Catholicism and politics

I was listening to the Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast, sorry I don't remember the particular episode but they mentioned a homily that Fr. John Nepil gave while he was at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center in Boulder, Colorado on voting.

They said you could email them at their site and they'd send you the link (or the file) to the homily. I thought I'd host the homily on this page just in case... They also have a podcast where they talk about the points made in the homily, it's called Four Approaches to Politics and is also linked to on the right.

I want to summarize what Fr. John said because if you won't listen to the podcast (which is 30 minutes long) or the homily (which is 18 minutes long) you'll at least get the CliffsNotes on this (it took me about 4 minutes to read this page) because it's important. It's certainly nothing I've heard from the pulpit before and I'm grateful for this homily. So here we go...

Fr. John said:

"...I think there's basically four approches you can have to politics as a Catholic ...
  • ...number one just have nothing to do with politics whatsoever ... complete apathy, complete ignorance not a good option. The common good matters. We have to be engaged in these things. We have to work together to build a just and peaceful society...

  • Second option, wait for me to tell you who to vote for and which political party to be a part of from the pulpit. Not a good option ... I don't care who you vote for. Frankly that's between you and Our Lord ... the Catholic church is not wedded to a political party nor is she wedded to a political person...

  • Third approach to politics which is very common ... you're Catholic you need to be informed on issues and you need to understand that all issues are equal ... What's the problem with that? Well my friend Miguel ... who's Hispanic is going to be focused on immigration 'cause his family is trying to come across the border ... he's gonna vote based on that, but my friend Dave ... is very hard-core into the pro-life movement so he's gonna vote on the abortion issue, my [other] friend is unemployed in Lakeville he is going to vote first for the economy because he doesn't have a job. So what happens is if all issues are equal then all that matters is what's important to me.

    But if we start with what's important to me and build a society based on that we are doomed to destruction. That is relativism, and relativism runs rampant in our culture. ...relativism doesn't work because what relativism does is it says these are the issues for me so I'm going to work to get you or you to be convinced about what issues are important to me. And then political parties take that up and they build their platforms based on that. But it's not rooted in truth. It's rooted in opinion and it's rooted in preference. So the thought of all of us going out to the ballots on Tuesday and voting based on what matters to us is not effective in building a just society, and we will never have unity as Catholics in regards to that...

  • Fourth possible way to be a Catholic and engage the political realm is to vote not based on issues ... but vote based on principals. This is what's missing in the political sphere. No one is talking about principals ... We all want to build a happy place for our children in the next generation to come, but what we say with principals is that there are timeless, objective truths that we can know philosophically that inform every just society. There are certain principals, foundations that have to be guarded in order to build a society. And we have to use those principals to apply them to the issues... What are the principals as a Catholic that I hold and how do I apply them to the issues?

    ...In my opinion, the three issues that are absolutely informed by principals and are non-negotiable so to speak are these: life, liberty and marriage ... You wanna surrender the principals fine, but we can't call ourselves Catholics and not hold to the principals that the Catholic church proposes, it's too contradictory.

    We simply cannot be saying yes we're killing four thousand children a day, yes that's a problem but I'm going to vote pro-choice, pro-abortion. We can't say that. We can't say that the fundamental inalienable right of a human person is the right to life. That's the foundation of everything. We can't say that and then vote pro-abortion... to vote pro-choice is to be a contradiction as a Catholic, and you'll be unintelligible in the Church and you'll be unintelligible outside of the Church...

    Religious liberty is at stake ... when I study Soviet Poland and Communism when it took place into Poland in the 1930s one of the first things that happened is the language of religious liberty shifted to the language of religious worship ... Why does this matter whatsoever? Religious worship means that we only have this option right here. We're free to come here for one hour on Sundays and then we have nothing to do with it outside. We are losing this. We are being stripped of this...

    Thirdly, and most difficultly, the issue of marriage. There is nothing more painful and more frustrating for people who struggle with same sex marriage than the Catholic approach to marriage. This is the most difficult issue that we face. They feel condemned. They feel oppressed. They feel horribly and in-justly treated by us and many of them are Catholic and they are afraid to come here. We have to take that seriously. But the response to that cannot be to surrender the principal that marriage is the very foundation and the cell of our life. There is a miracle that happens when a man and a woman come together in the marital act. A child comes into existence it's simply unbelievable... What marriage serves to protect ... is that that procreation and the union that happens between the man and the woman is so sacred and so beautiful that it cannot be rewritten... to say we can change the definition of marriage... we can change what sex means... we can change our nature is a lie.

    Until Catholics are united on principals, we'll never be able to love. What the world needs is a witness of radical love for women who are struggling with the question of abortion. For Muslims, Jews, Mormons whoever whose religious liberty is being oppressed and for men and women who struggle with same sex attraction. What they need is courageous heroic love and we cannot witness to them together until we're united on the principals. Keep our principals. Keep our humanity and we keep Christ in our society."


Catholic Stuff You Should Know, "Four Approaches to Politics" (2012)
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center Boulder, Colorado (2012)

Click icon for archived podcast discussing this subject in its entirety.

Show air date: November 12, 2012

Click icon for Fr. John's homily given at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center Boulder, Colorado on November 4, 2012.

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