Commentary

A Message to My Parishioners before Election Day

The follow message was sent via bulletin to the parishioners of Our Saviour and the Chapel of the Sacred Hearts in NYC on Sunday November 1, 2020.

Election 2020 – Millions of Catholic Voters

Dear Parishioners:

In the midst of this volatile and divisive 2020 election, I want to be re-affirm clearly that all are invited and welcome at Our Saviour and the Chapel of the Sacred Hearts.

Some of you have or will vote for Donald Trump. Some of you have or will vote for Joe Biden. Some of you may sit out this election – I wish you wouldn’t. All of you are welcome at the Church of Our Saviour and Chapel of the Sacred Hearts. Let no one say or infer you are not!

Unfortunately, some will try, but do not believe anyone – Pope, Bishop, Priest, Catholic commentator, theologian, family member or neighbor – if they tell you are a bad Catholic for the voting choice you make. Our consistent Catholic belief, wisdom and teaching about Catholic participation in elections contains at least three major tenets: 1) vote; 2) develop an informed conscience about issues and candidates; and 3) make voting decisions through the prism of our Catholic values and beliefs. This is the main point! You can stop here, but, let me add a bit more.

Not all values and issues are weighted the same. So balancing, discerning and decision-making is not simply counting a list. More important values should get greater weight.

Catholics have, and will do this balancing and discerning differently, reaching different conclusions. This is the messiness of applying even agreed upon principles and values to concrete policies and programs intended to effect those values. As Catholics we also bring our own life experiences and perspectives to this process. This is both necessary and unavoidable. Discerning and weighting necessarily also involves reading the “signs of the times” including assessing threats and opportunities in each election cycle.

Catholics have every right to bring their values and beliefs into the public debate and attempt to zealously persuade others – fellow Catholics and non-Catholics – about policies and candidates. It is a false notion of Church and State separation that claims otherwise. These days we must add the caveat that synonyms for “zeal” do not include anger, vitriol, disparagement, ostracism, among numerous other destructive tactics. None dispute the political divisiveness that has grown much more intense in recent years and now engulfs our country. Catholics live in this environment and are not exempt from the temptation to view our own political decisions and choices as “the only authentic Catholic choice.” Catholic voices, in many different places and at many different ecclesial levels, undoubtedly, in this election cycle, have and will make the claim that their choice is the true Catholic choice. Consistently this has not been, the wisdom or teaching of the Church. (Admittedly, this causes considerable chagrin to those who want their choices to be “officially blessed.”)

There is a widely accepted voting analysis that in Presidential for more 50 years, Catholics have gone back and forth in the party that they have favored in Presidential elections and that the “Catholic vote” has swung only a few percentage points in each election. Are we willing to write off half of the Catholics who vote differently than I do as bad Catholics?

Note well, I have not spoken about how any specific issues are viewed through the prism of our Catholic values. For this I refer you to two documents of the Bishop of the United States: Faithful Citizenship their introductory letter to its re-publication last year.

I write this to provide our parish with some clarity on a complex, nuanced, and sometimes misrepresented matter. I hope you find it helpful.

From the days of the Apostles, the Lord’s table, the Eucharist, has drawn diverse followers of Jesus together to hear the wisdom of God’s word and receive the strength of Jesus’ body and blood. So it is today. I end where I began – whatever your opinion, and for whomever you vote, – you are most welcome at the Church of Our Saviour and the Chapel of the Sacred Hearts. Let others know – all are welcome in this place.

Sincerely,

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan

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