As we approach our national election and ponder the privilege we have as citizens to vote, in this most contentious political contest in our recent political history, permit me to share issues of concern which seem to be game changers for our society and culture.
The first is Religious Freedom. As a religious leader, I’m convinced a concerted effort is being waged against organized religion. Religion, especially the Catholic Church, stands at the forefront in opposition to the social reconstruction marketed as a progressive doctrine which deems religion and its teachings as offensive and backward.
The Founding Fathers protected the right of religion to be practiced and expressed in the public forum with an exemption from governmental policies that would infringe upon religious exercise. Now, the government does not recognize an “exemption” but rather offers an accommodation.
We will grant it not because it’s a right, but we will tolerate the religious practice for now. Can anything be clearer than the government trying to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to fund contraceptives, sterilization procedures and abortifacients?
These sisters just want to serve the poor and not violate their religious teachings — teachings based in Scripture and our church, not the “religious teachings” which appear to be defined by the government. The strategy of the government is obvious to me. It is an attempt to marginalize religion and its work, as well as to isolate its influence.
For the government, religion is fine if it’s private worship confined to a church, synagogue or mosque on a Saturday or Sunday for one or possibly two hours. Will homilies be scrutinized for politically correct adherence?
I am unabashedly Pro Life. The second concern is respect for life from womb to tomb.
I am convinced we will not return to a positive attitude in our country until we protect life, especially that of the unborn. The protection of our rights is only as secure as the protection of the rights of the most vulnerable among us and is there little doubt that the most vulnerable are the unborn.
The unborn are not recognized as human beings (then really what are they?). They are subjected to a determination of convenience (I made a mistake, changed my mind or simply don’t want the burden of a pregnancy so another human being will pay for it).
We, as a nation, have been denied millions of citizens; they would have become members of the work force, tax payers etc. A focus on the “life issues” will give strength to all other social issues. You cannot be pro social justice principles if you are not first rooted in respect for “life.”
The third issue is Jobs. Strong families emerge from economic stability. We need a strong economy supported by a growing middle class. Therefore, training programs educating men and women in the areas of the trades and technology are necessary.
I am an education advocate; however, I am also practical. I have met many men and women who have made great contributions to our society and culture and do not have college degrees. Vocational training attacks the permanent welfare class which creates a dependency, establishing a welfare caste system.
The support for small businesses would allow an entrepreneurial spirit which could help promote jobs and reestablish ownership in the economy. Economic growth will help us to dream as a society.
The fourth issue of concern is the National Debt. How can one even wrap his or her mind around $19.4 trillion in debt?
It is real and needs to be addressed. I am sorry if I exhibit my blue collar background but you don’t spend what you don’t have. I realize there is value to production and earning potential; however, if there is not enough in the piggy bank or enough hours in a day to work for pay, then you must live within your means.
All those promises that were made for the special benefit of the people become valueless with no way to fulfill them. Remember the lessons of Greece — and I don’t mean Athens and Sparta. I have always found it disingenuous that people just flippantly say just kick the can down the road, leave the problem for future generations. We created it. We own it; our children should not.
The fifth issue is National Security, which addresses not only our internal security against the forces of terrorism but most assuredly the national defense which protects us from foreign enemies.
I was a chaplain in the United States Army Reserves for 23 years and I am proud of the service I offered to my country. I am also proud of the spirit of the men and women who wear the uniform.
It may sound strange for an archbishop to call for a strong military, but I can testify that the people who are the real “peaceniks,” who are most concerned about peace, are those who must put their lives on the line if war or military action was initiated.
They are committed to the protection of the nation, their families and of the freedoms of United States citizens. We cannot be so naïve that we are unaware that there are foreign enemies that desire to hurt and even destroy America and its way of life.
America cannot afford to abdicate its leadership in the world community, because without a sense of a strong American democracy, the world is left prey to national dictatorial self-interests.
Many may offer other issues such as education, immigration, foreign relations, universal health care, poverty, etc. Certainly, there is no end to issues. However, the issues I have offered I view as game changers for our nation.
They systemically affect the nation and its future. Thomas Jefferson stated, “Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”
I am a committed Catholic and will witness to the faith until I die. I love our country and will always be a faithful citizen following the Gospel of Jesus and our Constitution