Msgr. Woster and I chose yesterday as the day to address the upcoming election. I preached the following homily. It was well received by many, and a source of deep anger to others. Some have asked for a copy of my words. Here they are:
I have never liked math. From the time I first began to learn long division, I knew that math and I would never be close friends, and though for a time we reached something of a fragile truce, it became immediately apparent to me that math and I were to be lifelong enemies when letters were introduced into the picture. With all of the “x” and “y” and trains leaving stations, I could simply no longer make sense of it. I suppose it was the fact that there were just too many variables, too many unknowns.
We live in a world today that is filled with variables, filled with unknowns. It is an election year with Election Day less than one month away. The economy is still awful, and many Americans are still without work. Yet another war in the Middle East seems nearly inevitable. At the same time, we live in a nation where, since the Roe v. Wade decision, fifty million children have died at the abortionist’s hand. The culture in which we live is rapidly arriving at the conclusion that marriage is founded upon nothing more than a feeling of affection toward another person, and that its privileges should be extended to any combination of persons who experience such affection. All of us look at these issues and wonder, “How are we to proceed?”
To my mind, the Scriptures today provide us with a way forward. The first reading was about Wisdom. The author comments that he prefers wisdom to riches or gold, and tells us that to be poor and wise is better than to be rich and unwise. When we hear this word, “wisdom” I think we most often assume that the author is talking about some high degree of intelligence, or that to be wise is to be somehow brighter or cleverer than other people. This, however, is not at all the way that the Scriptures portray wisdom. Throughout the Old and the New Testaments, wisdom is described as the capacity to think with the mind of God. Thus, for instance, it is wisdom that informs us that the most hardened criminal, the most vicious murderer, the perpetrator of the most violent terrorist attack is good. He is good because God has made him that way.
When it comes to finding a way forward in our own time, wisdom has a great deal to say. First, wisdom tells us that our actions in this life echo in eternity. In other words, this means that someday, when we stand before God Almighty seated on His throne of judgment, we will have to defend the vote we cast this November. Likewise, wisdom informs us that our vote is not simply about ourselves. Because I live in a society, the results of my vote affect other people. As a result, I cannot simply make my choice on the ballot because I am making less money than I made four or eight years ago. I cannot simply vote based upon the fact that I am still looking for work. My vote will affect the poor and the marginal. Wisdom informs us that as Catholics, we cannot be single issue voters. We must take into consideration all of the variables before casting a ballot. Nevertheless, wisdom also tells us that there are certain things that can disqualify a candidate from our consideration. An example of this is abortion. Abortion is an intrinsic evil. This means that there is no time, no place, and no set of circumstances under which it would be legitimate to procure an abortion. It is always wrong. If I vote for a candidate who supports an unfettered right to abortion, I become complicit in that evil. I cooperate with it. Likewise, embryonic stem cell research which similarly destroys a human being is an intrinsic evil. It is never ok to suction cells out of a living child in order to put bit of them in other people. To vote in support of such a thing is to cooperate with that evil.
Wisdom teaches that there are other examples too, which, though perhaps not intrinsically evil, are nevertheless, profoundly important to Catholics. In January, President Obama through his Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, mandated that Catholic institutions would be required to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, abortifacient drugs and procedures. There was to be no exception. This means that Catholic Hospitals, schools, universities, adoption agencies, and social service agencies would be required to provide these services. If this mandate stands, many of these institutions will likely close their doors. Even in our own diocese, Catholic Social Services, who serves thousands and thousands of people each year, may have to close their doors. I know there are people sitting in this congregation who have turned to this agency in their need. On Thursday night, Joe Biden stood before America and told us that none of what I just said is true, that no institution would be required to provide anything to which they morally objected. So egregious was this lie that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement the following day correcting Biden’s error.
By this point I know that many of you are livid. I know that many of you are wondering why priests cannot keep their politics out of their preaching. Some of you wonder just who you need to contact at the IRS to have my tax exempt status revoked. It is not my job to stand before you and tell you for whom to vote. I cannot tell you the political party to which you ought belong. Here’s the thing, though. Someday, I too will stand before almighty God on his throne of judgment and I will have to explain why I did or did not help inform people’s consciences. I will have to explain why I did or did not help people to sort through the issues of the day with the mind of God. I will have to explain why I did or did not help us all become just a little wiser.