In January's Catholic Chronicle - "Vote Your Values" Revisited
The Catholic Chronicle is the official newspaper of the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio. Two months ago, The Chronicle ran on its front page - just days before the November general election - a piece titled "Vote Your Values", which read in part:
Vote your valuesYou can read what I blogged in response to the Chronicle piece here.
Six local Catholic organizations sponsored a presentation and panel discussion moderated by Richard Gaillardetz at Gesu Church Oct. 18 on “Voting Our Catholic Values.”
Dr. Gaillardetz is in his sixth year as the Murray/Bacik Professor of Catholic Studies at The University of Toledo and a member of Corpus Christi University Parish. In a separate interview, the professor discussed some ways that Catholic voters can apply Catholic social teaching at the polls this election.
The “Religious Right” tends to focus on a narrow spectrum of issues regarding family and sexuality, says Dr. Gaillardetz.
Though these issues are very important to Catholics, he says our social obligations extend also “to more fundamental and comprehensive commitments about the dignity of the human person.
“Issues of sexuality and family are concerned with the dignity of the human person,” acknowledges Dr. Gaillardetz. “But to just focus on family and sexuality is to miss absolutely crucial convictions that Catholics have about the alleviation of poverty, the importance of basic human needs being met, the fundamental right of participation in political processes.”
Dr. Gaillardetz says Catholics do not have the luxury of separating religious issues from political and economic issues.
“Our obligations as Christians are comprehensive,” says Dr. Gaillardetz. “They’re not focused on one aspect of life. They’re focused on a whole transformed understanding of our world and how we interact with one another … as a Christian, our fundamental Christian values are all wrapped up in political and economic issues.”
Within hours of its publication, the front-page article disappeared from the Chronicle's web page. It must have caused quite a stir, especially with its coming out the weekend before the elections. Readers of this blog may remember that I drafted a letter to the editor, which I blogged about here.
My letter did not appear in the December edition of the Chronicle, but there was a letter from Fr. Adam Hertzfeld, which did appear. Here is a sample from that letter:
Regarding "Vote your values: The world is full of hierarchy. For example, moral values are hierarchically more important than artistic ones. When the two are in conflict, the lesser value bows down and gives way to the higher value. A film might be artistically good, but if it is morally offensive, then I am obliged not to watch it.Then, this month, 4 letters critical of "Vote Your Values", including an edited-down version of my own, appeared in the Catholic Chronicle. Here is a sampling:
Even within moral values there's a hierarchy of importance. It's more important that a child eats than she reads. When promoting moral values we sometimes encounter apparent conflicts between them. In such cases the lesser value bows down and gives way to the higher one.
Having stated that principle, it becomes clear the "Religious Right" is correct in "focusing on the narrow spectrum of issues regarding family and sexuality" insofar as this means focusing first and foremost on the fundamental right to life of the unborn child. It is from this fundamental right that all other rights flow... I am deeply concerned that any Catholic would consider poverty and participation in the political process an issue more important than the right to life...
From Fr. Tad Oxley:To date, there have been no letters in support of the positions taken by Professor Gaillardetz in the "Vote Your Values" story. But something tells me we haven't heard the last of this.
There is certainly an urgent need for Catholics to be concerned about the social issues addressed at the forum "Voting Our Catholic Values"... It would be a grave injustice to appeal to these select social issues, which are part of our Gospel call, while at the same time labeling social issues that have been identified as a priority by our Catholic Bishops (Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, October 2003), as being issues of the "Religious Right". We must be careful to avoid the temptation to indulge in specious claims that obfuscate the truth. Faithful Citizenship, while being mindful of the full range of social issues, speaks with clear language in section seven, entitled, "Moral Priorities for Public Life." The first subtitles within this section begin with "Protecting Human Life" and "Protecting Family Life." The first issues addressed under these subtitles are the gravity of abortion and euthanasia, and the necessity of protecting the sanctity of marriage, respectively. The Church has clearly defined the primacy of these issues. We must honestly, and humbly, accept this before we are able to truly advance the culture of life.
From a parishioner of St. Michael Parish in Findlay, OH:
... Why would I want to vote for someone who doesn't respect the lives of the smallest and most innocent? If the candidate doesn't have the basic respect for life, how can I trust him to make morally sound decisions in other areas?
From a parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in Toledo, OH:
The headline article in the November issue reports on another attempt, just days before an election, for the liberal faction within the Church to mislead voters...
And, finally, from a parishioner of St. Mary Parish in Norwalk, OH (that would be me):
Regarding “Vote Your Values” (Chronicle, Nov. 3) Professor Richard Gaillardetz was quoted as asserting the so-called Religious Right “tends to focus on a narrow spectrum of issues regarding family and sexuality.” Leaving aside the caricature of politically conservative Christians as caring only about abortion, homosexuality, and having little concern for the poor and politically marginalized, I’m addressing what he calls the “narrow spectrum of issues regarding family and sexuality.”
Contrary to what Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good believe, there is a hierarchy of issues for Catholics to consider when voting — not all matters of import to the church are of equal weight. On March 30, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI stated: “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today:
• Protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;
• Recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family — as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage — and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union ...;
• The protection of the rights of parents to educate their children.”
The church is especially concerned with (and deems non-negotiable) the so-called “narrow spectrum of issues regarding family and sexuality.”
Labels: Voting Your Values