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.
First, I do not exist. The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the thoughts and actions of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous.
Second, if I did, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was edited over the Centuries, yet you cite them for the most extraordinary of claims.
Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.
Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who elected to withhold all evidence of my existence in the first place.
Fifthly, in the same vein, I would not make about 5% of the human population gay, then punish them for being that way. In fact, I wouldn’t care about how humans have $ex at all, given that I created all of the millions of millions of species on the planet, all of whom are furiously reproducing all the time. Human $ex would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Has it ever occurred to you that your obsession with making rules around human $ex is an entirely human affair?
Sixth, I would have smited all traditional Catholics, (and evangelicals and fundamentalists) long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and yet you speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric even for me to contemplate).
Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.
Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.
Ninthly, had I existed, do you really think my representation on Earth would have such a history of corruption, retardation of science, financial misdeeds, political intrigue, outright criminal behavior and $exual misconduct, including pedophilia, as the Vatican does. I mean, come on! As a CEO, I would be fired for allowing my organization to run amok century after century.
Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?
Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.
Move on – get over me. I did.
God here. Since I am love, and from all eternity am a loving communion of Father, Son, and Spirit, and since you are made in my image, you are created to love and to be loved. You are created, in all of your relationships, to love yourself, and to love others, so that through your love you may bring joy, peace, unity, and fellowship in the world. Even if you have experienced pain, hurt, disillusionment, despair, you need not lose hope in the fullness of your human life, for I have created you for happiness. Think about the deepest longings in your human heart, and realize that, deep inside of you, you cannot live without love, you cannot understand yourself without love, if you do not make it your own, if you do not come to experience it and to participate fully in it.
I am completely beyond any being or height or depth or dimension you can imagine, and your life has infinite depth, meaning, and purpose, beyond anything you can imagine. You are called to happiness. Please don't forget this.
Brilliantly written. Thank you, God. You Sir speak Truth. (although I still find myself silently praying at times for this vale of tears we call earthly existance.
Well put. I left the Church in 2004 when the bishops declared it was a sin to vote for a "pro-choice" presidential candidate, but said nothing about the candidate who lied to start a war. At that point they lost their ability to teach me anything. The Church is cutting off many of its congregants with its shift to the far right. It is making it self and its message less and less relevant.
I too felt betrayed by the Church for the exact same reason. I too left the Church at around the same time. I returned about a year ago. The Church must stop indirectly campaigning for the Republicans every election. The faithful are being driven away. Politics has no place in the Church. It's time some of us started overturning tables.
Was this picture taken in a circus? Those guys look as real clown. I am so glad that there are no children close to them. Children, stay away from those guys, they are dangerous.
Socrates: Such comments show hate and anti-religious ideology. It is funny that when Catholic bishops or any religious leaders speak about a controversial moral issue, they are immediately painted as "bigots" and "intolerant," whereas people like you are able to get off the hook by making comments that are offensive to all Catholic believers and to those who are religious.
@the author of the article: While you are right in saying it is not the role of the Church to actively promote a particular candidate, the actions of bishops in this campaign did precisely this. They never told a Catholic who they should vote for, and I, being a Catholic, as well as many others, either voted for third party candidates or abstained form voting. Neither candidacy reflected the teachings of Christ and His Church, however, it is absolutely clear that the policies of the Obama administration have undercut religious freedom for Catholics and those of other faiths. It is ironic that people blame the Church for supposedly not speaking up on political issues during the rise of Nazi power (which is actually not true), but then get offended when the official church does speak up in another situation in which the rights of all believers are being threatened. Let's be consistent.
No one's religious freedom has been undercut.
Socrates – "I am so glad that there are no children close to them. Children, stay away from those guys, they are dangerous."
Domer – "the rights of all believers are being threatened."
Why is keeping your children away from priests "threatening" the priests or believers? I keep my daughter away from Churches much like I have never taken her into a strip club or a gambling hall. Am I "threatening" the strip club by not going or not taking my child in there? Get over yourselves and your pitiful claims of persecution.
Just wait. Religion of all sorts is slowly going the way of the Dodo. Give it time and the entire world will see it for the divisive, manipulating evil that it is.
Thank you for bringing this issue further into the spotlight. I am young, a Catholic, and a Democrat. In all my years of being in Catholic school and attending Church, I have never seen the Bishops take such blatant politcal stands. Through fliers, letters, signs, posts, etc., it was not hard to see that Romney was only "clear" "moral" choice for Catholics based on issues of contraception, the HHS mandate, and abortion. What they fail to realize is that Catholic social teaching calls us to work for the common good as Jesus did. It also teaches us that abortion falls into the area of "dignity for the human person" from conception to death... Therefore... social equality, the death penalty, AND abortion issues all fall into this category. You can not "choose" one issue and ignore the others. I hope the Bishops turn inwards, pray, and regain focus on preaching the message of Jesus, the message of Love, and tone down the politics.
You bring up a good point John, as have others that the dignity of individual, social justice and the death penalty are all relevant teachings of the church. Answer me this please; which one is foundational to the other two?
Bill I think where you are going is that "the right to life" transcends working for the common good? I'm not sure I believe that, Jesus's central teaching was based on love, eating with sinners, following the commandments and ensuring all should be saved... Anyway, if you're suggesting that right to life transcends all, Bishops are supporting the issue that they believe to be foundational of all over social teachings. Am I correct? If I am, my argument which is tied back to this article, is simply stating that there IS no 1 perfect candidate that holds all the values of the Church... so technically, the Church should not be supporting either candidate, and should stay out of partisan politics. If you nix abortions, and millions of children are born into a world where they are treated without equality, shown no dignity, and are able to be put to death by the laws of man... are we really achieving more "good" by choosing a candidate which allows abortion? I don't know!
Last sentence should be *does NOT allow abortion.
Again, a good point and I think most people recognize there is no party which represents the faith totally. Imagine the atheist outcry if there was! However, despite the volume which the Bishops have brought to the right to life issue, I have not heard any clergy endorse or support any one candidate or party. Perhaps the real issue is the tenacity with which the left holds to abortion rights. The Church is perfectly within it's rights to say "vote pro-life". For the left to claim that is a violation of the establishment clause is churlish.
I would also invite you to study the roots of Catholic teaching regarding workers rights and personal property. You will find that the sanctiity of individuals is intrinsically intertwined in these philosophies. Our problem in a free society is that we have forgotten the foundation which underpin the rights we clamor for. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have not always been taken for granted and these unalienable truths are God given, not government endowed. Christian thought inspired the foundations of freedom for centuries before the colonialist codefied it into our Declaration of Independence and Constiitution.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have not always been taken for granted and these unalienable truths are God given, not government endowed. "
Sorry, they ARE government endowed as demanded by the real people that create that government. If they were God given it would not have taken people to form a new type of government in order to make it happen.
Freedom has happened despite religion.
The American Catholic Bishops seem bent on killing the church off here – Let’s face it the rest of the civilized world grew up while This country languishes in the past like the Taliban and other backwards people in religious ignorance.
Wow. And they are still tax exempt?
They didn't explicitly endorse a candidate, or tell voters how to vote. Anything else is fair game.
If anything, Franklin Graham was worse; he did an end run by removing Mormonism from his father's list of cults after meeting with Romney. But he was still technically within the law.
ok no man can wear that robe get up and not be gay
a group picture of men i'd never leave alone with my child.
Hurrah for Catholic Bishops. What does this author want us to do ? I certainly couldn't put a Vote For Religious Liberty sign next to an Obama sign in my front yard. We have been begging and praying for our bishops to take a stand on some of these political issues. Perhaps had they done this more forcefully years ago, we wouldn't have the struggle we face today. It's not the first time that a group of people have been persecuted in this country, and it won't be the last. I'm glad the bishops are at least putting up a fight. Speak up for LIFE bishops, lest we continue to move in the direction of 1940's Germany.
What group of people are being persecuted? The unborn? Really? It depends on how one approaches the definition of "people". and you can stop comparing a differing opinion to Nazi Germany. Please.
The Catholic Church is going the way of the Republican party. Too old and disassociated with younger generations to be influential in the future.
TAX THEM !!!!!!!!
Thou art "imbeciliac" fools living in a "foolery" made by and from the "fool hardy" ever fooling all the imbeciles who are the foolish.
Bishops have lost credibility by mixing church and state, something that's been successful for many years in our country. What bishops have intentionally forgotten is that the Catholic Church is one of many religions. Our government must run the country for all people not just Catholics.
The second reason for their loss has to do with their own scandals. What has the Church truly done to prevent future child abuse in this country other than alot of talking? The chuch does not address the topics for the good of its people. It chooses what to avoid over and over.
Correct on all counts. But just for your edification. the word Catholic means universal. The Bishops have made no acknowledgement of other Christian groups as anything other than cults. I know. I grew up in a very Catholic neighborhood in the 1940s. Every day I was told I am not a Christian just cause I am not a Catholic.
What authority does the Church have anymore? Who listens to a bunch of child molesters?
My Take: Catholic bishops' election behavior threatens their authority and also their IRS tax status.
They took part in political partisan actions that cross the line.
Religious organizations and all other organizations that enjoy a special tax status cannot, by law, do political partisan acts. It is time to examine their status and, perhaps, to remove it.
In these economic times when the government is looking for more revenue, the politically minded religious groups are a fair target. Taxing them will create revenue as well as creating more revenue when those who donate to those groups cannot deduct their donations when doing income taxes.
Churches are not violating tax laws pertaining to charitable organizations when they espouse views pertaining to the central beliefs of their religion, if they apply these beliefs to all political parties. The Catholic Church's views on matters such as abortion apply to politicians of all political parties.
Actually, the new converts to the Catholic Church and the religious orders who are gaining vocations are those are religious conservatives and appreciate the Church for its steadfast beliefs.
... So of course the RCC is still shrinking...
The American Catholic Bishops need to realize that they have become irrelevant. After hiding priest abuse, criticizing The Sister s and not standing up to the Pope when he sent investigators after them, no one is listening to what they have to say. And considering the growth in the American Catholic Church is in the Hispanic/Latino demographic, the future looks bleak as well. I too hope the Tax-Exempt status is taken away after all of the politicking that was going on.
The signs that the Church made simply said "Preserve Religious Freedom". Now if any individual decided to put that next to an Obama or Romney sigh – what is the problem with that? It has nothing to do with the Catholic Church – it is an individual's decision. Also if any of you think that any church is somehow violating "seperation of Church and State" by making a sign that only states "Preserve Religious Freedom" – well you don't know what you are talking about. Also it is perfectly legal for any church or non-profit to talk abount any issue – they just can't directly endorse a candidate. No – the concept of "you know what they mean" doesn't count. Where was all the condemnation when Black Churches and Ministers organized against segregation and made signs to "set our people free"? I guess you only try to make an issue about opinions and beliefs you don't agree with.
Your're right, there's no stopping an individual from putting a Religious Freedom sign next to an Obama campaign sign but you likely would have been chastised by the clergy and Catholics whose conservative views dovetail conveniently with the Church. Unfortunately, the Church did not make available signs promoting Social Justice.
Did those black churches advocate voting a certain way? I thought not.
I've yet to hear an explanation from Catholic Bishops (or other religious leaders) about where employers religious beliefs END and their employees' rights to health care BEGIN. If I work for a Christian Scientist who doesn't believe in medical doctors, is my healthcare plan only cover group prayer and"spiritual care"? If my employer is a Jehovah's Witness, is it OK for their "healthcare insurance" to deny coverage for blood transfusions?
The regulations put in place by the Obama administration does not force anyone to use birth control. IF an individual chooses to do so, their employer's religious beliefs should not prevent it.
What is the difference in the government forcing you to use birth control, or preventing it and forcing me to provide it for you?
Your are right. There is no end. The owner of a company could also claim it is against their religion or conscience to provide or participate in any kind of health care insurance.
ron. They could and do. There are many employers who do not offer health care coverage as part of a compensation package. It's call the the free enterprise system in the labor market.
I think its time the Catholic church to move back to Rome. We don't need or want them here.
Should we take our universities, libraries, hospitals, food pantries, homeless shelters, retirement homes, gardens, monasteries, cloisters, observatories, doctors, lawyers, nurses, soldiers, priests, nuns, teachers, scientist, accountants, steelworkers, cab drivers, counselors, and others with us?
@ Bill Deacon – yes
The simpler solution is for Catholics to come to grips with the cons that have been pulled on them for the last 2000 years.
Saving Catholics and other Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con-
From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."
Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.
From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:
"Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.
Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.
Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.
The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.
Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.
The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "
"In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.
With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:
An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
"Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."
p.168. by Ted Peters:
Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "
So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.
Colin if the influence of Christianity and particularly Catholic influence was removed from western society, you wouldn't even recognize the world you live in. For starters, you would probably be speaking Arabic.
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