Catholics Need To Take a Second Look at Morality

According to CNN, Catholics voted for President Bush over Senator John Kerry by a 51 to 48 percent margin. Hence, Catholics voted for a Born Again Methodist over a Catholic candidate. Many Catholic Bishops have declared abortion a "non-negotiable issue." In the diocese of Brooklyn, which encompasses Brooklyn and Queens, there is not a single memorial to those who have been put to death by our government. Nonetheless, I know of at least one parish in Brooklyn that has a three-thousand dollar memorial dedicated to the aborted. Meanwhile, 36 million people in the United States live in poverty. If the Bishops are not silent, they most certainly speak in a whisper when it comes to issues of social justice and the death penalty. The Catholic Bishop's candidate, George W. Bush, executed nearly 30 individuals in 1999 alone.

Exit polls indicated that voters named Bush's moral values as the number one reason they chose to cast their vote for him. Religion was the key determinant of voting in the 2004 presidential race, according to an exit poll conducted by the Associated Press news agency. According to exit polls, 22% of the electorate said "moral values" was the issue that mattered most in how they voted - compared to 20% who cited the economy, 19% who cited terrorism, and just 15% who said Iraq was the key issue. However, this type of exit polling is quite flawed. Moral values encompass stem cell research, gay marriage and opposition to abortion. Therefore, while the other exit poll questions were specific and pinpointed one issue, the moral question encompassed a slew of issues, all of which Catholics are taught to believe are essential issues. For Catholics to support abortion or a pro-abortion candidate, is considered a mortal sin. Certain conditions must apply for a mortal sin to be committed. First and foremost, the sin must be deliberate, with full knowledge that it is wrong. A mortal sin prevents the sinner from entrance into heaven after death. Therefore, for too many Catholics, a vote for Kerry ensures an eternity in the fires of hell ? see Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God."

To be fair, not all Catholic Bishops have expressed such dire consequences if a Catholic chose to vote for Kerry. In particular, the 400 member US Conference of Catholic Bishops, who published an extensive election year publication, discussed a variety of social justice issues and did not threaten any religious consequence of a vote for Bush or Kerry. The problem is that few Catholics are aware of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but they do hear the messages of their local Bishops and parish priests. Abortion receives an inordinate amount play during Sunday homilies; unfortunately, this is at the expense of social justice or liberation theology. Liberation theology is a movement that came to fruition in Latin America during the early seventies. The movement embraces the idea that it is the responsibility of the Catholic Church to actively fight against the oppression of the poor. This is a change from the Catholic theology that reigned for centuries, where the poor were taught that the greater their suffering in this world, the greater their reward in the next life. This policy, in large part, was due to the church's support of right-wing dictators in Latin America. My fear is that the many Catholic Bishops that professed that a vote for Kerry is a mortal sin are returning to the time prior to liberation theology.

Sister Maura Clark, a Mary Knoll nun, and Archbishop Oscar Romero died for speaking out for the poor and oppressed in Central America. Too many of our Bishops and priests are dishonoring the work of these martyrs by making it apparent that the poor are of little consequence. Furthermore, they're doing this in support of a President who probably believes that if you are not "saved" you will not go to heaven. Catholics believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins; and therefore, are not saved in the "born-again" sense. Democrats were criticized this past presidential election for not embracing morality. Morality is caring for the poor and providing national healthcare for the 45 million without health insurance According to Congressman Pete Stark, "Our lack of a guaranteed health care safety net indirectly plunges millions into bankruptcy and financial ruin who, once sick, cannot afford to pay for their high medical treatment costs out-of-pocket."

Conservatives should be as concerned for the living as they are for the unborn. If they choose to condemn politicians that are pro-choice, they should do justice to the Sanctity of Life movement and criticize those leaders who support capital punishment. The Catholic Church cannot afford to lose its Hispanic members, who are now an integral part of Catholic schools and churches, to the Pentecostal churches both here and abroad. According to a Columbia University study "Hispanics report the fewest assets (two thirds report zero or negative net worth) than any other ethnic group in NYC." It's a bit hard to explain to this group that a president that believes in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is in their best interest, or is economically just. It should be just as hard to justify it to you.

About The Author

Peter Mennona, Jr. holds a BA from the New School University. He's been published @, and

[email protected]

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