Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Primary Elections, Voting, and Being Catholic

These pictures represent two activities I've participated in recently.

Mass at Our Lady of the Angels, Sauk Centre, Minnesota. August 8, 2010.

After voting in the Minnesota primary election. August 10, 2010.

Which of these involves my Catholic faith?
  1. Celebrating Mass
  2. Voting
  3. A and B
  4. None of the above
The correct answer is C.

Celebrating Mass is a vital part of my life as a Catholic.

I get the impression that, by current American standards, that's okay. The establishment is, in its own way, fairly tolerant: and recognizes that those religious people should be allowed to follow their weird practices. Provided that they do it quietly, behind closed doors, like decent people.

In a way, today's American treats religion the way it did sex in the fifties. Which is another topic.

Election 2010: Fewmets in the Primate House

The primate house at a zoo can be a lot of fun. Apes and monkeys look a bit like us - and act a bit like us, too. More than a bit, I sometimes think.

I've heard that one reason that zoos started putting glass walls up between primates and patrons was to discourage monkeys from throwing doo doo at the humans. It's still three months before America's midterm election, and I'm already reminded of disapproving monkeys.

It's an occasional temptation to take on a detached, sophisticated/spiritual, attitude and say 'oh, I take no interest in politics.' Since I'm a devout Catholic, that's not an option. I've written about this before. (March 29, 2010, September 24, 2008)

So, at least until the election is over, I'll use my faith as a rain jacket and take notes in the primate house. (Ephesians 6:11,16-17: I think it applies here, but what do I know? I've got the authority of some guy with a blog.)

Public Authority, the Duty of Citizens, and the Catholic Church

Wouldn't you know it? The Catholic Church has rules for the folks in authority - and for the rest of us. There's no mandate in the Catechism's "Chapter 2 | 'You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself' " for a bicameral legislature and two major political parties. The focus is on how we should behave, what our concerns should be. Nuts-and-bolts details like what color the ballots should be - or if we should vote at all - are determined by indigenous cultures. (May 24, 2010)

Here's what the "In Brief" summary at the end of Chapter 2 had to say, about civic duty:
"Public authority is obliged to respect the fundamental rights of the human person and the conditions for the exercise of his freedom."
"It is the duty of citizens to work with civil authority for building up society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom."
"Citizens are obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order. 'We must obey God rather than men' (Acts 5:29)."
"Every society's judgments and conduct reflect a vision of man and his destiny. Without the light the Gospel sheds on God and man, societies easily become totalitarian."

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2254-2257)
Paragraph 2256 makes an unsettling point:
"Citizens are obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order. 'We must obey God rather than men' (Acts 5:29)."
Thomas a Becket was in the awkward position of having King Henry II of England telling him to do one thing, and God's law telling him to do something else. Becket decided to obey God, was killed as a result, and is recognized as a saint.

Well, that was in 1170. Something like that couldn't happen today, right?
Conflicting Loyalties, First Example
Let's take something fairly extreme as an example: let's say that a democratically-elected leader decided to implement eugenic practices, including the extermination of the unfit, Poles, Gypsies and Jews. This ethnic cleansing was legal, in the sense that it was done at the behest of an elected government. Would it be right to break the law and help one of the affected people escape?

Particularly since Germany lost the war, and care had been taken to record evidence of the appalling efforts to correct perceived defects in northwestern Europe's gene pool, I think a fair number of people would agree that it was, on the whole, okay to save someone from a place like Dachau.
Conflicting Loyalties, Second Example
Let's take another example: this one's hypothetical.

Let's say that it's legal to kill people, provided that you are the victim's parent, and the person is between the ages of 13 and 19. Legalizing the extermination of troublesome teens could be presented as a means of promoting the emotional and mental welfare of their parents.

'Couldn't happen here?' Don't be too sure. Right now, in America, it's perfectly legal for mothers to kill their children, provided they get the job done before the kid reaches a certain age. We call it 'a woman's right to choose.'

(I'm not blaming women for abortion. I've run into too many accounts of some sorry excuse for a man talking a woman into committing infanticide. (May 24, 2010))

The Catholic Church and Living Under American Law

The Catholic Church deals with whatever political system is in place: whether Catholics are in China; or here in America.

The matter of churches 'getting involved in politics' became an important topic a few years ago. Partly, I suspect, because some churches - including Catholic ones - started getting quite uppity about whether or not it should be legal to kill babies.

As a result, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published advice for dioceses and archdioceses in this country:
"2007 Political Activity Guidelines for Catholic Organizations"
Office of the General Counsel, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

"The following document is provided by the USCCB Office of General Counsel in order to assist (arch)dioceses, parishes, and other Catholic organizations ("Catholic organizations") that are exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code ("IRC") in distinguishing activities that are permitted during election campaigns from activities that are prohibited. This guidance focuses primarily on section 501(c)(3) of the IRC, because it contains a prohibition, which has been interpreted as absolute, against participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate, as a condition of maintaining federal income tax exemption...."

Catholics Living Under American Law

We live in interesting times.

Repeating part of the excerpt from the Catechism:
"Citizens are obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order. 'We must obey God rather than men' (Acts 5:29)."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2256)
The Catholic Church is fairly clear that it's not nice to kill babies and sick people - and we shouldn't do it. (November 2, 2008)

American law says that it's okay to kill babies: provided that the mother orders the hit, and the kid is under a prescribed age.

Support for the right to kill people who are to sick, too old, or too crippled to be useful is spotty, at best, in America: but euthanasia is definitely still on the table. I don't think people who aren't in perfect health, with the right genes, can afford to be too complacent.

There's an election coming up in early November. If you're an American citizen, and allowed to vote: I strongly suggest getting informed about what candidates have been doing. And then vote as if it mattered.

Here's a pretty good place to get started:Related posts:

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.