September 20, 2020 - Pastor Message05/18/2021
“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
“Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
National elections, especially presidential elections, have a tendency to bring the political views that divide us as Americans into sharp relief. The 24 hour news cycle is filled with almost nothing but politics, so we are lured into thinking that politics are all that matter. This is especially true this election cycle, with COVID19 and the subsequent shutdowns, civil unrest, hurricanes, wildfires, and so many other issues. All of us, regardless of where we fall on the political spectrum, are looking to the government for answers and see this election as a way to get the answers we want.
In this uncertain time, as in every election, we as Catholics look to the Church to help us find those answers. But do we do so with an open mind and heart, or do we do so having already made up our minds and simply looking for some sort of divine confirmation of our predetermined position? If it is the latter we are looking for, unfortunately we don’t have to look far. It saddens me that Catholic priests and consecrated religious actively participated in the national conventions of both major political parties, offering prayers and remarks and thus appearing to endorse those political parties. We’ve also seen priests publicly making statements to the effect that one cannot vote for a particular candidate or party and “still be Catholic”, creating confusion among the faithful.
This flies directly in the face of official Church teaching, which prohibits clergy from doing any such thing. The Church does not officially endorse any political party or candidates. The Catholic Church exists in every state in the union, in nearly every country on earth, and under nearly every form of government, but the only polity she supports and promotes is the Kingdom of God, which transcends all politics and partisan activity. This does not mean that the Church is unconcerned with politics. As a pilgrim people, we live in this world in which politics play a key role, but we do not live for this world. We live for the world that is to come, and all that we do in this world is a step in that direction, including our political activity, not as if we could create some earthly utopia, but so that we can pave the way for ourselves and all others to make it to God’s Kingdom.
Toward that end, I would urge you not to believe the hype from either side of the political aisle. The Church does not endorse any political party or candidates. If individual clergy or religious, even bishops, appear to do so, they do not speak for the Church. The Church does, however, endorse political positions to the extent that they support the Church’s mission of leading all people to eternal life. Even on that front we need to be careful, though. An offhand comment by the pope or a statement by the chairman of a bishop’s committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) does not represent official Church teaching. I would urge everyone to prayerfully read what IS official Church teaching in preparation for the upcoming election, particularly the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes (http://www.vatican.va/ archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/ vatii_const_1965120 7_gaudiumetspes_en.html), and the election guide of the USCCB, Faithful Citizenship (see insert or go to https://www.usccb.org/ offices/justicepeacehumandevelopment/forming consciencesfaithfulci tizenship). I believe these documents can help all of us see through the smoke and mirrors that political parties throw at us, even in the Church, and to base our vote this fall on eternal principles, not worldly politics, leading all of us closer to the Kingdom of God.
Fr. Marc Stockton