This has been a uncomfortable election season for me in terms of interaction with my faith. A couple weeks before the election, a friend went to mass at St. Mary’s church in New Haven, where the homilist told the congregation that if they voted for a pro-choice politician it would “count against them in heaven”. This was accompanied by a flier produced by the conference of bishops seeking to educate voters about church teachings with regard to abortion, euthanasia, etc. I have not actually seen this document, but a document was handed to me 4 years ago, also at St. Mary’s, with similar content. Noticeably absent from the document I saw 4 years ago was any mention of immigration, torture, war, the death penalty, health care, responsible stewardship of the earth, feeding the hungry, sheltering the poor, or any other issue from the host of social justice issues which are supposed to be at the center of the Catholic faith.ﾠ
To add insult to injury, the week following the election, I went to mass at Our Savior church in Manhattan where the homilist proclaimed that “those of you who forgot the teachings of the Church in this election have committed a great act of apostasy”. The next day I read this article in the nytimes. According to that article:
“Some bishops meeting here said they did not view that outcome as a repudiation of their guidance, but as a reflection of polls that showed that social and moral issues were not primary concerns for voters, including Catholics, this year.”
All of these messages have led me to the conclusion that the leadership of the Catholic church in the US has drifted out of touch with its congregation. At a time when the Church’s authority on issues related to sexuality is at an all-time low, somehow our leaders have thought it appropriate to focus solely on the issue of abortion, at the cost of ignoring all else that threatens to tear apart our world. Then, when this strategy failed (and it did… roughly 54% of Catholics voted for Obama in this election), they have the audacity to proclaim that the faithful did not consider moral issues when voting.
Of course we considered moral issues while voting! Vatican II affirmed that every catholic is capable of praying about issues, informed with the teaching of the church, and then the choices they make afterward are informed and influenced by God.
I have to imagine that there are bishops out there who understand and respect they they do not have unique access to the Holy Spirit, that the congregation of the faithful may come to different conclusions given the same information. If such bishops are out there, I pray that they will find the courage to speak out so that the “heretics” in the church who voted with their consciences can find support from the leaders of their faith.