Faith informing our politics

As the elections approach, today’s Gospel is a reminder of that our politics and our faith have a division.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 22,15-21.

Then the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

With that reading in mind, a local Catholic priest, Rev. Vallee, provides some perspective. He weighs in on how Catholics should avoid putting God in any political party:

We as Catholics must inform ourselves and vote our consciences. We must not do what Jerry Farwell and the Moral Majority did which is to turn our religion into a partisan political party. Such a tactic conflates the place of God and Caesar in society. I am not going tell you who to vote for; don’t let anyone else tell you who to vote for. Here is the point. This pulpit is here that we might preach the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, not the agenda of Obama or the platform of McCain. To use religion in such a cynical way renders everything unto Caesar and leaves nothing for God. That is a decision you must make in good conscience, in your own mind and heart. And remember these issues are not simple. It is not a matter of souls or no souls. It is usually more like ‘little souls.’ We need to turn down the vicious rhetoric and turn up the wisdom and charity. Which side is right? They are both wrong when they fight like bratty children calling one another nasty names.

I also addressed my confusion over how to properly address a priest.

All homilies referenced are copied in full at end of post.

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Fr Vallee’s 10/19/08 Homily

I. Caesar, elections
As we approach the November elections, Jesus tells us to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s, let me attempt to preach the Gospel without making either the democrats or the republicans out there too angry. The best way to do that, I guess is with a story. It is a true story of St. Teresa of Avila. By the end of her life, she was nearly universally acclaimed as a saint.

II. Story of missionary
Anyhow, it came to pass that a missionary had been traveling in Africa. He was a kindly man but not the sharpest knife in the drawer. He had seen so many strange and wondrous things that, one day, while walking on the beach, he saw a flock of very large birds, speaking what he took to be a strange and exotic language. The dim young priest, presuming them to be a tribe of people, with great zeal and little intelligence, baptized the entire flock of birds. When he got back to Rome, they figured out what happened and a debate among the learned theologians broke out. The Franciscans, with their well known love for animals, argued that the birds were infused with souls capable of being saved by virtue of the grace of baptism. The Dominicans, with their well known love of precision, argued that whatever is received is received according to the capacity of the receiver. Hence, the birds did not need and could not receive salvation.

III. Teresa’s decision
Things finally got so out of hand that a fist-fight broke out on the streets of Rome between a Franciscan and a Dominican theologian. Finally the pope intervened. He got both sides to agree that they would submit themselves to the binding arbitration of Teresa of Avila. Whatever she decided, they would accept and no more fighting. They gave Teresa hundreds of pages they had written and she took a few weeks to read it all. When she had finished the Dominicans and Franciscans came back to her and asked: “Well, which is it? Do they have souls or not? Teresa sighed a weary sigh and said: “Well, alright but little souls.�

IV. The current debates
I don’t know about you but, as for me, political discourse in this country has descended into just such a war of little boys and little girls. So much of what we hear is absolute and fanatical. Let us be very clear. Neither the democrats nor the republicans are on the side of the angels. Even, if I may be so bold, this whole economic mess is the not fault of only one party. Both democrats and republicans are plenty guilty. Where is the nuance and where is the wisdom? Let us be even more clear. There is no one Catholic party in this country. This is because both sides have very serious moral issues they fall on the wrong side of: for the democrats, abortion and for the republicans, just war. Both abortion and unjust war are intrinsically disordered. Don’t take my word for it; they both have been explicitly and repeated condemned by the last two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

V. Conscience
We as Catholics must inform ourselves and vote our consciences. We must not do what Jerry Farwell and the Moral Majority did which is to turn our religion into a partisan political party. Such a tactic conflates the place of God and Caesar in society. I am not going tell you who to vote for; don’t let anyone else tell you who to vote for. Here is the point. This pulpit is here that we might preach the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, not the agenda of Obama or the platform of McCain. To use religion in such a cynical way renders everything unto Caesar and leaves nothing for God. That is a decision you must make in good conscience, in your own mind and heart. And remember these issues are not simple. It is not a matter of souls or no souls. It is usually more like ‘little souls.’ We need to turn down the vicious rhetoric and turn up the wisdom and charity. Which side is right? They are both wrong when they fight like bratty children calling one another nasty names.
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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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