In the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” published by the bishops of the United States, we are reminded that, “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. This obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do.” And so, as I leave for Rome, I want to share with you some of the concerns that I will bring with me to the tombs of the apostles, SS. Peter and Paul, and to Assisi, the town of St. Francis.
I am concerned about a culture that has become increasingly
callous about the radical abortion license, and a legal system that affords more
protection to endangered species of plants and animals than to unborn babies;
that considers pregnancy a disease; that interprets “comprehensive health care”
in such a way that it may be used to threaten the life of the baby in the womb
(and, it should be noted, to exclude the undocumented immigrant as well). I am
concerned as well for the infirm and elderly who are nearing the end of life,
that they will not be treated with the respect, dignity and compassion that is
their due, but instead be encouraged to seek a hasty death before they can
become, according to some, “a burden to society.”
I am worried that we
may be reducing religious freedom to a kind of privacy right to recreational
activities, reducing the practice of religion to a Sabbath hobby, instead of a
force that should guide our public actions, as Michelle Obama recently noted,
Monday through Friday.
I am bothered by the prospect of this generation
leaving a mountain of unpayable debt to its children and grandchildren, whose
economic futures will be blighted by the amounts of the federal budget absorbed
by debt service.
I am anxious that calls for a fiscally responsible
society are met with claims that those calls come from men and women who don’t
care about the poor; that we may be tempted to write off the underprivileged as
problems to be solved, or as budget woes, rather than treating them with respect
and dignity as people with potential and creativity; that we’re at times more
willing to cut programs to help the sick, our elders, the hungry and homeless,
than expenditures on Drone missiles.
I am concerned that our elections
increasingly resemble reality TV shows rather than exercises in serious
I am bothered that we are losing sight of voting
as an exercise in moral judgment, in which certain priority issues—especially
the life issues, with the protection of unborn life being the premier civil
rights issue of the day—must weigh heavily on our consciences as we make our
I am worried by attempts to redefine marriage, and
to label as “bigots” those who uphold the traditional, God-given definition of
I am anxious that we cannot seem to have a rational debate over
immigration policy, and that we cannot find a way to combine America’s splendid
tradition of hospitality to the stranger with respect for the rule of law,
always treating the immigrant as a child of God, and never purposefully dividing
I am worried about the persecution of people of faith around
the world, especially with the hatred of Christians on a perilous incline; and
the preference for violent attacks upon innocents instead of dialogue as the
path to world peace.
I expect that many of you share these concerns. In
the words of “Faithful Citizenship,” how we should respond is clear. The
document says, “Our focus is not on party affiliation, ideology, economics, or
even competence and capacity to perform duties, as important as such issues are.
Rather, we focus on what protects or threatens human life and dignity.” As you
consider these concerns, I will be praying for you in Rome that the humble,
joyful Poverello of Assisi intercede for us, and that Mary Immaculate, patroness
of the United States and Star of the New Evangelization, will inspire in us
wisdom, prudence, and courage.
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