Wednesday, October 19, 2016

We Are All Cafeteria Catholics

This morning, a tweet popped up into my feed with the headline "Tim Kaine is a Cafeteria Catholic!" 

While his publicly stated opinion on abortion gives truth to the claim that he's picking and choosing from the Catechism, I'd like to make a couple of observations. 

First, we should not be judging people's hearts when it comes to the adherence to the Catholic faith. Is it helpful in any way to point out that someone is a "Cafeteria Catholic"? Is the purpose of making such a claim to bring them back to the fullness of truth? Or, is it just a simple knee jerk reaction to throw around pejoratives in our social media  crazy culture these days? 

Second, let's just be honest with each other:

We are all Cafeteria Catholics.

As hard as we try, as much as we believe, the reality is that we fail to live up to the fullness of the truths of our faith on a daily basis. 

I know that's true for me, and I'm assuming that's true for you. 

I know gossip is wrong, and yet I gossip. 

I know judging others is wrong, and yet I judge. 

I know I should be doing more to help the poor, and yet I upgrade to the newest iPhone because that's what I want in the moment, rather than pushing myself to give until it hurts. 

In short, I'm a sinner, even though I've come to understand the truths of the Gospel. 

Sure, I can chalk this up to concupiscence. Sure, I can blame original sin. 

But much, if not all, of the blame is squarely on my shoulders, on my refusal to live out the teachings of Christ and His Church even though I fully understand them. 

Even though I hate the thought of it, I am a Cafeteria Catholic. 

Thank God for Confession.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Is Abstaining A Way To Exercise Our Right?

There has been a ton of ink spilled during this election cycle on choosing the lesser of two evils vs. voting for a third party candidate who keeps your conscience clear but has no chance of winning vs. abstaining from voting altogether. 

As I have drifted through these waters, I eventually arrived alongside Servant of God Dorothy Day, whose thoughts on the matter are spelled out clearly at the end of a very well written National Catholic Reporter article: 

"Day considered the ballot and decided that it was not worth her time. Fasting and prayer, on the other hand, she found worthwhile, along with sharing resources in community, breaking bread with the hungry and welcoming the stranger, tending gardens and engaging in daring acts of nonviolent protest. These activities constitute a practical political program that she could embrace. It is a program that, unlike the paltry and soon to be betrayed promises of the corporate political parties, holds infinite potential to bring peace and healing to this tortured planet"

This spoke to me very clearly, especially given our current political climate.

However, and it is a very big however, the Catechism has something different to say about our duty to vote in paragraph 2240: 

"Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country."

While this seems fairly clear, I think it's worth balancing paragraph 2240 with paragraph 2242, just to give a full picture: 

"The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community."

I'm sure I'll be told I'm wrong, but 2242 seems to open the door for not voting in a context where civil authorities and their demands and interests are contrary to the moral order and the fundamental rights of persons, which we most definitely see in our current situation. 

In addition to that, we have had some bishops recently sharing opinions that would seem to make allowances for Catholics to avoid voting in this current political climate. 

So, in an effort to hold both the venerable example of Dorothy Day and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in mind, what is a Catholic supposed to do? 

Better yet, what is a Catholic able to do or not do when it come to casting a ballot? 

With all of this in mind, I think this issue deserves a deeper look within ourselves. 

What do it mean to "exercise the right to vote"? 

Does exercising the right to vote include making the decision to abstain from voting? 

Does the fact that you will be voting for the common good down the ballot cover you, so that skipping the Presidential vote is all good? 

Does the quote so often attributed to Dorothy Day, that "Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthyrotten system," lend to us opting out of voting for President as a way of showing we no longer accept this filthy, rotten system? 

I don't have an answer to any of these question, but raise them because I think they're worth a discussion. 

In the meantime, as we approach election day, I'm left still undecided between abstaining from the Presidential vote...or voting for a magician. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

One Thing I'll Definitely Be Voting For

It's pretty clear that this Presidential election has left most of us Catholics feeling stuck. 

Stuck between settling for an evil choice, a third party that has no chance, or simply abstaining from voting as a way of showing we won't comply with this filthy rotten system. 

As the election has gone on, I have definitely drifted into the last camp on that list, so disheartened with the injustices inherent in our political system that I just can't even anymore. 

In all honestly, it's a lot easier for me to abstain, being from California, a state that will predictably give all 55 electoral college votes to the candidate espousing a terribly wicked idea about a baby not getting the right to life until "sometime after birth". 

My vote for president literally doesn't matter, so I will have a much easier time keeping my conscience clean by skipping passed the top of the ballot. 

There is one thing I will definitely be voting for this year, however, and that is California's Proposition 62: The repeal of the death penalty initiative. 

The most recent polls indicate that only 48% of likely voters are planning on voting to abolish the death penalty in our state, and that makes it all the more important that we leave the Presidential discussion behind to focus on more important issues like an opportunity to make our culture a whole lot more pro-life.

The good news it that we have our bishops on our side (from CNA): 

“Our commitment to halt the practice of capital punishment is rooted both in the Catholic faith and our pastoral experience,” the bishops said in their July 14 statement in support of Proposition 62. “Our support to end the use of the death penalty is also rooted in our unshakeable resolve to accompany and support all victims of crime. They suffer the very painful consequences of criminal acts,” the bishops acknowledged, while adding that “Their enduring anguish is not addressed by the state-sanctioned perpetuation of the culture of death.”

So, if we are going to continue talking about politics, let's start the discussion on the things we as Catholic should be voting for: Let's vote for life.