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By: Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, L.L.C.

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"Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life"

"It is a question of the lay Catholic's duty to be morally coherent, found within one's conscience, which is one and indivisible. "There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called 'spiritual life', with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called 'secular' life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture.

The branch, engrafted to the vine which is Christ, bears its fruit in every sphere of existence and activity. In fact, every area of the lay faithful's lives, as different as they are, enters into the plan of God, who desires that these very areas be the 'places in time' where the love of Christ is revealed and realized for both the glory of the Father and service of others. Every activity, every situation, every precise responsibility - as, for example, skill and solidarity in work, love and dedication in the family and the education of children, service to society and public life and the promotion of truth in the area of culture - are the occasions ordained by providence for a 'continuous exercise of faith, hope and charity' (Apostolicam actuositatem, 4)».[25]

Living and acting in conformity with one's own conscience on questions of politics is not slavish acceptance of positions alien to politics or some kind of confessionalism, but rather the way in which Christians offer their concrete contribution so that, through political life, society will become more just and more consistent with the dignity of the human person."

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Introduction

This morning I opened my oldest prayer book. It is the day after the Holy See released its long anticipated instructions to catholic politicians and catholic citizens on political participation.

There it was, still wrapped in the saran wrap that my mother had placed it in. She did so to "preserve it for generations" she said when she gave it to me. "It" was a "holy card" that bore the image of "John Fitzgerald Kennedy." These words were inscribed under the image: 35th President of the United States, Born May 29, 1917, Inaugurated January 20, 1961, Died November 22, 1963".

On the back of the card is a passage attributed to St. Ambrose "We have loved him during life, let us not abandon him, until we have conducted him by our prayers into the house of the Lord". Then there follows these prayers "May Jesus have mercy on the soul of John Fitzgerald Kennedy" and "Incline Thine ear, O Lord, unto our prayers, wherein we humbly pray Thee to show Thy mercy upon the soul of Thy servant JOHN, whom Thou hast commanded to pass out of this world, that Thou wouldst place him in the region of peace and light, and bid him to be a partaker with Thy Saints. Through Christ our Lord. Amen"

I vividly recall that fateful day, November 22, 1963, when the nation stood still. I was an elementary school student at St. Matthews Catholic School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. I was in my morning class when the announcement came over the P.A. system "President Kennedy has been shot". We were all shocked and many began to cry.

Sister led us all, hands folded in prayer, across the parking lot to the Church. As we walked we prayed the customary "ejaculatory prayer", an older Catholic custom of repeating short phrases praising or imploring God's help and asking for the intercession of the saints. We dutifully kept our eyes focused on Sister, as she led us in prayer and helped us maneuver across the parking lot. Once inside the beautiful old Church sanctuary, the cries were growing louder, emanating from the students already assembled. There we joined the entire school, local parents and our pastor, in heartfelt prayer for "our" President.

That is how we all viewed the late President. After all, he was "ours", the first Catholic President in American history. We were rightly proud. That day we were devastated when the dreadful announcement came informing all of us that "President Kennedy is dead"

That defining moment forever changed my personal life. I believe it also changed American history, particularly for Catholics. To this day my mother still keeps the "scrapbook" I made where I kept all of the pictures of the motorcade and of the unbelievable events. I resolved to do all I could to be a good citizen and a good Catholic. This man was a monumental figure, a symbol, for a whole generation like me.

Unlike some contemporary Catholic cultural commentators, I am not a former Baptist or an evangelical Protestant convert to the Catholic faith. I am a Boston born and bred, infant baptized Catholic. Though I am a "revert" to the faith, having later chosen it as my own after a pilgrimage, a search, a journey after truth. It was after that embrace that I began to more deeply understand the implications of that faith in my daily life.

I was raised in a blue collar, Irish/French, inner city Catholic family, deeply influenced by the Catholic faith that was woven into the fabric of the Catholic experience of those days. For example, Catholics had a deep identification with their Church. I still vividly recall an event as a young boy where, while I was walking down Thetford Ave., on the way to the store for my mother.

An adult, concerned for my safety, approached me on the street corner and asked me "Where are you from kid?" "St. Matthews' sir" was the immediate response. The parish and the Church were anchors for our life as a family. They moored us to our reality and informed the way we viewed our place in American society.

Unfortunately, the influence of the Church on my family waned in my teenage years when my family grew more distant from the practice of Catholic faith. It was during the end of my teenage "hippie" search for truth and existential meaning (you know those 60's!) that I finally returned to embracing my Catholic faith and began digging deeply into its full meaning and claim on my life.

It was also then that I came to understand that my childhood hero, John F. Kennedy, though a talented man with sincerity and gifts, was flawed in his personal and moral life. I was deeply saddened. I understood the admonition on the back of that "holy card" even more deeply - and prayed for his soul.

Years later, as I began to sincerely seek to inform my own political participation by my faith, I discovered something perhaps even worse. My childhood hero had failed to grasp the deeper implications of the faith that we shared as it pertained to his own political participation and how he should lead the nation.

He espoused an approach to faith that separated it completely from his public service as though his faith were "private." Christian faith may be profoundly "personal" but it is never "private". Unfortunately, this errant approach has become the rallying mantra for many unfaithful Catholics in public life. They justify their unfaithful approach to putting the implications of their baptism into practice in their political participation with an appeal to the error demonstrated by my childhood hero. They continue to "hide behind J.F.K", trying to capitalize on the mantle of his popularity and continuing to perpetuate one of the most serious errors of our age, the separation of faith and life.

Perhaps the clearest expression of President Kennedy's error was laid out in the now famous speech that he gave to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association Rice Hotel, Houston, Texas on September 12, 1960. Understandably, he was confronting anti-Catholicism and exhibited courage in so doing. However, his approach to explaining how his faith would influence his presidency promoted a complete divorce of the values informed by faith from the exercise of his leadership. It showed a serious misunderstanding of both Christian faith and principled leadership.

As Catholics, our positions on fundamental issues such as life, family, freedom and our obligations in solidarity are always to be informed by our faith but their goal is to promote the common good of everyone, those who share our belief, other people of faith and all people of good will.

We cannot--we must not- hide our faith and adopt positions that are antithetical to truth in some dualistic error disguised as a pretense of principled tolerance. Yet, many who "hide behind J.F.K" continue to do just that.

Let's be specific, after all the First Amendment's reach is a great safeguard for writers like me.

The laundry list of these types of Catholics in public life includes Governor Mario Cuomo, Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy, newly elected Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan... and many more. The list is sadly long and it continues to grow as so many of the aspiring Catholic Democratic candidates, such as Senator John Kerry, now begin their run for the Presidency in 2004. Too many seek to "hide behind J.F.K."

For example, they take positions on some of the fundamental human rights issues of our age -such as the dignity of every human life at every age and stage - that are inconsistent with truth, do not advance the "common good" and are at odds with their own baptismal commitment as Catholic Christians.

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The Corrective and its implications

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On January 16, 2003, in an eighteen page Doctrinal note released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and personally approved by Pope John Paul II, the Holy See reached out globally to instruct all Catholics in public service and political life. These directions are contained in 18-page document entitled "Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life,"

It reaffirmed, with fresh authority and conviction, the long standing truth proclaimed by the Catholic Church that Catholic politicians, public servants and Catholic voters must NEVER divorce their faith from their public service or political participation.

The instruction begins by positioning the role of Christians as it relates to political participation and "citizenship" within the clear unbroken teaching of the Church that has not changed for two thousand years. It reminds us all that the Church has a "constant teaching" on this subject. Even though Christians have found themselves living under different political and social systems, the Church has always taught that "man cannot be separated from God, nor politics from morality".

The introductory paragraph makes reference to an ancient Church manuscript, the "Letter to Diognetus" a favorite of the leaders of the second Vatican Council. In that wonderful instruction we read these insightful words

"In a word, what the soul is in a body, the Christians are in the world"

The role of Christians in the 'world" (or in the contemporary culture) is to be its "soul". This is the principle of participation.

Of course, understanding the richness of this insight requires an understanding of how the writer of this early letter viewed the "soul". He did so within the framework of the early Christian Church. To these early Christians, the "soul" was not some separate "phantom like thing" that floated inside the body somewhere and would someday float outside of the body, waiting to be liberated from the "matter" that is the body. That mistake, which tends to view matter as "evil" reflects a later confusion which crept in as the Church advanced into the Greek world and confronted some of its errant teachings.

Rather, the Christian understanding of the relationship of the soul to the body had its origins in the Semitic notion that understood the "soul" ('nepes' )as the essence of the person infused throughout every cell, carried in the blood---not separable from the body but giving it its very life and form. The soul had the essential role in the body, to animate it, give it life, infuse it with truth, act as its conscience...in short, to transform it from within. In fact, the early Christians, and the unbroken tradition of the Church (currently -thank God--re-emphasized) proclaims the fullness of salvation and the resurrection of the entire "person", soul and body.

The implications of this "anthropology" (study of the human person) and "eschatology" (study of the final things) has important political, social, cultural, economic and REAL implications for how we are to live and act in what the Church calls "the temporal order".

Christians, no matter what kind of society they lived in, were invited by virtue of their baptismal vocation to change it by both their prayer and their effective participation. They are always called to give it truth, life and to actually "humanize" it by their presence. There is always a direct connection between faith and life. Faithful Christians are called to live a unity of life.

These recent guidelines clearly reaffirm the unbroken Church teaching by INSISTING that Catholics in public life and service do not check their faith like a hat at the door of their public service or their citizenship. The values informed by their faith are intended to inform, illuminate and preside over their public service.

Unfortunately this kind of integration has not been followed by some Catholics in public service. This is particularly true in America, where, many of the worst offenders have "hidden behind J.F.K."

With crystal clarity, this insightful instruction dispels the confusion by reminding Catholics that they "cannot compromise" in the name of tolerance, pluralism or a mistaken notion of a "freedom of choice" because, as the Congregation states so clearly "Democracy must be based on the true and solid foundation of non-negotiable ethical principles, which are the underpinning of life in society."

It reminds the reader that authentic democracy "must be based on the true and solid foundation of non-negotiable ethical principles, which are the underpinning of life in society." This non-negotiable principle is essential to any authentic definition of human freedom because all notions of freedom must refer to the human person and to the "common good."

This mandate for Catholic politicians deplores the contemporary form of "cultural relativism" that seems to advocate for an "ethical pluralism." The Instruction reasserts instead the consistent Catholic view that there truly is such a thing as absolute truth. Further, that such truth exists outside of the human experience and must direct the affairs of human beings if any attempt at governance is to be truly human and civilized.

This reference to truth is, in the words of the instruction, the "the very condition for democracy."

As the instruction states "Political freedom is not - and cannot be- based upon the relativistic idea that all conceptions of the human person's good have the same value and truth, but rather, on the fact that all politics are concerned with very concrete realizations of the true human and social good in given historical, geographic, economic, technological and cultural contexts."

This clear rejection of the lies of contemporary relativism is vitally important. It disembowels the absurd claim of some misguided Catholic politicians who cower and hide when it comes to faithfully proclaiming what they profess on Sunday in the chambers of the legislatures they serve on Monday. Here is what the Church is so clearly reminding the faithful of - truth is not our possession as a Christian Church.

Things are not true because they are Catholic they are Catholic because they are true.

One such truth is the dignity of every human person and our understanding of and commitment to the common good.

What the Church teaches about the dignity of the human person, the family, authentic human freedom, the common good and our obligations in solidarity, these insights are not simply "religious" in the sense that they are an article of faith alone.

Rather, they are a part of the reservoir of truth that is the stuff out of which societies are called to govern themselves. These principles derived from this doctrine are, in fact, an asset for good governance. As the document so clearly instructs, a correct understanding of the human person is essential to good government.

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"The Church recognizes that while democracy is the best expression of the direct participation of citizens in political choices, it succeeds only to the extent that it is based on a correct understanding of the human person.[17] Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle, for otherwise the witness of the Christian faith in the world, as well as the unity and interior coherence of the faithful, would be non-existent. The democratic structures on which the modern state is based would be quite fragile were its foundation not the centrality of the human person. It is respect for the person that makes democratic participation possible. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, the protection of «the rights of the person is, indeed, a necessary condition for citizens, individually and collectively, to play an active part in public life and administration».[18]"

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Some contemporary approaches, all too often endorsed by those who, as I say, "hide behind J.F.K." grow out of their embrace of this "relativism" endemic to modern American political discourse and practice. Yet these kinds of approaches have, in the words of the instruction," nothing to do with the legitimate freedom of Catholic citizens to choose among the various political opinions that are compatible with faith and the natural moral law."

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A Framework for understanding and application

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I am one of the founders of "Your Catholic Voice" a movement seeking to organize Catholic citizens to both cultivate their faith and activate their voice in the political arena. I am also the founder of "Common Good", an ecumenical association with a complimentary mission. I have spent my entire adult life trying to integrate the Church's social teaching into what both efforts call our "four pillars of participation". I have proposed these "pillars" in the formation of other groups with which I have been associated in the past, but with a "mixed" response.

For example, one Catholic group that I helped to begin never accepted the fourth pillar of "solidarity" because some of those with whom I worked were concerned that no-one would understand what I meant by the word. They changed the word "solidarity" into "charity" in the organizations mission statement. Unfortunately, in modern parlance "charity" does not refer to what St Paul intended in his Magnus Opus, 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. Though charity is a commendable goal, it does not capture the encompassing insight of the word 'solidarity".

Solidarity refers to our unmistakable and non-dischargeable obligations to "our neighbor" and, in particular, to those who are the "poor" - in all of the manifestations of this word - in society. We simply are "our brother's keeper". Our obligation in solidarity is a part of our human vocation.

This obligation is a part of the unique contribution that Christians, and particularly Catholic Christians, must to bring to public policy and service.

On the current political "right" and in some "conservative" circles in America we now face the danger of a creeping "libertarianism", which in its worst manifestation is a self centered ideology that is actually an idolatry of self parading under the mistaken flag of freedom. It understands neither liberty nor freedom.

On the current political "left" we often find the danger of a kind of "Stat-ism", an approach that seems to endorse a huge bloated governmental solution as the only proper fulfillment of this obligation of solidarity. This is the limitation of some contemporary "liberal" solutions that seem to insist that caring for our "poor" can best be discharged by the State and by bloated centralized federal programs.

Instead, what is needed is a rebirth of both the understanding -and support of--the vital role of what Catholic social teaching calls the mediating institutions.

They are a vehicle for both solidarity and an example of another catholic principle, subsidiarity, which simply recognizes that "good government" is always closest to the people being governed. It begins in the smallest cell of the family and emanates out to the groups and associations, local government, State government and the Federal government.

Although the American notion of "limited government" is quite consistent with this notion, it cannot even touch the deeper insight of classical Christian social teaching.

How desperately we need a new model of fulfilling that obligation of solidarity - one that moves beyond "liberal" and "conservative", one that is prophetically Christian. That would be an appropriate task for Catholic citizens in the current political climate in America.

This Doctrinal Note from the Holy See has only confirmed my long held belief that these four "pillars of participation" are a helpful succinct summary of the areas wherein the faithful Catholic in public life and service, indeed every Catholic and Christian citizen, should carefully inform their participation by the great insights of their faith.

There is no doubt that in many things, the current political needs and issues leave a wide path for the exercise of "prudential judgment". However, there are many areas where the issues are crystal clear. That is where these four "pillars" as I have called them are helpful. Let me share with you now the "four pillars" of participation that have been a part of my own life's work and have become a foundation of both "Your Catholic Voice" and "Common Good" as a framework for understanding and applying the principles set forth in this Doctrinal note.

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The Four Pillars:

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1) Life

The dignity of every human life from conception to natural death is not simply a religious position, it is truth. As Catholics we must be committed to supporting and advancing every legitimate effort to ensure that the dignity of every human person becomes the polestar of all public policy. Our position on life is not a "single issue" commitment but rather a framework within and against which every other issue must be measured in our economic, political, cultural and social participation. Any Catholic politician who does not insist on this fundamental truth is being unfaithful.

2) Family

The primacy and importance of the family as the first cell of society is also a part of the truth concerning the human person and human community. We are by nature social creatures, made for family and through family for the human community. We do not realize our humanity in isolation. In other words, no matter how contemporary verbal, social, or political engineers seek to "redefine" the family, they cannot and must not succeed.

The family is also the first church (or religious institution), first school, first hospital, first economy, and the first mediating institution. Our philosophy of government is predicated upon the understanding that the family is the first government and that all other government is first at its service.

Parents are the first teachers of their children and all education begins in the home. We should support public, private, parochial and charter schools as an extension of the educational mission of parents and support any effective and constitutionally sound efforts to encourage, empower, and support all parents in extending their educational mission, no matter what their economic conditions, through parental choice.

3) Freedom

We must be committed to restoring an authentic and fundamental vision of freedom to civic life that is consistent with classical Christian and Jewish thought. However, this vision is true for all men and women, even those who do not believe. Freedom has two sides to its reach; a freedom "from" and a freedom "for."

Though we may be free to choose we are not free to make the objects of our choice good or evil, right or wrong. Freedom must be bounded by truth and has a moral constitution within which it must be exercised. It also carries within its embrace and its expanding promise an obligation to our neighbor.

At the foundation of our commitment to freedom must be our dedication to promoting religious freedom for all men and women. We should embrace the American proposition that religious freedom is best protected by the principles of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that there should be no establishment of religion in the sense of a Federal or State sponsored Church, which mandates adherence. Nor can we tolerate any coercion. It has no place in authentic religious expression or practice.

However, religious faith is a human and social "good" and the values informed by faith as applied to our life together have been the very foundation of our freedom. Therefore we must support religious freedom; rightly understood and applied, as a freedom for religious expression not a freedom from such expression. This entails a freedom for people of all faiths, or no faith, along with all Americans, to participate in the public conversation and in the public square.

4) Solidarity

We should be dedicated to an understanding of the Christian mission that requires that we have a "heart" (in the biblical sense of a fundamental core commitment) for the "poor" in all of their manifestations in our midst. We are dedicated to supporting our members in solidarity in their relationships with one another as well as in their full participation in society at every level. We also believe that a commitment to solidarity entails an obligation to those who have no voice and compassion toward all those in need.

Now, let's consider some excerpts from the Doctrinal note:

ON LIFE

"When political activity comes up against moral principles that do not admit of exception, compromise or derogation, the Catholic commitment becomes more evident and laden with responsibility. In the face of fundamental and inalienable ethical demands, Christians must recognize that what is at stake is the essence of the moral law, which concerns the integral good of the human person.

This is the case with laws concerning abortion and euthanasia (not to be confused with the decision to forgo extraordinary treatments, which is morally legitimate).Such laws must defend the basic right to life from conception to natural death. In the same way, it is necessary to recall the duty to respect and protect the rights of the human embryo...

Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on" the principle of "respect for the human person," because "otherwise the witness of the Christian faith in the world, as well as the unity and interior coherence of the faithful, would be non-existent." "Those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them"

ON FAMILY

"Analogously, the family needs to be safeguarded and promoted, based on monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, and protected in its unity and stability in the face of modern laws on divorce: in no way can other forms of cohabitation be placed on the same level as marriage, nor can they receive legal recognition as such. The same is true for the freedom of parents regarding the education of their children; it is an inalienable right recognized also by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. In the same way, one must consider society's protection of minors and freedom from modern forms of slavery (drug abuse and prostitution, for example)."

ON FREEDOM and SOLIDARITY

"In addition, there is the right to religious freedom and the development of an economy that is at the service of the human person and of the common good, with respect for social justice, the principles of human solidarity and subsidiarity, according to which «the rights of all individuals, families, and organizations and their practical implementation must be acknowledged».[21]

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Now What?

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There is ABSOLUTELY no question that a faithful Catholic politician MUST inform their political participation by their faith. This Doctrinal Note is one more attempt to make that even clearer at a critical time.

The clearest example of confusion concerns the unqualified obligation to defend human life at every age and stage and the dignity of the human person. Catholic politicians and citizens must vote for life.

There can be no more "hiding behind J.F.K." on this issue.

In the coming presidential election we must all be committed to helping every Catholic politician to understand this undeniable fact and act in accordance with it.

Where they do not do so, we should educate, activate and mobilize voters to oppose their bids for public office. We also should equip, empower, mobilize and motivate Catholic citizens, other Christians, people of faith and all people of good will to join with others to promote the common good - which always and everywhere requires that we protect and defend the "right to life" as the first right and the "freedom to be born" as the first freedom.

Catholics in political life should be "Whole Life/Pro-Life"

By that I mean that being "Pro-Life" is a way of life, not a single issue. Neither is this position simply a "religious" position, in the sense that "religious people" should "keep it to themselves".

It is a human rights position rooted in the universal truth that every single human person, no matter at what age or stage of life, has an inestimable dignity and that life is the first right and the freedom to be born must never be denied.

The truth about the inalienable right to life is an infallible teaching of the ordinary "Magisterium" (teaching office) of the Catholic Church. Every Catholic must not only believe it but apply it in their lives in every area in which they participate, including elected office.

THAT MEANS THAT EVERY CATHOLIC IN PUBLIC SERVICE MUST TALK, WALK and VOTE PRO-LIFE!

We should pray for, expose and oppose any unfaithful Catholic politician who fails to abide by the truth on this paramount issue. The day of "hiding behind J.F.K." is over! We should expose the lie that claims "I am personally opposed but..." We should also expose and oppose any unfaithful Catholic in public life who continues to insist that such a position is acceptable.

It is not!

We must present the truth. Such a position, when taken by a Catholic in public life is tantamount to being unfaithful to their baptismal vocation. We will pray for their conversion while we expose and oppose their insidious efforts to obfuscate the truth with sophistry.

We should support every effort to limit the current legalized "abortion on demand" public policy by doing everything we can to limit the horrific consequences of this horrible injustice through limiting legislation. That includes our absolute opposition to what is called "partial birth" abortion, embryonic stem cell research, cloning (both reproductive" and "therapeutic") and so called "family planning" policies that promote, directly or indirectly, abortion, including the sale and promotion of poison in the form of abortifacent drugs.

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Some GOALS FOR THE 2004 ELECTION

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1) First, we should oppose the most egregious example of the raw abuse of power by the State, the judicial creation of a so called "abortion right" manufactured by the U.S. Supreme Court in the infamous contemporary cousin of the infamous Dred Scott decision, Roe v. Wade. We call for the reversal of that horrendous decision. It is wrong, morally and legally. It has unleashed a horrible culture of death and it must be reversed. While we work for its reversal, we will also work to limit its application.

2) Second, we should oppose what is called "partial birth" abortion. The failure to ban this procedure can no longer be tolerated by a civilized society. We call for an immediate end to "partial birth abortion" Medical science, natural justice, and conscience compel us to be honest about what we are truly authorizing to be done to innocent children three inches from birth in the procedure called "partial birth" abortion. It is a despicable crime - and now to human embryos. We have hidden this barbarism under the language of "choice" for too long.

Some choices are simply immoral, inhuman, and intrinsically evil - always and everywhere wrong.

3) Third, we must oppose the "use" or "co-modification" of human life demonstrated by the "manufacture" of human embryonic life in petri dishes as well as the efforts to "clone" human beings (like products to be used rather than persons to be honored) are unspeakable crimes. We unqualifiedly oppose them and will work to make them illegal. The issues presented by the current "stem cell" and cloning debate require a strong, educated Catholic response. We are committed to that task. We support good science, legitimate medical advances and the common good. For example, we support adult stem cell research, fetal Chord blood research.

The" manufacture" of human embryos for experimentation ALWAYS results in their destruction. By failing to outlaw this activity, we have opened the door to a new insipid form of slavery that is actually being championed as a breakthrough and a "right" and heralded under a banner that promotes a profane understanding of freedom. The growing support for the manufacture of human embryos specifically for experimentation is a new form of slavery and must be outlawed.

We should oppose all Euthanasia, both "passive" and "active" as an assault on the dignity of life. At the other end of the continuum of human life, right when we should be honoring, esteeming and helping our elderly and infirm, there is a growing momentum toward supporting euthanasia.

We should oppose euthanasia as always and everywhere illicit, immoral and criminal. Its' growing acceptance compels us to examine how we are treating the elderly, the infirm, the vulnerable and the hopeless in our midst. Our contemporary dance with death betrays the loss of our moral compass as a people. We will work for legislation and candidates who recognize our obligations in solidarity to the elderly, the poor, the elderly and the infirmed.

4) Fourth, because we are committed to a whole life "pro-life" policy and perspective, we should oppose capital punishment. Though arguments can be made as to whether it was ever legitimate, it is no longer necessary or defensible to protect society and promote the common good. There is a different moral basis for the opposition found in Catholic teaching to both killing the pre-born and executing capital offenders. In failing to make this distinction some Catholics have added to the ongoing confusion.

The faithful Catholic Christian must hold an unqualified opposition to all abortion as intrinsically evil-the taking of innocent human life which is always and everywhere immoral and illegitimate-period. To hold any other position, no matter what is said or implied, is to be an unfaithful Catholic and, in some instances, to excommunicate oneself under Canon law.

However, Catholic opposition to capital punishment does not necessarily imply that it is "intrinsically" evil-rather, that it can no longer be justified, since bloodless means are available to protect society, promote the common good, and allow for mercy to preside over strict justice! The Catholic Catechism was amended to more strongly emphasize that the use of "capital punishment" is no longer justified and in fact adds to the growth of what John Paul II has rightly labeled the "Culture of Death."

Deeply within every man and woman, we all know the truth that there is an inherent dignity to every human life from conception to natural death. Our law and public policy must reflect this truth if we are to be truly "civilized". It is the task of Catholic citizens to champion this cause until it prevails.

This kind of a "Whole life/Pro-life" position is not a "Republican" or "Democrat" - "Liberal" or "Conservative" position; it is a truly human position. It is a matter of authentic justice. Protecting all human life from conception to natural death is the pre-eminent moral cause of our age just as slavery was to another generation of Americans

5) Fifth, because we are "whole life/pro-life" we must acknowledge our obligations of solidarity to the poor in our midst. We should support public policy that respects the dignity of all human persons, and particularly the poor, throughout all of life. We stand for the Churches unbroken teaching concerning our obligations in solidarity to every person and a preferential love for the "poor", in all of their manifestations including economic poverty and lack of opportunity.

We should support policy initiatives that both protect the poor and expand the opportunity for their full participation in every segment of society, including the market economy. This understanding of solidarity will inform our positions on economic, cultural and social issues.

We should call for a pro-life, pro-family, pro-poor public policy and work to bring it about in order to promote the Common Good.

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Conclusion

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I began by sharing my childhood experience upon the death of a hero, John F. Kennedy. Unfortunately, the legacy he left behind has been a mixed one. Relying on a wrong interpretation of how Catholic faith should inform political participation, too many Catholic politicians have "hidden behind J.F.K."

It must stop.

The "Doctrinal Note" from the Holy See is an occasion to clarify and articulate the truth concerning the obligation of Catholics in political life and the obligations of every Catholic citizen. We must seize the moment.

The best tribute we can make to the memory of this man, who sought to serve both his country and his Church, is to finally get it right. One of the many noteworthy expressions of our late President was his insightful question that still challenges us all to fulfilling our obligation of citizenship.

"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country"

Having recently remembered the sad anniversary of thirty years of unrestricted abortion, it is time for us to do for our country. It is time to work for life, family, freedom and solidarity and to promote the common good.It is time to read this Doctrinal Note and live it!


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Rev. Mr. Keith A Fournier, a Catholic deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia is the founder and president of "Common Good", a way, work, and movement dedicated to the conversion of culture. (http://www.commongoodonline.com) A constitutional lawyer, he founded "Lentz, Stepanovich and Fournier, P.L.C.", a law firm in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Long active in social, cultural and political participation, Fournier has served as a pro-life and pro-family lobbyist, the first Executive Director of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice), an advisor to the presidential campaign of Steve Forbes and has recently launched "Common Good Legal Defense Fund", an outreach of "Common Good". Fournier holds a Bachelors degree (B.A.) from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Philosophy and Theology, a Masters Degree (M.T.S.) in Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Pittsburgh and an Honorary Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.) from St. Thomas University. Fournier is the author of seven books on issues concerning life, faith, evangelization, ecumenism, family, political participation, public policy and cultural issues. Along with Michael and Sandy Galloway, he is a founder and Director of "Your Catholic Voice" and serves as a features editor for Catholic Online.

Contact

Your Catholic Voice
http://www.yourcatholicvoice.com CA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - Director, 661 869-1000

Email

ycv@catholic.org

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