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November is by far my favorite month of the year.  It’s sort of bittersweet, but that is why I like it.  The darkness lengthens, the trees turn, the air becomes chilled.  And yet there is a special light and warmth as well.  The warm hues of autumn leaves and gourds and chrysanthemums.  The golden tone of the slanting sunlight.  All the abundance and togetherness and festivities–not to mention smells and tastes–of the Thanksgiving feast.  Wearing sweaters and fleecy pajamas for the first time in months.  I appreciate and cherish these things more with each passing year!

I turned 36 this month, and that too was bittersweet.  On one hand, I feel disappointment because my life at this age is nothing like how I always hoped and anticipated.  I thought that surely by this time, I would be married and have at least a couple of children and a house all our own.  Maybe I would even be able to leave the workforce to tend to the home and educate the children.  I fully expected to be living a normal, respectable, successful life.  But things have not turned out that way.  In some ways, I feel like I have not made any progress at all from where I was ten years ago… only I’ve lost people and things that made up so much of the joy I had ten years ago.

But I’ve also gained important things: faith, maturity, and wisdom.  And the older I get, the more I cherish the important things and the less I care about unimportant things, such as what people think or say about me, or how the world measures what is normal, respectable, and successful.  The older I get, the more content (but not complacent) I become.  And that is very liberating!

Also this month was Election Day in the United States, and it included the biggest election of all, the presidential election.  I did my civic duty as a voter, and did so proudly and gratefully.  But on the whole, I don’t put too much stock in government and politics.  There is no form of worldly government that can make me entirely secure and confident.  There is no form of worldly government that can make people happy.  Happiness and security and confidence come from the heavenly kingdom and its Lord.  This is not to say that the election didn’t impact me.  It impacted me in that it revealed, yet again, how very polarized this nation is.  No matter who won the most votes, nearly half the nation was going to feel defeated and frustrated and defiant.  That’s not a good thing, and I don’t envy the president one bit.  I also don’t much envy those who put him in office, for the burden of what happens in the next four years is going to be largely upon them.

But as for me, I shall continue doing what I always do and putting my trust and hope where I always put them, in my King and my God.  My citizenship and good standing in His kingdom will always come first.  Funny how folks in this country used to be suspicious of Catholics and say that Catholics could never be good Americans because they give their primary allegiance to the Vatican.  The Vatican?!  Boy, they didn’t know the half of it!  They thought much too lowly and safely and mundanely of us.  For we Catholics don’t just give our primary allegiance to another worldly kingdom, but to a completely otherworldly kingdom.  We Catholics are far more bold and radical than our fellow citizens have ever given us credit for.  The rather ironic part is that our allegiance to God and His kingdom actually entail being loyal and responsible to our earthly homes and leaders (or at least their offices). In the spirit of true charity, we love and serve our nation and respect our leaders out of love for God and Heaven. To adapt the famous last words of St. Thomas More, “I am the Republic’s good servant, but God’s first.”

November increases my tendency to wax poetic and philosophic.

For now, I am going to put aside my computer and go fix myself a nightcap of hot chocolate blended with a little tot of whiskey.

Below is the statement in full.  I think it’s a good summary of the issues, a brief, straightforward way of keeping these matters at the front of people’s minds; issues this important cannot be emphasized and reiterated too much.  And statements from our bishops are always needed and desired.  There will always be people who don’t listen, but there will also always be people who do.  I’m proud of my local bishops for speaking out!

All emphases are in the original.  I found it at the Catholic Pro-Life Committee site.

[Update]: Commentary available at American Papist and WDTPRS. [End update]

Joint Statement
from Bishop Kevin Farrell and Bishop Kevin Vann
to the Faithful of the Dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth

October 8, 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:


The month of October is Respect Life Month in our churches.  It is a time in which we as Catholics are called to reflect upon the gift of life that has been entrusted to us by our Creator and to focus our attention on the many attacks against human life that exist in our culture today.  This year, Respect Life Month takes on a more profound meaning as we face an election in our country where the protection of human life itself, particularly that of the unborn, is very much at stake.  Therefore, as your Bishops, we wish to take this opportunity to provide clear guidance on the proper formation of conscience concerning voting as faithful Catholics and to articulate the Church’s clear and unambiguous teaching on life issues as they relate to other issues of concern.

The Church teaches that all Catholics should participate as “faithful citizens” in the public square, especially through our voice in the voting booth, and that we have the responsibility to treat the decision for whom we will vote for with profound moral seriousness.  We must approach the right and duty to vote with a properly formed and informed conscience in accordance with the teachings of the Church.  Last November, the Bishops of the United States issued a document entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in which we and our brother Bishops issued clear moral guidelines to aid the faithful in proper formation of conscience with regard to the many issues we face in our nation today.  Through this joint statement to the faithful of Dallas and Fort Worth, we seek to briefly summarize the key points and dispel any confusion or misunderstanding that may be present among you concerning the teaching contained in the document, especially that which may have arisen from recent public misinterpretation concerning this teaching.

1.  Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly teaches that not all issues have the same moral equivalence.  Some issues involve “intrinsic evils”; that is, they can never under any circumstance or condition be morally justified.  Preeminent among these intrinsic evils are legalized abortion, the promotion of same sex unions and “marriages”, repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research.

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly states:

“There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called ‘intrinsically evil’ actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, ‘abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others’ (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.” (22)

2.  The destruction of the most innocent of human life through abortion and embryonic stem cell research not only undercuts the basic human right to life, but it also subverts and distorts the common good.  As Pope John Paul II clearly states:

“Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good… It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop…” (The Gospel of Life, 72; 101)

3.  Therefore, we cannot make more clear the seriousness of the overriding issue of abortion while not the “only issue” it is the defining moral issue, not only today, but of the last 35 years. Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, more than 48 million innocent lives have been lost. Each year in our nation more than one million lives are lost through legalized abortion. Countless other lives are also lost through embryonic stem cell research. In the coming months our nation will once again elect our political leaders. This electoral cycle affords us an opportunity to promote the culture of life in our nation. As Catholics we are morally obligated to pray, to act, and to vote to abolish the evil of abortion in America, limiting it as much as we can until it is finally abolished.

4.  As Catholics we are faced with a number of issues that are of concern and should be addressed, such as immigration reform, healthcare, the economy and its solvency, care and concern for the poor, and the war on terror.  As Catholics we must be concerned about these issues and work to see that just solutions are brought about.  There are many possible solutions to these issues and there can be reasonable debate among Catholics on how to best approach and solve them. These are matters of “prudential judgment.” But let us be clear: issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils. No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these issues, it does not outweigh a candidate’s unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of “abortion rights.”

As Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship states:

“The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.” (28)

5.  Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in paragraphs 34-37, addresses the question of whether it is morally permissible for a Catholic to vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil even when the voter does not agree with the candidate’s position on that evil. The only moral possibilities for a Catholic to be able to vote in good conscience for a candidate who supports this intrinsic evil are the following:

a. If both candidates running for office support abortion or “abortion rights,” a Catholic would be forced to then look at the other important issues and through their vote try to limit the evil done; or,

b. If another intrinsic evil outweighs the evil of abortion. While this is sound moral reasoning, there are no “truly grave moral” or “proportionate” reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.

To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or “abortion rights” when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil  and, therefore, morally impermissible.

6. In conclusion, as stated in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the decisions we make on these political and moral issues affect not only the general peace and prosperity of society at large, but also may affect each individual’s salvation. As Catholics, we must treat our political choices with appropriate moral gravity and in doing so, realize our continuing and unavoidable obligation to be a voice for the voiceless unborn, whose destruction by legal abortion is the preeminent intrinsic evil of our day. With knowledge of the Church’s teaching on these grave matters, it is incumbent upon each of us as Catholics to educate ourselves on where the candidates running for office stand on these issues, particularly those involving intrinsic evils. May God bless you.

Faithfully in Christ,

Most Reverend Kevin J. Farrell
Bishop of Dallas
Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann

Bishop of Fort Worth

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