Saturday, October 22, 2016

On Shepherds...

A shepherd serves an essential role, guiding and protecting his flock. It is  not by chance that we see the role of a bishop as that of shepherd. A good shepherd must care for his flock, even to the least of them. So also, a good bishop must love his flock, and in guiding, must also teach, that even the least might learn to choose the narrow gate in preference to the wide.
We are challenged this year, as never before in an election year. As many have noted, both candidates have flaws.
And meanwhile, both candidates for the nation’s top residence, the White House, have astonishing flaws.  -- Archbishop Charles Chaput
Yes, bishop, they have, but all men are sinners. I do not see, nor can I find in history, any saint on the ballot for president. But I would put it to the bishop that flawed as they may be, our electoral system truly makes this a two-party system, despite some semi-rational arguments to the contrary. Abp. Chaput, again:
One candidate — in the view of a lot of people — is an eccentric businessman of defective ethics whose bombast and buffoonery make him inconceivable as president.  And the other – in the view of a lot of people – should be under criminal indictment. 
 Here, Abp. Chaput and I must part ways. To call Mr. Trump "inconceivable" as president is to imply that no one can, in good conscience, vote for him. That is patently false.

The Democrat party, and Mrs. Clinton hold:
  • That abortion is an essential right of the woman, even up to the point of delivery.
  • That churches in general, and the Catholic Church, in particular, must revise their doctrine to conform to political notions.

Mr. Trump, on the other hand has declared:
  • He is now pro-life, and has recounted a conversion story on that issue.
  • He believes that the matter of abortion should be, and should have been, a state issue, not Federal. 
Clinton, in public statements, has all but declared war on Catholics, denigrating our beliefs, and vowing to force change. It is also clear, from public statements, that she seeks to remove not only the 1st and 2nd amendments, but several more, as well. Her goal has clearly been to transform the USA into a socialist state, and her buddy Barack has already made inroads in that direction. But I digress.

Mr. Trump has declared an end to persecution of religious orders and medical practitioners who invoke their rights of conscience.

My Problem with Abp. Chaput's Statements

First, in fairness, I must point out that Abp. Chaput prefaced his comments with this disclaimer:
My column this week is a collection of personal comments.  Read it as thoughts from a brother in the faith, not as teachings from an archbishop.
Ummm...  OK. But he remains an archbishop, a shepherd with a large flock in his care. Certainly he may have his own thoughts, which may even be (somewhat) at odds with his mission.

But frankly, this is equivocation, and as it is given in public, I find it disingenuous to disclaim. A shepherd speaking in public is still influencing his flock.

So then, and to mix it up a bit, we have this from Bp. Conley:
No Catholic should feel obliged to vote for one candidate just to prevent the election of another.
But in his speech at Notre Dame, Abp. Chaput:
“If Christians leave the public square,” Chaput said, “other people with much worse intentions won’t. The surest way to make the country suffer is to not contest them in public debate and in the voting booth.” 
So here is a challenge. We see Bp. Conley and Abp. Chaput offering their flocks quite opposite advice. And truly, I must reject Bp. Conley, and favor Abp. Chaput in this. In neither case are we being formally instructed in the sense of being told we have an obligation. But while Bp. Conley declares we have no obligation, Abp. Chaput recognizes a reality, that to abstain is to leave the matter to others, whose intentions may be less admirable. Or whose consciences  may lack proper formation, if we would look at it in terms of Church teaching.

And Yet...

I remain troubled with Abp. Chaput. He has declared his "opinion" that both candidates are badly flawed. And in that declaration, has failed to explore the differences in a useful fashion.

We may dislike both candidates as people. I surely admit I would not wish to have either of them in my home for dinner. However, we are Catholics first, and citizens second. In our role as citizens we have a responsibility and obligation, to ourselves, our neighbors, and our children, to act against evil, at the very least. As Catholics, we must be guided in those actions by our faith.

Bp. Conley seems to suggest we can ignore our duty as citizens. What, then, is to become of our children?

Abp. Chaput, on the other hand, recognizes that we must exert our influence to bring about good. Yet he fails to lead in the essential matter of differentiating between two flawed candidates.

What sad times.