Editor’s note: Vincent Miller is the Gudorf Chair of Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton.
By Vincent Miller, Special to CNN
President Obama’s narrow victory among Catholic voters this week will be seen by many as a political loss for the U.S. Catholic bishops, who appeared to be openly opposing Obama during the presidential campaign.
The Catholic Church was well within its rights to conduct its campaign on religious liberty, but its “Preserve Religious Freedom” yard signs were clearly designed to be placed alongside partisan candidate signs. And they were - in very large numbers.
The technically nonpartisan nature of the Church’s religious liberty campaign was further drowned out by a small chorus of strident bishops who left no doubt about how Catholics ought to vote for president.
In a letter he ordered read at all parishes last Sunday, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria juxtaposed the Obama administration's new contraception mandate with the scourging and mockery of Jesus. Jenky declared that “electoral supporters” of pro-abortion rights politicians reject “Jesus as their lord,” as did the crowd that roared, "We have no king but Caesar.”
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Such forceful statements were never balanced by significant challenges to the Republican presidential ticket.
There is more at stake here than politics.
Though I agree with the bishops that the exemption for religious employers in the White House contraceptive insurance mandate is too narrow, the bishops’ posture toward the administration during the election poses a major risk to the Church because it left the impression that there was only one legitimate Catholic choice for president – Mitt Romney.
The result is that half of the Catholic electorate felt it was being judged as voting “against the Church,” even though such voters weren’t actually dissenting from Catholic teaching. They were, instead, making the complex decisions that any serious voter must, weighing their own moral commitments against a candidate's professed values, the policies they propose and how much is likely to be accomplished on a given issue given the political climate.
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Voters must weigh the mix of positions of both candidates, not just the objections against one. This year, they had to weigh, among other things, a new problem with religious liberty against the Republicans' earnest proposal to replace Medicare’s guaranteed coverage with a subsidy for private insurance.
By putting voters in a “with us or against us” bind, some of America’s bishops have risked eroding their own authority. They imply that specific political judgments are matters of Church teaching, when by Catholic tradition, the more they descend into the details of policy, the less certain their judgments become.
Bishops must allow room for and respect believers' own specific political judgments. The Second Vatican Council taught that it is primarily the responsibility of the laity to undertake the secular work of inscribing “the divine law…in the life of the earthly city.”
The way out of this crisis is for the bishops to carefully respect the necessary limits involved in the task of forming the consciences of lay believers. They must teach moral principles and, yes, argue for their specific application, but always in a way that respects individual judgments about how best to enact these principles.
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At times this formation might even require forceful challenge, but it should never assume ill will or ignorance when the faithful vote differently than they desire.
Trusting laypeople to make the political decisions that are properly theirs gives them room to embrace the Church’s doctrines, even if they cannot enact all of them in their voting choices. This is essential to sustaining a Catholic identity separate from the divisiveness of partisan politics. This election season like none before left many Catholics feeling like the Church gave them no such room.
The Catholic Church will enhance its public authority by speaking out in a way that supports and challenges both parties. Prophets are respected when they are perceived to be an independent and fair voice. When the deep coherence of Catholic moral teaching is communicated, it can free people from our partisan moral straightjackets. But when parts of this teaching are passed over in silence, the Church puts itself in a partisan straightjacket.
The official Church response to the candidacy of vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan displayed this failure to forcefully challenge both parties. In the spring, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had challenged Ryan’s proposed federal budget for failing to put “the needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty” first. But the bishops were largely silent on this issue during the campaign.
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The response of Catholic voters, however, displayed a decidedly Catholic instinct for the common good. Introduced as a “faithful Catholic” by Romney, Ryan brought no significant bump in Catholic support for the ticket.
Indeed, Ryan’s radical budget and ideologically driven plan to end Medicare as a guaranteed benefit program did what decades of work by Catholic social justice advocates had never been able to achieve: It activated a gut level Catholic concern for solidarity and the common good. President Obama’s Catholic poll numbers peaked in the weeks following Ryan’s selection.
The Catholic Church can never turn its back on the moral dimension of politics. But it must beware the divisiveness that even the appearance of partisanship can bring into the Church. Teach and preach the fullness of the Church’s doctrines forthrightly and forcefully, but honor the decisions of the laity. The danger is not that the Church might inappropriately interfere with politics, but that partisan politics will infect the Church.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Vincent Miller.
Oh look...it's relatively early in the day and we already have a dozen pages of sniping, insulting, carping, whining, and other assorted negative posts.
Don't let the negativity win. Love overcomes all and God is love. Fellow Catholics, we may disagree on how to do things, but we all profess the same faith. It is time we actively remember it.
Part1:The Profession of Faith (26 – 1065)
Section1:"I Believe" — "We Believe" (26 – 184)
Chapter3:Man's Response to God (142 – 184)
Article1:I Believe (144 – 165)
II. "I KNOW WHOM I HAVE BELIEVED"
To believe in God alone
150 Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. As personal adherence to God and assent to his truth, Christian faith differs from our faith in any human person. It is right and just to entrust oneself wholly to God and to believe absolutely what he says. It would be futile and false to place such faith in a creature.
To believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God
151 For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his "beloved Son", in whom the Father is "well pleased"; God tells us to listen to him. The Lord himself said to his disciples: "Believe in God, believe also in me." We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh: "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known." Because he "has seen the Father", Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him.
To believe in the Holy Spirit
152 One cannot believe in Jesus Christ without sharing in his Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals to men who Jesus is. For "no one can say "Jesus is Lord", except by the Holy Spirit", who "searches everything, even the depths of God.... No one comprehends the thoughts of God, except the Spirit of God." Only God knows God completely: we believe in the Holy Spirit because he is God.
The Church never ceases to proclaim her faith in one only God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
III. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF FAITH
Faith is a grace
153 When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come "from flesh and blood", but from "my Father who is in heaven". Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. "Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and 'makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'"
Faith is a human act
154 Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed is contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason. Even in human relations it is not contrary to our dignity to believe what other persons tell us about themselves and their intentions, or to trust their promises (for example, when a man and a woman marry) to share a communion of life with one another. If this is so, still less is it contrary to our dignity to "yield by faith the full submission of... intellect and will to God who reveals", and to share in an interior communion with him.
155 In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: "Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace."
Faith and understanding
156 What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe "because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived". So "that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit." Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church's growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability "are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all"; they are "motives of credibility" (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is "by no means a blind impulse of the mind".
157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but "the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives." "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt."
158 "Faith seeks understanding": it is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what He has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love. The grace of faith opens "the eyes of your hearts" to a lively understanding of the contents of Revelation: that is, of the totality of God's plan and the mysteries of faith, of their connection with each other and with Christ, the center of the revealed mystery. "The same Holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by his gifts, so that Revelation may be more and more profoundly understood." In the words of St. Augustine, "I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe."
159 Faith and science: "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth." "Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are."
Could you do everybody else a favor and quit hogging up all the space? Thanx.
Could you please direct this question to someone, anyone on this board here specifically to ridicule our Church instead of someone here to teach its doctrine?
How in the world did any self-respecting Catholic vote for George W. Bush after he gleefully bragged about executing people while governor of Texas ? Only coherent responses please..
Better yet, why wasn't the USCCB calling him on the carpet about it? Why aren't our Texas bishops and archbishops organizing pro-life protests in front of Huntsville prison each time a prisoner is executed?
Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, who was the Cardinal Ratzinger, came out about the Iraq war that Bush started saying that it was unjust. Additionally, Cardinal Ratzinger said that the United Nations was the proper place to handle the question of whether or not Iraq was a problem. Where was the USCCB then? Why weren't they whipping up the American Church into a frenzy over those issues?
I stopped listening to the belches and farts of fat-cat Catholic bishops and leaders decades ago.
As a former Catholic, I can tell you that I neither want nor need political and moral advice from a group of pedophiles.
The Church isn't a human invention. She is holy, even if some or most of her members are Godless, child-raping Judases.
Who do you get your moral advice from, then? A group of baby-killers?
I stopped listening to the belches and farts of fat-cat Catholic bishops and the leaders decades ago.
For the most part, that's probably a good thing nowadays. Perhaps it let you keep the Faith.
A good argument for eliminating tax exempt status for all religious organizations. Then they could say what they want and we definitely could use the money.
Certainly not close to being a JESUS here, but does one get to decide which teachings of the faith they will folio wand the ones hey won't? I mean sure you can but then what s the point. Read a bunch about CONDOMS on this site, lets go ahead and forget that one and say it is neither her not their since Durex doesn't appear in the bible. But abortions?... Is that really in question? I would think that certainly is with in the prevue of the bible and the Bishops. Yes we know they have issues in the church (and in many organizations not just churches) with those in charge taking advantage of those they over see... and man is fallible to the worst extent. But do we need to discount sound biblical teaching from the many good because a few rotten apples have sinned. These things aren't even connect. Basically what I am reading si because some priest molested little boys, then one feels they don't have a need to listen to the biblically wise that abortion is bad? That doesn't seem right. LIke saying GOD, one of your surrogates screwed up, so I am discounting the entire bible because I don't need to be told how to live my life under your teachings. That being the case really I would thing that religion is not for you. And for those bashing organized religion... all religion is organized, it adheres to a set of principles which is what the religion is based on. Those principles are recognized as tenets, to have a religion at all it must be organized by its definition.
What about the black pastors screaming Obambam.... what goes around should be applied to all pastors, and religions huh?
VT guy, apparently it is only bad if the priest or pastor is telling you to vote for the other guy.
Of course it should apply to all. Did other denominations have yard signs made, and demand that all preachers in their faith deliver a scripted message?
Greatlakes – surely your not trying to say that the Catholics were the only ones to do that. To make an assertion like that would require such a low IQ that a person who would say that wouldn't even be able to ready this article.
I still think that if they're willing to include themselves in the political process, then they should be also be willing to give up their tax-exempt status.
We would generate an estimated $71B every year if we lifted the tax exempt status on all religious organizations. That's a good start at reducing the deficit.
REMARk,, ok so you are going to take 71 Billion out of the hands of religions organizations who use that money to help those in need, fund clinics, hospitals, soup pitches, relief efforts and give it to the government? Wow like the govt. needs another 71 billion to waste away on crap. Even if you are a non believer in religion, it is impossible to thing that you would believe the govt. will do more good with that money then an organization that at least means well.
So, they are going to pay taxes now?
Not only are these Bishops going against the majority of Americans; they are increasingly going against their own Catholic voters and what Democracy and Freedom stand for.
DEECEE, they are not supposed to go with the Bishops are not supposed to go with the majority of Americans or Catholics, they are supposed to go with the word of GOD. I would think it is the Catholic parishioners to look at their principles and political views in light of what the Bishops are saying and turn to the bible to determine if they are going against the WORD and GOD, not if their Bishop is going against them!
RYNO, you should just give it up. Everybody who lives in this country knows full well Catholic bishops are corrupt. Most of them took part in crimes against children by covering up the crimes of their pedophile priests and refusing to turn in those priests to the proper authorities. What "authority" US bishops had was destroyed after decades of their own criminal activities. Who in their right mind would put trust in anything these disgusting sorry excuses for human beings say?
DeeCee, What I am saying is that regardless of your feelings of the Bishops, if your a Christian you should be making life disc ions on the principle of the bible, including who you vote for. I am not apologizing for the Bishops actions who did wrong or those who covered it up, but to say they should not be suggest to their flock that they look to GODS word to make a political decision doesn't make sense.
I stand by may statement that you should expect Bishops (or any christian) to follow with what the majority of America or Catholics want, but stand on the side of Gods teachings, regardless of how that may oppose the wishes of the populous.
Sit a tax man in every church and read every religious tax exempt paper and when they mention politics turn on the meter and start lifting that tax exemption and watch them shut up. Not everyone is Catholic and needs to be oppressed with their ideas. Secondly, Jesus didn't police peoples bedrooms, old unmarried men started doing that, the same ones that molest boys. I am sick of religion in politics and am happy to see drastic measures introduced to end it. Next time I hear some minister of the middle class talk politics from the pulpit I am going to stand up and tell them to shut up!
LOL that makes no since. If your not Catholic, then you probably wouldn't be in a Catholic church "having to listen to them" you would be at home watching football. If you don't like religion I suggest quit going to churches that you don't believe in and stop reading articles about religion. Problem solved.
So the 50 years of the RCC supporting democrats was ok, but now that they supported a republican everyone whines like little catholic school girls.
I think you are confusing catholic voters with the catholic church.
This article is actually about bishops themselves being political.
Only for the new members of this blog:–>>>>>
The Topic headline:
"My Take: Catholic bishops' election behavior threatens their authority."
My Take: Catholic bishops' promulgation of a severely flawed religion both historically and theologically completely vitiates their authority.
Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.
The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.
For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".
Current RCC problems:
Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!
The bishops have been extremely clear and tremendously consistent in articulating PRINCIPLES and POLICIES which must be applied by each person in the voting booth, especially those who claim the name of Catholic. They do so as citizens of the United States, and as leaders of the Church. On both grounds, they have the right and the duty to do so. Just because one is a CAtholic does not invalidate one's civil right to engage in public discourse.
They do not advocate one or another candidate, nor do they oppose one person or another. They articulate clear principles, based not on Scripture but on the natural law–accessible to reason, even unaided by revelation, and therefore universal. They work to have these principles understood and applied by lay people of all religions and of none in the civil sphere. This is in no way against or in favor of any one man–it's the common good which is the goal, and which we must all serve.
But they have been very clear in pointing out the misunderstandings, lies, and deceptions of those in public office who advocate for policies which contradict the common good, and especially for those whose policies contradict the vows of our own baptism.
For example: the utter inconsistency of Vice President Biden regarding abortion and health insurance: He said that his Catholic faith was extremely important to him. He also proclaimed that he believed life begins at conception, that having an abortion is an evil–his personal opinion. Yet he also said that he could not force that opinion on another person, and has worked tirelessly to advance and expand the right to murder infants in the womb. AT THE SAME TIME, he has (rightly) professed the urgent need to improve health care system. In order to do that, he has supported the policies which force virtually every employer in the country to violate the conscience's of the owners in purchasing deadly drugs which treat pregnancy as a disease.
Yes, the bishops have rightly condemned such hypocrisy, both because it is internally inconsistent and therefore illogical, but also because it violates his own professed beliefs. Since when is it wrong for a person to call out a politician when he or she is lying, and leading others into error?
The fact is that there is a teaching office of the Church, and not all is opinion. Mr. Miller, as the chair of a theology department, you should know better. Or perhaps your students and staff members should live in the brave new world you are advocating: that you as Chair are not there to help yourself and others encounter, understand and live the truth, but to stand by while each person creates his or her own truth, guided only by his or her own internal compass, and if you happen to think differently, you're irrelevant.
It's not a contradiction to be Catholic and believe in a woman's right to choose. If you yourself are Catholic and it is your choice, you need to make that choice for yourself, but you don't have the right to choose for someone else. No one is forcing Catholics to use contraception or have an abortion: it is up to these bishops to impart on their Catholic followers that this is a sin according to their beliefs and need not worry that these options that are available for people that do not share these beliefs.
. . .yawn. Go f**c yourself "Dan".
Sir.. your post is utter nonsense. catholic bishops clearly took a stand in this election and what I find ironic is that they basically advocated for us to vote for a "christian". I find this bizzare at minimum. I was personally present at sermons where obama was compared to King Herod.
Spare us your sanitized response. Let them open critize all the phedophile priests that have caused more harm . The funniest irony is tha 80% of catholic women use contraception... shows that they had other baises in mind when they opposed obama. Nevermide than Romney/Ryan did not give 2 cents about the poor or 47% of the US and also immigration.. I guess it is ok because???? please tell me
Is this Loughner? You're crazy dude, get help.
Dan-- your response is so excellent, articulate, and true.
I apologize for so many nit-wits who don't know what they are talking about.
Please continue to post. You are a light, in the midst of lots of darkness here!
So when will the IRS remove the tax exemption from the American Catholic Church, given it is clearly involved in direct political endorsements?
They didn't officially endorse Romney, but try again. You might want to focus on the black churches that actively endorsed Obama.
I pray for a day that the GOP will see Obama as a president and not just a black president. This 'view' of yours is exactly why you lost the election.
Eliminate tax-exemption for all of them. Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, etc. It's anachronistic.
"Bishops must allow room for and respect believers' own specific political judgments. "
More importantly, Bishops must respect the fact that is not a Catholic nation (nor is it a Christian nation) beholden to ensuring the consistency of secular law to religious doctrine.
The Bishops are not teaching citizenship to the United States. They are teaching discipleship to Christ. If people choose to go against the teaching, that is their right as citizens of the U.S. but it is then not he Bishops who have wandered, it is the flock.
Just more fuel for the Athiest fire. I would still just be a quiet agnostic if it weren't for behavior like this. I am a supporter of Religious freedom so long as Freedom FROM religion is also preserved. When religion seeks to dominate public policy, as it does in this country, that will only hasten free thinkers everywhere to band together and do what they can in their own private lives, volunteering for candidates who support true separation of church and state. It might seem laughable but look at most of the rest of the developed world, open atheists serving as prime minsters, cabinet members, ranking members of parliament, etc. The harder the religious try to forceably impose their religious views through political means, the harder the push-back will be. It might take 60 years, but the time will come when we have an Atheist president and freedom from religion is seen as just as sacred as freedom of religion.
When I go to the doctor, I don't want a priest or some old Republican sitting in the corner, monitoring everything that is said and done. I and every other American has medical privacy and it is no one's business what is going on between a doctor and patient; not the employer, not the neighbor and not some dried up old minister. If an employer gives me a salary, he has no say in what I spend it on. If he gives me health insurance, he should have no say on what I "spend" the coverage on. Period. If churches want to be political action committees, they need to give up all their tax-free status and start paying income tax and real estate taxes for starters.
I couldn't agree more
As Catholics we believe that some some things are intrinsically evil. Abortion is one of these. Because of this, we shouldn't be voting for candidates who support the pro-abortion stance. You combine this with the religious freedom issues at stake, Romney was the easy choice for members who followed the teaching of the church. However, NE Catholics and Hispanic Catholics were not smart enough to understand this... so their cultural paterns of voting for democrats won out.
I stopped reading your comment at the words "pro-abortion stance." When you label people as being "pro-abortion," as if it's something they they want to encourage and promote as much as possible, you instantly disqualify yourself from any kind of reasonable discussion. If you can't talk about the issue without using that deliberately divisive, charged, and inaccurate language, then just keep your mouth shut, sunshine. You've been dismissed. Shut down. GET IT?
gee Honus, as a Catholic, don't you also believe that taking a path in life that rejects Jesus is intrinsically evil? I'm pretty sure that's why some of my ancestors were forced to convert under penalty of death.
The Catholics who didn't vote for Romney found that the GOP platform was either actually even further from the teachings of Jesus and the church and/or that in voting for Romney they'd be voting against the religious freedom of others who do not share your religious views (or those of the religious orthodoxy). I guess your just another Catholic/Christian that believes religious freedom means people don't have to be your religion but they sure as heck should pretend they are and adhere to the doctrine your religion wants to mandate
"However, NE Catholics and Hispanic Catholics were not smart enough to understand this"
yeah, you kind of lose credibility in claiming to be a catholic when you would label other catholics as stupid
Too bad they don't believe war to be intrinsically evil. You guys pick and choose which killing is evil and which is just. Ridiculous.
Honus-Hope you go to confession real soon. First sin is not to judge.. I find it convinient that all you so called Catholics (big C) have conviniently forgotten that Romney has been pro-choice from the 1970's untill.....election time. but I guess it is okay to change your mind just like that....
We real catholics voted to Obama becuse Romey is liar. plain and simple. At least, you know where OBM stands. Romney is actually more pro-choice than Obama. check the facts. get educated.
Catholics also believe the death penalty is intrinsically evil. You're way off here, stop cherry picking.
Honus, Did u vote for George W. Bush ?
Right on, Honus!
Abortion is intrinsically evil.
No serious Catholic should support someone like Obama, who is pro-abortion, who is in favor of NO RESTRICTIONS on abortion, who condones this terrible evil.
Bishops are the primary teachers of Catholics. When we hear them- we hear Christ!
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.