We’ve already seen Catholic bishops put extreme pressure on their congregants, telling them that their souls are in danger if they vote for anyone who isn’t completely opposed to abortion. They are continuing to escalate their rhetoric as the last days of the election season pass, now telling parishioners that politicians who believe in reproductive rights, including the birth control mandate, are “rejecting Jesus.”
Via the Chicago Tribune:
Joining the chorus of Roman Catholic clergy in Illinois criticizing President Barack Obama before next week’s election, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky ordered priests to read a letter to parishioners on Sunday before the presidential election, explaining that politicians who support abortion rights also reject Jesus.
“By virtue of your vow of obedience to me as your Bishop, I require that this letter be personally read by each celebrating priest at each Weekend Mass,” Jenky wrote in a letter circulated to clergy in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria.
In the letter, Jenky cautions parishioners that Obama and a majority of U.S. senators will not reconsider the mandate that would require employers, including religious groups, to provide free birth control coverage in their health care plans. “This assault upon our religious freedom is simply without precedent in the American political and legal system,” Jenky wrote.
“Today, Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord,” Jenky added. “They are objectively guilty of grave sin.”
Bishop Jenky is just one of many Catholic bishops exerting influence on their parishioners decisions on election day. In New York, Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is telling his own flock that “it stretches the imagination” to believe that a Catholic could in good conscience vote for President Barack Obama, if “there is another option.”
[M]oral opposition to all artificial contraception and sterilization is a minority and unpopular belief, and its virtually exclusive association with the Catholic Church is no secret. Thus, although the mandate does not expressly target Catholicism, it does so implicitly by imposing burdens on conscience that are well known to fall almost entirely on observant Catholics – whether employees, employers, or insurers. As a result, the President has senselessly made religious liberty a central issue in this campaign.
It is inconceivable to me how Catholics could support such policies. Indeed, Roman Catholics who support abortion rights and vote for a candidate because of those policies, place him/herself outside of the life of the Church. In so doing, they also place themselves in moral danger.
Is it possible to vote for somebody despite their support for these policies? To my mind, it stretches the imagination, especially when there is another option. The dignity and sanctity of human life are the foundational values upon which all other policies are built. Concern for the poor, the stranger in our midst, they are all predicated upon our belief in the dignity and sanctity of human life.
Not all Catholics are taking the strong-arming quietly. Parish administrator Randy Reichert responds to a Fargo, North Dakota Bishop’s “guidance” by reminding him that the key to Catholic faith is individual liberty. As he wrote in the Fargo Forum:
According to the document Dignitatis Humanae 2, there is a basic immunity from coercion (implied or actual) in religious matters, and no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his or her own conscience, nor are they to be restrained from acting in accordance with their conscience, publicly or privately. How the document’s very clear statement in this regard could be interpreted in the manner in which Kagan is stating seems to be at odds with the concept of an individual being from our Creator, who imbues us with natural concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, and it is inscribed on our hearts (Lumen Gentium #16).
And Gaudium et Spes also states the church has a sacred reverence for the dignity of conscience and its freedom of choice. This would seem contradictory to Kagan’s thoughts that the “faithful” must follow all church doctrine and not use their God-given intellect or developed conscience.
And finally, in America, the founding principle that many people came to this land for was the freedom to worship as they chose and not be held hostage by a state-sponsored religion that dictates how they are to think and live their lives on a day-to-day basis.
For those who worried, it looks like no one’s soul is in danger, regardless of whom he or she votes for.