Christian with conjunctions in a sermon the morning before our Episcopal congregation took to the streets during a festival in downtown Asheville, N.C. Across the street from a karaoke booth, we handed out cold water to festivalgoers and offered a simple ministry with no judgment or obligation.

For most of us, it was the first time we had prayed the Eucharist in public, with our colleagues, students, and neighbors walking past. The white banner above us proclaimed: “God loves you. No exceptions.”

I have realized that the ubiquitous street preacher has something to teach me: there is virtue in being bold about my faith. Through my research on congregations and climate change, this public witness to God’s love has become easier for me as my church life now reflects my deep value of God’s good earth.

The stakes of silence are high. If we don’t speak out and act on our moral mandate to reconcile with creation, we risk destroying God’s very creation.

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