My dear sisters and
brothers in Christ:
It is no secret that our society, our world, is experiencing great tension and division among peoples, even finding its way into the Church. The answer in ameliorating this situation is not to surrender our principles and disregard the truths of our Catholic faith to political agendas and platforms, but to remain fully Christian and civil in our discussions. On November 8, we are called to exercise our right to vote, a responsibility that must be taken seriously. Some may even complain about election results, while at the same time, they themselves did not vote.
Allow me to repeat what I wrote prior to the November 2016 elections, which is still very applicable:
“To assist Catholics in exercising this right, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued the document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. (The most recent version of the document, 2020, is available at https://www.usccb.org/offices/justice-peace-human-development/forming-consciences-faithful-citizenship.) It clearly states: ‘(W)e bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote. Our purpose is to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God’s truth” (No. 7). When we vote, our faith, integral to who we are, should accompany us as we make such important decisions. Our faith should be a true support as we participate in a process that affects not only ourselves, but the society in which we live.
“Faithful Citizenship guides us in this process and calls to mind that: ‘The formation of conscience includes several elements. First, there is a desire to embrace goodness and truth. For Catholics, this begins with a willingness and openness to seek the truth and what is right by studying Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Church as contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is also important to examine the facts and background information about various choices. Finally, prayerful reflection is essential to discern the will of God. Catholics must also understand that if they fail to form their consciences they can make erroneous judgments (No. 18).’
“The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of His Church are often counter-cultural and follow a path at odds with contemporary trends which make our choices so much more difficult. The Bishops recognize this tension: ‘Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity’ (No. 34).”
In the November 2020 issue of the Catholic Courier, I wrote:
“I pray that following the elections we will see a cooperative spirit among all elected officials and the citizenry to create a peaceful, respectful and civil climate that respects the rights and dignity of every person, particularly as we have just completed this past October, Respect Life Month. In his recent Encyclical Letter, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis quotes the words of Paul Ricoeur from his work Histoire et Verité: ‘… private life cannot exist unless it is protected by public order. A domestic hearth has no real warmth unless it is safeguarded by law, by a state of tranquility founded on law, and enjoys a minimum of wellbeing ensured by the division of labor, commercial exchange, social justice and political citizenship’ (No. 164).
“I pray that in the days ahead we act responsibly to create for our children a culture in which they are protected, cared for and inspired by the good works and lived faith of the adult world. I pray that violence and acts of inhumanity will cease with the realization that any just cause must have enshrined in its activities respect, charity, civility and truth that produce positive results. Once again in Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis writes: ‘Religious convictions about the sacred meaning of human life permit us “to recognize the fundamental values of our common humanity, values in the name of which we can and must cooperate, build and dialogue, pardon and grow; this will allow different voices to unite in creating a melody of sublime nobility and beauty, instead of fanatical cries of hatred.” (No. 283).’”
In repeating these words from my previous columns, it pains me that we still remain a world, a country, a state where anger, violence and division so permeate every area of society. Violence, so often even claiming human lives, continues to erupt daily in our neighborhoods, and the hostile rhetoric and legislation against the dignity of the child in the womb has only increased since the U.S. Supreme Court decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. How long can we ignore the signs of the times and refuse to acknowledge that the increasing rejection of God from the world’s landscape is creating a world unworthy of our children? It is impossible to sever God from His very creation. To do so only deprives humanity of achieving the very desires of peoples of every race, creed and cultural background, namely the hope to live in peace, to see true justice applied recognizing the dignity of every person created in the image and likeness of God, to know our streets are safe and our homes protected, that virtue and charity surround the lives of our children, that commitments are kept and positions of leadership are positions of service, not self-service, and guided by the wisdom of God.
For our Catholic people, we are now fully engaged in the Eucharistic Revival with all arch/dioceses throughout the United States. What is the essence of the Revival? It is time to get back to Mass! In the very presence of Jesus, in the real presence of His body, blood, soul and divinity, we find the wisdom to make right and just decisions, decisions that nurture a true respect for every person and ask those in leadership to keep before their eyes the beauty and awesome nature of the birth of every child as the rhythm of society continues on in cooperation with God, the Creator.
During this same month, we have celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, November 1, and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, All Souls’ Day, November 2. These two important celebrations recall the essential place that faith holds in our lives, that faith is the very foundation of human existence. All Saints Day reminds us that we who are the crown of the Lord’s creation “look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come” (The Creed). The saints are those who live in the presence of God for all eternity after living in union with God and embracing God’s will. In their different vocations and career choices, they did not leave their faith behind as they crossed over the threshold to their life’s work. Their place with the Lord is the destiny desired for all God’s children. On All Souls Day, and throughout the Month of November, we pray that our departed loved ones be “cleansed by the paschal mysteries, [so] they may glory in the gift of the resurrection to come” (Prayer after Communion, Second Mass of All Souls Day, Roman Missal, Third Edition), in that place the Lord has prepared for them from the beginning of time. (Cf. John 14:2-3).
On November 24, we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Not only on this day, but always, I give thanks to God for your deep faith and fidelity to the Church in these days which, at times, can test the faith of us all. Your devotion to Our Lord and to the Sacraments of the Church is a great support and encouragement to me. I can only echo the words of St. Paul: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen” (1 Thessalonians 1: 2-4).
Invoking the intercession of all the saints in the halls of heaven, who were forever mindful of the Lord, let us pray that our leaders will keep before their eyes the welfare of those whom they serve, and reverence the dignity and worth of every person. Guided by the Holy Spirit and unafraid to take our faith to the polls, may we make decisions that will truly guarantee the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776).
Assuring you of my prayers with a special memento of our beloved deceased sisters and brothers during this month of prayer dedicated to All Souls, I remain
Devotedly yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend
Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester