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By Deacon Keith Fournier

2/12/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (

What we need is a New Catholic Action which puts the Catholic back in Catholic action. I think it is time to reject efforts which start from a political party base and then attempt to add Catholic proof texts to their positions. Instead, we should start from the Catholic vision of the human person, the family and the truly good society - and fully participate in the political process in a morally coherent and prophetic manner.

We stand in a social justice tradition which is not left or right, but pro-life, pro-family, pro-freedom, pro-poor and pro-peace. That is why we will never be fully comfortable in any political party. Catholic Social Doctrine is prophetic. In this age of political confusion and cultural collapse, Catholics must put the Catholic back in Catholic Action.

Bishop David Kagan

Bishop David Kagan


By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (

2/12/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Justice and Peace, social Justice, Social Doctrine, Right to Life, pro-Marriage, preferential option, solidarity, marriage, Catholic Action, Bishop David Kagan, Barack Obama, religious freedom, Deacon Keith Fournier

WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - Catholic Social Doctrine does not fit into the neat political labels of contemporary discourse. Some conservative or neo-conservative positions do not proceed from the foundation of the Catholic Social vision, the dignity of every human life, whether in the first home of the womb, a wheelchair, a soup kitchen, a jail cell or a hospice.

Some of what is called liberal or progressive in contemporary political parlance, by condoning intrinsic evils such as legalized procured abortion and euthanasia while claiming to be compassionate, reveals its own sophistry. In addition, there is a growing hostility to another fundamental right in liberal and progressive circles, the Right to Religious Freedom.

Finally, in each of these differing political approaches, a counterfeit notion of the elements of the moral basis to a free society can be professed which, while noble sounding at times, is revealed as a counterfeit in its application. For example, by professing an approach to economics or public policy which uses human persons as objects rather than gifts, called to solidarity and communion. 

Catholic Social Doctrine begins with the recognition of the inherent dignity of every human person because we are all created in the Image of God. It marries us to defending real marriage, as solely existing between one man and one woman, open to love and life, formative of family, which is the  first cell civil society. Contemporary political groupings, whether liberal or conservative, which reject marriage, and the family and society founded upon it, do not serve the common good - even if they use the phrase common good a lot.

None of this is up for grabs for faithful Catholics. The teaching of the Church on these matters cannot and will not change. In addition, our positions on life and marriage are not simply based upon our religious convictions; the Catholic claim is that they are revealed in the Natural Moral Law which is accessible by reason and binding on all men and women.

Our bottom line insistence upon the dignity of every human life and the primacy of marriage and the family as the first society often place us outside of contemporary political discussion. Add to that the fact that Catholics proclaim a vision of human freedom which is at odds with much of what is posing as freedom today -  not only a freedom from but a freedom for -  and you find the current charged political climate in which we now participate.

This Catholic social vision affirms that we have an obligation to exercise freedom, to choose responsibly, always with reference to what is right and what is true. As to that important word "true", Catholics reject moral relativism. We insist upon the existence of an objective morality which should guide all human behavior and form the basis of any truly human and just social order.

We stand in a social justice tradition which is not left or right, but pro-life, pro-family, pro-freedom, pro-poor and pro-peace. That is why we will never be fully comfortable in any political party. Catholic Social Doctrine is prophetic. In this age of political confusion and cultural collapse, Catholics must put the Catholic back in Catholic Action.

The dignity of every human person must be the lens through which we consider every public policy issue. Without the right to life there are no other rights. Human rights are goods of the person given to us by the Creator. When there is no person there can be no rights to be received or exercised. When the Right to Life is denied the entire infrastructure of human rights is placed in jeopardy.

Our insistence on this hierarchy of values is not based solely upon our belief in Revelation, though it is certainly found in both Sacred Scripture and the Christian Tradition. Rather, this truth is written on every human heart and knowable by reason. This is a Natural Law claim, and it is essential that we understand and explain that if we hope to overcome the false consignment of our position to being "religious" in an effort to disparage us, undermine our rights as citizens and then usurp our right to contend in the market place of ideas. 

This tactic of minimizing our influence by relegating our claim concerning the Right to Life from conception throughout all of life up to a natural death as being only our private religious belief is now the dominant form of soft persecution that we face. It is dismissive and often condescending. However, the truth concerning the dignity of every human person is not true because it is Catholic; it is Catholic because it is true.  It is never just a private conviction. It is profoundly public. 

Marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman, open to life, constituted for the good of the spouses and the good of children, is also not simply our idea. It is revealed by the Natural Moral Law and has been recognized as such throughout our history. Marriage and family must also be a lens through which we review governance because the proper application of the principle of subsidiarity demands nothing less. The family is the first government and first mediating institution.

That is why so many Catholics (this writer among them) prefer small government solutions to public needs. Yet, some conservatives seem to favor the notion that any governance is some kind of concession, detracting from their idea of freedom. Catholics insist that God governs. So do all of us in our families. The question we must ask in evaluating governance is where the governing occurs and whether it is truly good, meaning both efficient and moral. 

We must learn to articulate our convictions concerning the goods of marriage and its proper ends in a language which communicates to an age deluded by ideologies of self-centeredness. We are by nature and grace made for the other. Only in the giving of ourselves to the other will we ever find the human fulfillment and flourishing which we all long for. The stability of marriage based families is integral to a just social order and furthers the real common good.

In the words of the late Blessed John Paul II, Freedom itself must be set free. We struggle under a counterfeit notion of freedom as a perceived right to do whatever one pleases. That is not freedom, it is license and it does not lead to happiness and human flourishing but to tyranny and various forms of injustice.

True freedom brings with it an obligation to choose what is right and what is true. Only in choosing the good will men or women - or the societies which they form - ever flourish.This Christian vision concerning the nature of freedom threatens both the libertine hedonism and secularist materialism gaining traction in the West.

Our effort to set freedom free will require a wrestling match in the field of ideas. It will require our capturing the hearts and minds of the culture by reasserting that not only is there such a thing as morality but that it liberates us to flourish as human persons and become a truly good society. It is not some antiquated notion of the past but rather paves the path to a future of promise.

Finally, solidarity is not an option; we truly are our brother's (and sister's) keeper. We must work for a public policy, economic policy, international policy and governing philosophy which reject both atomist individualism and statist or collectivist approaches to caring for the poor. The Catholic vision of the human person, the family and the just society is true, we were created to love and to live our lives with and for one another.

The Catholic teaching that we have an obligation to the poor, in all of their manifestations, is the core of social and economic justice. It is rooted in the first principle that everyone has human dignity. In fact, we speak of the poor being owed a love of preference. While we can, and we will, disagree on how to best implement this obligation of solidarity and fraternity, we must begin by acknowledging that it IS an obligation. Then, we must find ways to discharge that obligation.

What we need is a New Catholic Action which puts the Catholic back in Catholic action. I think it is time to reject efforts which start from a political party base and then attempt to add Catholic proof texts to their positions. Instead, we should start from the Catholic vision of the human person, the family and the truly good society - and fully participate in the political process in a morally coherent and prophetic manner.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the term Catholic Action referred to the leadership offered by Bishops in the social arena, supported by the lay faithful. With the Council, the reassertion of the Baptismal vocation of every Christian and the accompanying special emphasis on the role of the lay faithful in the political sphere, Catholic Action has been recognized as the special role of the lay faithful.

However, the courageous teaching and prophetic witness of many Bishops is still needed. Today, I read an article by a courageous Bishop which I want to bring to the attention of my readers. Bishop David Kagan of the Diocese of Bismark published an article entitled "What Did He Just Say" concerning remarks made by President Obama at the National prayer Breakfast. I read the same remarks by the President and had the very same reaction. I would rather let you read his words.

This article appeared in Dakota Catholic Action Online , a publication of the Diocese which I highly recommend to all of our readers.It took a lot of courage for this Bishop to speak out like this. Pray for him and be inspired by his words and deeds in your own work in building a New Catholic Action. 

What Did He Just Say? 
Bishop David Kagan

On Thursday, February 6, I took the time to watch the 61st National Prayer Breakfast and heard what I can only describe as an amazing defense of religious liberty and the pro-life cause from President Barack Obama (read the full text here ). At first, I was inclined to think that he finally has had a change of heart concerning the true sanctity of all human life and human dignity, as well as the right of each of us to the free exercise of our religious liberty.
However, one speech does not constitute a change; concrete actions fulfilling the words of this speech are what give evidence of sincerity or insincerity. I went back and read what the president said about religious liberty and the sanctity of all human life in his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in 2009. His remarks then are similar to what he offered at this year's National Prayer Breakfast. Again, as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.
Between 2009 and today, the president has imposed on every person's free exercise of religious liberty by forcing his HHS mandate on all, even though it is directly contrary to the conscientious religious beliefs and practices of so many. In his own words, the president is the perfect defender of and advocate for the pro-life cause. He said: "We believe that each of us is 'wonderfully made' in the image of God" and we "therefore believe in the inherent dignity of every human being-dignity that no earthly power can take away." By the public record, the president is the most determined promoter of abortion and the most strident defender of Roe v. Wade.
In fact, on January 22, 2014, the 41st anniversary of that Supreme Court decision, the president said  in part: ".(We must) recommit ourselves to the decision's guiding principle: that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health." (Bismarck Tribune, 1-22-2014)
Are you confused about our president's position on the "inherent dignity of every human being?" Do not be fooled. The president's recent remarks are for public consumption and meant to divert attention from the fact that his actions are a total contradiction of his words. Based on his actions, the president is not a believer in and defender of the "inherent dignity of every human being."
The president then continued his remarks about the inherent dignity of every human being and said: "And central to that dignity is freedom of religion - the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith if they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do this free from persecution and fear."

He continued by saying that in the U.S. "we affirm the freedoms endowed by our Creator, among them freedom of religion". He said that this freedom both "safeguards religion and strengthens America". Are you confused about our president's position on religious liberty?  Again, do not be fooled. Unless and until the president uses his famous "pen" and "phone" and totally rescinds the HHS mandate, he is neither a friend nor a defender of religious freedom.  
As Catholics what are we to do? Keep praying that the president has a real and total conversion of mind and heart and that he truly does defend all human life and our religious freedom


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
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Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


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