Dear Bishop Sheridan,
First we heard from St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke who barred John Kerry from accepting Communion, and then bishops in Boston, Portland and New Orleans had taken general stands that dissenting politicians should avoid taking it. Today I read that you have issued a pastoral letter saying Catholics cannot receive Communion if they vote for politicians who support abortion rights, stem-cell research, euthanasia or gay marriage..
The letter said: "Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasia ipso facto place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation. Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences."
Jeopardizing our salvation? Living in America today is jeopardizing our salvation if we stick by our current mostly Republican government. There is a lot more to being a politician and a Catholic than these issues. Catholic politicians should advocate for Catholic beliefs, sure, but in a secular society it is often unfeasible to just ban things that are not "Catholic" when a large segment of the population believes otherwise. It is better to educate and inform Catholics and all Americans rather than to threaten Catholics with excommunication in public. Not only will we have less Catholics, we have further polarized Catholics from living in a democracy.
Would the Catholic Church be possibly moving towards checking ID's at the communion rail to see what political affiliation one has? Have we come to this? Or rather have we gone back in time to this? Since when is the Catholic Church pro-war? I thought we grew out of that long ago.
What about the death penalty? George Bush signed execution orders for 159 prisoners. He mocked those who begged for mercy. He doesn't even go to church on Sunday yet he claims that God speaks to him. Is that not blasphemy?
What about health care and education in this country? The US has the highest infant mortality rate per 100,000 people than any other developed country in the world! We have the worst healthcare of any developed country in the world. Perhaps if people had better education and were more tolerant of each other, we wouldn't have such rampant crime that people need to be executed for their behavior. We have more prisoners per capita than any other country. I would advise other Catholics to dismiss Bush for President ads that unfairly attack John Kerry. They are misleading and in most cases false.
So before we condemn those who are not rushing to ban abortion, why isn't the Catholic Church at the forefront in helping to solve social and economic justice issues in America rather than condemning the sins that are a result of these societal ills that are surely at the root of numerous abortions? The tax cuts given to the wealthy by Mr Bush eliminated 50 billion dollars that could have been spent seeing to it that those schools in poor areas got actual school books and proper classroom conditions so that those on the fringes of society could be raised up and learn to take care of themselves. Mr Bush also failed to fund his No Child Left Behind Act. It was a mere photo op. He doesn't care about poor people. He is not a follower of Jesus. The more educated one is, the less likely they are to have an abortion. The more educated one is, the less likely they will seek a life of crime. Only Democrats care about education. Republicans may talk about it, but they do nothing.
Democratic politicians are not "just pro-choice", in fact Democrats are the ones overall who try to push for better education and universal healthcare in this country. The Republicans claim that it would cost too much, yet they are never at a loss to make themselves richer or give corporations and wealthy individuals tax cuts. In fact, in my opinion and after years of studying theology, I have to say that I find it difficult to reconcile Catholicism with the current version Republicanism.
It is naive to vote for Republicans simply because of their stance on abortion and gay rights. It's a ploy to get votes while at the same time, they pursue another agenda that is surely more dangerous to our society overall: warmongering. It is no secret that this administration has waged a holy war against Islam. I am 100% opposed to it and will do everything in my power to encourage Catholics to vote against this administration and vote Democratic across the board this time in order to restore democracy and peace to our nation.
It seems to me that requiring Catholics to vote Republican merely because the party platform is anti-abortion, anti-stem cell research and anti-gay rights is very shortsighted. This does not mean all Republicans are opposed to it nor does it mean that all Democrats are not. We need Democrats in politics. If we are a one party country as you propose, we would surely become overrun by radical Christian fundamentalists and corporations. Sounds fascist to me. It's outrageous to threaten people with excommunication and loss of salvation depending on how they vote in the next election. How can you possibly suggest that we elect Republicans whose main concern are their corporate buddies and gaining more wealth for themselves? Do they not epitomize the opposite of Jesus' teachings?
We need checks and balances in government to keep our society free. It promotes dialogue, rational thought and perhaps saves us from rushing to promote false ideologies... like world war 3.
Our country was rushed into war with Iraq by the "pro-life" administration which condones killing adults if they are deemed "evil". Have you seen the thousands of pictures of dead innocent Iraqi's on the internet that our government doesn't want you to see? Have you seen the pictures of young children with their brains pouring out of their skulls? Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi's were killed along with our brave young troops fighting for I don't know what. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.
Sure Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount says "Blessed are the peacemakers", yet in other parts of the Bible, there is "a time to kill". People can go back and forth ad nauseum over what the Bible says about declaring war on others. But this has been reconciled through "Just War" doctrine.
The most authoritative and up-to-date expression of just war doctrine is found in paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It says:
" 1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
3. there must be serious prospects of success;
4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.
5. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition. "
"The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time . . . "
It is not enough for just some of them to be met. Instead, all must be met "at one and the same time." Without going into a dissertation on the Just War Doctrine, all I can say is that we as a nation failed miserably and now tens of thousands of innocent people are dead because the war was improperly planned and executed. It breaks my heart to see that Catholic Bishops are supporting war mongering.
I read all the newspapers everyday. I read deep into the papers to see the stories buried that expose this administration for their lies and misinformation. If someone just watches the corporate pro-Bush TV news, they are not getting the whole picture and it's sad. While I am not an avid John Kerry supporter, I would rather have a cafeteria Catholic in office than a radical fundamentalist hypocrite hell bent on bringing about Armageddon.
I am so shocked an appalled by your statement that I don't even want to be associated with Catholicism anymore if this is the official position of the Catholic Church. I attended Catholic School all my life including graduate school where I received a MA in Theology at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception. Of course I am against abortion but I am a realist and human rights activist trying to help wake up Americans and make them see how we must help others so that they are not forced into a life of poverty due to the neglect of our government. I believe homosexuals need equal rights. Thousands of homosexuals are born to good Catholic parents somehow. Who am I to judge them? Who are you? Let God deal with it. He created these people. They do not hurt me or society. I attended a seminary with quite a few blatantly gay seminarians who were ordained.. but whatever. My diocese has scandal after scandal regarding pedophilia among the priests.. but whatever.
I won't be attending Mass as per your warning. I hope Jesus will forgive me for sticking to my convictions and my good conscience in opposing our current government which ignores those on the fringe of society, our least bretheren. If millions of Catholics heed your warning and our country is the cause of World War 3, I hope that Jesus will forgive you too.
Long Island, New York
Saturday, May 15, 2004
Dear Bishop Sheridan,