Fundamental Values, the 2016 Election and America’s Future by Father Skip Thompson, M.S.A.
Sep 29, 2016
Rev. Jeffrey (Skip) Thompson, M.S.A.
Fundamental Values, the 2016 Election and America’s Future By: Fr. Jeffrey “Skip” Thompson, MSA — September 26, 2016
“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the just do?” (Psalm 11:3)
The Lord set the prophet Ezekiel as a “sentinel” to warn the nation not to sin. If he fails to warn people of the dangers of sin, “they will die.” And the Lord warns him “their blood will I require at your hand.” [Ezekiel 3:20 RSVCE] Ezekiel is charged to watch and warn of approaching danger, like a good shepherd who guards his sheep by watching for wolves. Our Society’s founder, Fr. Eusebe Menard, OFM, advised his priests to always read the Bible and a newspaper. We must read the signs of the times — from the perspective of the One who created it. As watchmen for the Church, we must fulfill our mandate like Ezekiel, to warn people of the dangers of sin and stand against the destruction of our societal foundations or else the blood of the innocent is on our hands.
Love of God is growing dim and it affects the nation. The tone of America’s Presidential debate is regrettable, the personalities problematic, the stakes never higher. The next Presidency will have vast repercussions on us. Constitutional freedoms will stand or fall based on the new balance of the Supreme Court that our next President will appoint. The next President will also impact, for good or ill: respect for life, marriage, the family, sexual decency, the rights of conscience and free exercise of religion, which, according to the Catholic bishops, “in a fundamental way... protects all other rights.” 1
The Catholic Church, as the shepherd of souls, has a sacred trust to educate the faithful in right moral judgments, “even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it.” Based on the rejection of natural 2 and divine moral law, violation of fundamental human rights has progressed into public law and administrative policy. Souls are in jeopardy and guidance is needed. Jesus calls us to be His witnesses and He describes members of His Church as, “the salt of the earth.” Christian citizenship is the salt our culture needs. “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue and participation in political life is a moral obligation.” 3
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the 1 Catholic Bishops of the United States,” 49. On-line: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/ faithful-citizenship/upload/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship.pdf.; adopted Nov. 2015.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Citta del Vaticano, 2 1997; paragraph 2246.
“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 13. 3
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In that same verse, Jesus warns we will be “trampled underfoot by men,” if we lose our saltiness. Thus, we must stand for what is right in the light of a well-formed conscience.
We give a life-preserving savor to the political process most powerfully by our vote. We pray in our Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.” Realize we are praying God’s rule be a reality on earth for the common good of all. And it starts with us. Every true Catholic must integrate heaven with earth in his thoughts, words and deeds. Thus, we cannot say, “I believe what Christ’s Church teaches,” but act against it. We must act in accord with our convictions. “A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity,” To bluntly adapt James 2:17 to politics: “Faith without votes is dead.” 4
Americans are divided over fundamental values affecting our humanity; but Christians, holding to faith in God’s truth and goodness and all it portends for ordering a civil society, should be united. According to divine revelation, mankind’s origin, design and destiny, lends humanity profound dignity, and founds the inalienable rights recognized by our Founders. But faith is under attack. The Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. poses this haunting question: “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” Short answer: No.
Ideas beget action. And because of their effects on the ordering of society, the ideas of persons of influence must be examined. Paraphrasing the British economist, John Maynard Keynes, “Ideas, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else.” Take 5 the communist ideas of Karl Marx and let history fill in the blanks. Keynes was right.
Therefore, “The Church invites political authorities to measure their judgments and decisions [read also: ideas] against inspired truth about God and man. Societies not recognizing this vision, or rejecting it in the name of their independence from God, are brought to seek their criteria and goals in themselves or to borrow them from some ideology. Since they do not admit that one can defend an objective criterion of good and
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 30. 4
Good Reads, Quotable Quotes, On-line at: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/158386-the- 5 ideas-of-economists-and-political-philosophers-both-when-they [accessed 21 Sept 2016]
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evil, they arrogate to themselves an explicit or implicit totalitarian power over man and his destiny, as history shows.” Pope Benedict XVI calls it the dictatorship of relativism. 6
Jesus declared, “Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come! [Matt. 18:7; NAB] In other words, Woe to the ideas that cause sin. And woe to those who bring them! Wrong theories, ideas and ideologies are destroying the foundations of society by proposing sins as goods or rights. The Hebrew word for sin is literally translated, “missing the mark.” And that they do! Fundamental non-negotiable goods of life, natural sexuality, the family, rights of conscience and religion are beset by ideas labelled just or progressive, which twist words to hide their offense, “calling good evil and evil good,” [Isaiah 5:20]
Christians’ first responsibility is prioritize the issues, i.e., the non-negotiable from the negotiable. This is necessary because there are “matters of different moral weight and urgency. Some involve intrinsically evil acts, which can never be approved. Others involve affirmative obligations to seek the common good... Not all issues are equal. ” 7
Secondly, we must not horse-trade issues of different weight to suit partisan tastes. For example, we cannot justify voting for a candidate of a party that supports abortion because they promise to spend more money on the poor. This is not to denigrate social programs that help the poor. Catholics support both life and the poor. But, remember Catholic social doctrine is derived from and thus subordinate to the moral law. The two issues are not moral equivilents. Just as some sin involves deadly matter and other sin does not, [1 John 5:16], so also abortion is intrinsically evil (mortal); while social program spending involves prudential judgement re: needs and adequate resources (venial). Therefore as conscientious citizens we evaluate the imperfect world of political ideas and issues by prioritizing the more serious morally non-negotiable issues over the negotiable ones. Point: Poor children have to be alive first, before we can help them.
Politics is not a science, contrary to college course titles. We need to know how the candidates stand on issues, but voters are treated to mudslinging, scripted soundbites, debates that dance around the issues and a media crammed with too much “noise in the channels.” To properly study candidates’ policy positions is realistically impossible for the average, working, taxpaying, time-crunched American voter. So people vote on superficial impressions and/or age-old loyalties that resemble little more than a vote for
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2244. 6
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 92. 7
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one’s favorite baseball team. What is a conscientious voter to do? Well, short of a direct one-on-one conversation, the information in a party platform is the best “proximate” guide to any candidate’s views and/or eventual votes on the big issues of the day.
The platform comprises the general thinking and goals of a party and it is the basic blueprint that guides their candidates’ positions. A party platform is re-built at each party’s Convention for a reason. A party platform issue is probably at stake whenever you see a “party line vote” in Congress or a state house; because voting the party line is the litmus test for future support from party leadership, e.g., key endorsements, money and volunteers for election. Exceptions to voting the party line are strategically allowed by leaderships for political reasons, e.g., in order to placate a constituency in order to gain or retain a seat, which in turn helps gain or maintain a party majority to control Congress, a state house, or a Governorship. And, to what end? To follow the ideas and enact the goals of the party platform. Conscientious voters need to know what they are!
American Bishops advise that, “The Church is involved in the political process but is not partisan. [Thus] the Church cannot champion any candidate or party.” Why? The 8 Church’s mission goes beyond partisanship to protect and promote the common good of our children, families and nation. The two party platforms engage the cultural battle over a spectrum of grave isssues. Yet, “the Church calls for a different kind of political engagement...one guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group. We should not let the party transform us in a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths or approve intrinsically evil acts.” 9
Partisan neutrality helps objective critique of party ideas and goals but inevitably, voting requires a partisan choice. People and parties are imperfect, but some ideas and goals are more proximate to Christian priorities than others. The tables following this article contrast our fundamental, non-negotiable issues [with help from the Catholic Catechism] with quotes from each party’s platform ideas and goals. Pray God’s grace be with us 10 in America’s time of decision. Remember: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 58. 8
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 14. 9
Republican Platform on-line: https://www.gop.com/the-2016-republican-party-platform/ 10 Democratic Platform on-line: https://www.demconvention.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/ Democratic-Party-Platform-7.21.16-no-lines.pdf
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Governing Philosophy “...Authority to govern... is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society. [CCC 1898]
The authority required by the moral order derives from God... [CCC 1899]
In the name of the common good, public authorities are bound to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person. [CCC 1907]
Human Life “Human life is sacred be- cause it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relation- ship with the Creator who is its sole end... No one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being. [CCC 2258]
From the first moment of his conception, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person among which is the invioable right of every innocent being to life. [CCC 2270] Abortion is gravely contrary to the moral law. [CCC 2271]
Teachings of the faith from the Catholic Catechism
Democratic Republican Party Platform Party Platform Governing Philosophy “God bestows certain inali- enable rights on every indi- vidual, thus producing hu- man equality. Government exists first and foremost to protect those inalienable rights... Man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights; and if God-given, natural, inalienable rights come in conflict with government, court, or human-granted rights, God-given, natural, inalienable rights always prevail.” [Pg. 9]
Governing Philosophy “Democrats are the party of inclusion...As Democrats, we respect differences of perspective and belief, and pledge to work together to move this country forward, even when we disagree. With this platform, we do not merely seek common ground, we strive to reach higher ground...” We believe in protecting civil liberties and guaranteeing civil rights and rights for voting, women, workers, LGBT’s, and people with disabilities. [Pg. 2]
Human Life “We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fun- damental right to life. We support a life amendment to the Constitution... oppose use of public funds to per- form or promote abortion, or to fund organizations like Planned Parenthood so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We affirm assistance to women who face unplanned preg- nancy, encourage women to choose life... We strongly oppose infanticide.” [Pg. 13]
Human Life “We will fight Republican efforts... on women’s health and reproductive rights, and stand up for Planned Parenthood. [Pg. 34]
We will oppose and seek to overturn federal and state laws and policies that impede women’s access to abortion.” [Pg. 41]
Democrats believe that abor- tion must be part of all health care and included as part of America’s global health programming. [Pg. 46]
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Teachings of the faith from the Catholic Catechism
Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide “...Direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is unacceptable morally. Thus an act or omission which...causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the person and to the respect due to the living God. [CCC 2277] Even if death is imminent, the ordinary care owed to a person cannot be legitimately interrupted. [CCC 2279]
Religious Freedom and the Right of Conscience
“Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. [CCC 1782] Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and de- nouncing those that are evil. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the su- preme Good to which the hu- man person is drawn, and it welcomes the command- ments.” [CCC 1777]
Democratic Republican Party Platform Party Platform Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide “We oppose the non- consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from individuals with disabilities, new-borns, the elderly or the infirm, just as we oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide.” [Pg. 14]
Religious Freedom and the Right of Conscience
“We pledge to defend the religious beliefs and rights of conscience of all Ameri- cans and to safeguard reli- gious institutions against government control. We en- dorse the 1st Amendment Defense Act, which will bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on [their] belief(s)... [Pg. 11] We assert the 1st Amend- ment right of freedom of association for religious, private, service, and youth organizations to set their own membership standards. [Pg. 12]
Religious Freedom and the Right of Conscience
We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate. [Pg. 19]
“We will do everything we can to protect religious minorities and the funda- mental right of freedom of religion.” [Pg. 47]
[See Endnote 2.]
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Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide The Democratic platform is silent about assisted suicide, or the intentional killing of the elderly, disabled, or infirmed.
[See endnote 1]
Teachings of the faith from the Catholic Catechism
Republican Party Platform Democratic Party Platform Sexuality & Marriage
Sexuality is ordered to the married love of man and woman... [CCC 2360 ] The spouses' union achieves...the good of the spouses and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple's spiritual life and compro- mising the goods of marriage and the future of the family. [CCC 2363]
Homosexuality... has a great variety of forms [and] its psychological genesis re- mains largely unexplained. Sacred Scripture...presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity [and] tradi- tion has always declared that homosexual acts are intrin- sically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affec- tive and sexual complemen- tarity. Under no circumstan- ces can they be approved. [CCC 2357] Men and women [with] homosexual tendencies constitutes for them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity...Unjust discrimi- nation in their regard should be avoided.  Homo- sexuals are called to chastity ...[and]inner freedom, 
Sexuality & Marriage
“Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values.” [Pg. 11]
“We do not accept the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage [Obergefell v. Hodges] and we urge its reversal... We support the appointment of justices and judges who respect the constitutional limits on their power and respect the authority of the states to decide such fundamental social questions.” [Pg. 11]
[See endnote 3.]
“We oppose government discrimination against businesses or entities which decline to sell items or services to individuals for activities that go against their religious views about such activities.” [Pg. 31]
[See endnote 4.]
Sexuality & Marriage
“Democrats applaud last year’s decision by the Supreme Court” that recog- nized Lesbian, Gay, Bi- sexual, Transgender people have the right to marry. [Pg. 19]
“Democrats will fight for the continued development of sex discrimination law to cover LGBT people... We will oppose all state efforts to discriminate against LGBT individuals, including legislation that restricts the right to access public spaces. [Pg. 19]
[See endnote 5.]
We will promote LGBT rights to “ensure America’s foreign policy is inclusive of LGBT people around the world.” [Pg. 19]
We applaud Obama’s “historic Presidential Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons”... [Pg. 46]
[See endnote 6.]
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Endnotes: Background on issues addressed by the political platforms
Endnote 1: The President’s 2010 Health Care Act, HR 3590, page 141, section 1553, “...prohibits discrimination against assisted suicide,” which legally grants permission. Thus far two states under Democratic control (California and Vermont) have legislatively authorized the euthanizing of persons. Montana has it by state Supreme Court ruling. WA and OR narrowly passed initiaitives to allow euthanasia. No Republican-controlled legislature has passed one yet.
Endnote 2: How Democrats acheive their “progressive vision of religious freedom” may have been foreshadowed by the Democratic Presidential candidate at a speech in New York on April 23, 2015: “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will... and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” The platform’s 11 second reference to religious freedom offers support to “Religious Minorities,” in the Middle East, where “Muslims and others,” are facing crimes against humanity by ISIS.
Endnote 3: The goals of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transexual [LGBT] lobby pursued at present received tremendous leverage by the Supreme Court decision (Obergefell v. Hodges, June 26, 2015) that legalized same-sex marriage. The narrow 5-4 ruling reversed the will of voters and/or their legislatures in dozens of states, including the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as only between one man and one woman.
Endnote 4: Although the First Amendment guarantees “free exercise of religion” and rights of conscience, private business persons that decline to serve LGBT activities (e.g., weddings) are criminalized under civil rights laws. Recently, commissions and courts in WA (Stutzman), OR (Klein), CO (Phillips), NM (Huguenin), KY (Adamson) have levied substantial punitive fines against persons, even issued “gag” orders (OR) to prohibit them from speaking about the issue.
Endnote 5: This platform goal supports the directive of the Obama administration’s May 13, 2016 joint Justice and Education Dept. letter to schools that threatens to withold federal Title IX money from public schools that refuse to obey dictates to mix genders in children’s bathrooms and lockerooms, citing the LGBT anti-discrimination law. Texas has refused to comply. North Carolina also announced their refusal and introduced HB 2 to legally protect their position.
Endnote 6: “Fact Sheet: Working to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Persons Globally”; December 6, 2011; White House Press Office.
About the author: Fr. Jeffrey “Skip” Thompson is a “second vocation” priest with the Society of the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles. Beginning in California from 1976 to 2006, his first career spanned 30 years of legislative advocacy and consulting. He was an “Honored Guest” at nine Presidential Conventions for both political parties. He authored two private texts for his clients on politics and the legislative process. He presently serves as Vocation Director for his Society.
Hear Secretary Clinton’s words on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7f8of3NAX-c 11 ’ In context of abortion rights; 6th annual Women in the World Summit, New York, NY; 4/23/15.
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