An Open Letter to Our Beloved Bishops
By: DeaconKeith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
I write to you as a loyal son of our Holy Mother, the Catholic Church. I write to you as a Deacon, a member of the clergy, at the lowest rank of orders. I am not a layman, but numbered among those of whom our Catechism proclaims "At a lower level of the hierarchy are to be found deacons, who receive the imposition of hands 'not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry. At an ordination to the diaconate only the bishop lays hands on the candidate, thus signifying the deacon's special attachment to the bishop in the tasks of his "diakonia." (CCC Section 1569)
As your loyal son, especially attached to you by my ordination and reliant upon your profoundly important Episcopal service to the Church and the world, I am also deeply mindful of the burden of your office in these times. I welcomed the Holy Fathers' special encouragement to you. How fitting that on his twenty fifth anniversary, as a sign of His profound love, he issued the beautiful Apostolic Exhortation "Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ For the Hope of the World." By so doing he signified once again both the honor and the burden of your office.
I also write to you as a co-founder of "Your Catholic Voice", an international movement of faithful Catholics serving the common good through four pillars of participation; life, family, freedom and solidarity with the poor. We are responding to our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II's call for a "New Evangelization." Our movement is dedicated to building a "living legacy" to him by forming a "New Catholic Action", assiduously loyal to his teachings and to the full social teaching of the Catholic Church. We are also responding to your call for "faithful citizenship" in our civic participation.
As an international movement, our members throughout the world appreciate the wonderful directions given through their own Bishops conferences, each and everyone expounding on the whole treasury that is the Social teaching of the Catholic Church. These writings inform and motivate our movement.
For example, in October 1996, with an eye to the upcoming General Election, the Bishops of England and Wales released "The Common Good and Catholic Social Teaching" another brilliant exposition of the Social Teaching of the Church. Like the American Bishops efforts, it also contained detailed notes on the use of the document for study groups.
Our American members are grateful for the beautifully written letters of the Bishops of the United states, "On Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility"; the first installment issued in 1999 with an eye toward the 2000 national elections and the most recent installment issued just this October, in anticipation of the upcoming 2004 elections. In fact, our movement is built upon the very principles set forth in these letters.
"Your Catholic Voice" as a movement , is a response to these kinds of letters. We "get it". We know that it is the lay faithful who are particularly called to engage in this effort of "faithful citizenship" and service to the common good. We also know that the tired political labels of our age are often an impediment to authentic Catholic Action. We emphasize that we are neither "liberal" nor "conservative" but Catholic. That is why we are building a non-partisan movement, fully embracing the consistent ethic of life and the whole cloth that is the tapestry of the social teaching of the Church.
We know that it is your role to teach and it is particularly the task of the lay faithful to embody the principles derived from Catholic Social teaching in movements dedicated to authentic social, political and economic justice.
As we labor in the fields of contemporary culture we need your clear direction. After all, no matter which nation we find ourselves in, Catholic Action stands for timeless principles that flow from truth and fundamental human rights.
As I write this letter, I am reminded of the words of Peter Maurin, a co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement. In his monumental "Easy Essays" he speaks of the task of building a new society, reminding the serious Catholic of the task to "...create a new society, within the shell of the old, with the philosophy of the new, which is not a new philosophy but a very old philosophy, a philosophy so old that it looks like new". That is our task.
We know the difficulties that you face and the particular role that you play in both the Church and the world into which she has been sent to carry on the Redemptive mission of Jesus Christ. We thank you for your courage and your clarity in giving us the teachings needed for us to now participate fully in all aspects of the social justice mission including political participation.
I never want to be numbered among those who maintain that you have not spoken clearly enough. To the contrary, I welcome all that you have written and rather than ask, as some do, "why aren't the Bishops doing anything", I seek to respond by helping to build an international lay movement in response to what you have written. Thank you for what you are doing! In other words, "I get it". You have done your job. It is now incumbent upon the lay faithful to do theirs.
However, it is to that lay mission that I now address my plea as a Deacon. I am numbered among the clergy but called, in a sense, from the altar into the world. I find my call to be involved in the building of this movement called "Your Catholic Voice" to be absolutely consistent with my ordination. However, it also positions me to speak both for you and now, with all due respect, to you. Though I write on my own, I know that I am expressing the heartfelt concerns of many Catholics, other Christians, other people of faith and people of good will who depend on your moral and spiritual guidance.
Dearly Beloved Bishops, we desperately need your clear, unified, moral witness. PLEASE BE CONSISTENT in your corporate witness in the world concerning the vital issues of the contemporary political and social challenge. St Paul, in his marvelous exhortation to the Corinthian Christians on the primacy of love wrote "And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?" (I Corinthians 14:8) Mixed signals from some of you are like the indistinct bugle and do not help the lay faithful to do their indispensable mission. At worst, they also give fodder to those who champion the siren song of the "culture of death", which has an entirely different agenda than the Church.
It is no secret that we live in an age where the inviolable dignity of every human life at every age and stage is not the pre-eminent polestar guiding our public policy. Movements like "Your Catholic Voice" and others are dedicated to changing that by building a new "culture of life" and "civilization of love". However, we need your consistent moral leadership. We need all of you to be courageous and unmistakable in your unified defense of all human life, at every age and stage.
For example, when a brain damaged, disabled young woman in Florida, in the United States, who is beloved by her mother, father and family, who is not dying, is refused food and water so as to cause her death and eventually, is even refused viaticum, we need you to speak with moral and prophetic clarity. We need you to say again that every life, including the life of the disabled, is an unrepeatable gift from a loving God that must be respected and protected. We need you to explain that starvation and failing to give a cup of water is not the same as "extraordinary medical measures" for the purposes of a moral evaluation. Rather, that withholding nutrition and hydration is euthanasia and must never be allowed.
When the Vatican's "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith", issues such a clear document as "Considerations Regarding proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons", which, while insisting that every human person, including those with homosexual orientation, must be treated with human dignity, also insists that "homosexual unions" must never be given legal status equivalent to marriage or even in any way consistent with that of married couples, we need ALL of our Bishops to sound a clear trumpet on these issues!
For even one Bishop to speak otherwise causes serious confusion and directly impedes our efforts as loyal sons and daughters of the Catholic Church engaged in Catholic Action. How can we defend marriage "in the trenches" of the political arena when one of our Bishops makes public statements that are at best confusing and at worst at odds with this clear direction?
When Catholics in public life continue to take positions that are at odds with the infallible ordinary Magisterium of the Church concerning the right to life, from conception to natural death, in spite of absolutely clear teaching, we face not only an impediment to building a "culture of life" but confusion in our own ranks. We are also the ones who have to answer to other Christians, other people of faith and people of good will as to why our Church teaches one way but seemingly acts another.
We ask that, for their own salvation as well as for the common good, these wayward Catholics in public life be publicly reprimanded. We well understand that as Bishops you are Shepherd of souls. We share your hope that all men and women find a place at the table, including those who have wandered from the truth they profess every time they recite the Creed, but only you can solve this recurring issue.
Public Officials who run for office and serve in office, claiming to be Catholic, should be held to a higher standard. It is increasingly difficult for us to do our vital work of social and political participation when some Catholics in public life take positions absolutely at odds with the teaching of the Catholic Church and imply that they are being faithful Catholics. In fact, it is has moved way beyond causing confusion, it is now causing scandal.
Dearly beloved Bishops, in writing this open letter I absolutely DO NOT want to be numbered among those who want to "bash the Bishops." There are too many of them. Therefore, I end my letter as I began by pledging my loyalty, love and obedience. However, those who are engaged in social and political efforts need you to do what only you can do. We need you to clearly, consistently and authoritatively hold forth the teaching of the Catholic Church -- as you have done so well in writing -- in your public actions.
Only when you do, can the lay faithful take your wonderful directions and live the call to both the "new evangelization" and the call to "Faithful Citizenship" by building a new culture of life and civilization of love and solidarity.
Sincerely in Christ the Good Shepherd,
Deacon Keith A Fournier_____________________________
Deacon Keith Fournier is a constitutional lawyer, a graduate of the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He is one of the founders of the Your Catholic Voice Movement and the President of the Your Catholic Voice Foundation.
Your Catholic Voice Foundation
http://www.ycvf.org VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - President, 757 546-9580
Bishops, Catholic, Church, Your Catholic Voice
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