22 Oct Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
HOMILY PRIOR TO VOTING ON OCTOBER 21, 2019
My homilies are never solely my own creative act. In giving you a copy of this homily I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel or issue of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life. In this particular homily on voting a great deal of the substance has come the website of the Archdiocese of Vancouver rcav.org and the Federal Election Gide from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. cccb.org
God bless you.
Our Second Reading today is part of St Paul’s Letter to the young bishop, Timothy, one of Paul’s former traveling companions. At this point in the Letter, Paul tells Timothy the two ways for holding onto his Christian faith. The first : Timothy is to immerse himself in the Sacred Scriptures. St. Paul writes that “all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Tim 3:16)
The Second is Tradition. Paul began this passage by exhorting Timothy to “remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it.” In other words, Timothy had received the Christian faith from Paul, an Apostle. And Paul had received it from Christ. In this living way our faith was handed on, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is what has been called Tradition since the very first years of Christianity.
Tradition doesn’t mean changeable, empty rituals that we pass on from generation to generation. Tradition, in this sense, means the living faith of the Church that has been handed down from Christ himself to his first Apostles, and from them to their successors, the popes and bishops, and so on, all the way until our own times.
Paul instructs Timothy to be faithful to the Tradition he received. Then he also instructs Timothy to faithfully pass on that Tradition: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus… proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:1-7)
These, then, are the two assured ways to keeping our faith: going deep in the inspired Scriptures, and clinging firmly to authentic Catholic Tradition, as passed on through the teaching authority of the Church.
This is a very timely Scripture as we face the end of a very divisive and confusing election campaign. We must consult Scripture and the teaching tradition of the Church to help us discern the candidate for whom we will vote.
First and foremost as you have heard me say before we must vote. The Catechism tells us that it is our duty as citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society….”(CCC 2239) The Second Vatican Council taught, “every citizen ought to be mindful of his duty to promote the common good by using his vote.”(Gaudium et Spes 75) We are not obliged to vote for the sake of voting but to vote in a way that we think will make our country better for all Canadians. As Catholics who take their faith seriously; who believe what the Catholic faith holds to be true we must consult our faith in placing our vote. We can’t be Catholics in private, and not Catholics in public. We hold what we teach to be true. That means true not just for us but true….. true for everyone. Why would we follow it otherwise? So we seek our Catholic Faith’s guidance in discerning for whom we should vote.
The Church would never tell you for whom you should vote but the Church does give us specific guidance on the manner to discern for whom we should vote. (Gaudium et Spes #76) That is why I have encouraged you to pray with this Guide to Catholic Social Teaching because the Church does “pass moral judgments in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it.(CCC 2246). Our activities in the Church and in the state are distinct, but we remain the same Christian people whatever we do. We belong both to Christ and to Canada, and we must not separate ourselves from either when we vote.
The Church has many moral teachings about social justice, solidarity with our fellow citizens, the common good and human rights. We must take all of these into account, but two basic issues stand out in Canada today: the right to life and the status of marriage and family.
So why is the right to life the most important issue in deciding my vote?
The foundation of all Catholic social teaching is the belief in the inherent dignity of the human person. Human life is sacred, and each person is precious. The person is made in the image of God. We are called to honour and give priority to the human person. The dignity of the human person is the starting point for a moral vision for society. Thus, the most basic of all our rights is the right to life. It is the right from which all other rights flow. Without life, no other right can be enjoyed. Any threat to the right to life, then, is a threat to all our rights. Any threat to the right to life not only puts human beings at risk of being killed, but Pope St. John Paul II warned in his encyclical The Gospel of Life any threat to life “is a threat capable, in the end, of jeopardizing the very meaning of democratic co-existence,”(Evangelium Vitae #18) This is because “the inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a fundamental element of a civil society and its legislation…. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the moment … (the) law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined….”(CCC 2273) Pope St. Paul VI stated that a basic moral test for society is how we treat the most vulnerable among us. ( Populorum Progressio)
Thus there are two life issues that are important in this election. And we have seen all kinds of mud slung around about them especially:
Abortion: Canada has no legal protection for unborn human beings. Any law relating to abortion was struck down in 1988. In Canadian law, a baby is not defined as a person with rights before the law, until it has fully exited the birth canal of its mother. That means a baby, here in Canada, minutes before it is born, can be legally killed up to the end of a full term pregnancy. While some candidates are against abortion and some support limitations on abortion, not all support any limitations whatsoever. As Catholics, following the instruction of St. Paul in our second reading today, when casting our votes, we need to be guided by Scripture and the two thousand years long teaching tradition of the Catholic Church. There has never been a break in our teaching that all life is valuable from its very beginning in the womb to its natural death. So in voting we need to check to see which candidates are committed to the right to life of the unborn and to reducing the number of abortions in Canada. It is always wrong to kill!!! It’s the fifth commandment. Abortion is the killing of a human being. We must never lose sight of this fact, no matter the situation, no matter the reason, no matter the circumstances of their conception……. that child does not deserve to have its life ended. We must speak out for the right to life of those who cannot speak for themselves.
The second life issue in Canada is Euthanasia and assisted suicide
As you know, euthanasia (killing someone who is suffering) and assisted suicide (helping them kill themselves) was legalized in Canada just two years ago in 2016. Killing someone who is suffering or helping someone kill themselves is violating the rights of the elderly, the disabled and mentally ill. The solution to someone’s suffering is not to kill the sufferer. It is to care for them and accompany them with love and the best palliative medical care possible. In voting we need to know which candidates will uphold the right to life of all vulnerable persons and who will work to ensure that all Canadians have access to good medical treatment and pain care when we face serious illness.
The issues of marriage and family policies are also very important for us to consider as we discern our vote ?
Pope St. John Paul II wrote that, “a family policy must be the basis and driving force of all social policies.”(EV 90) This is simply because the family is “the original cell of social life.”(CCC 2207) Therefore, the Catechism states: “The importance of the family for the life and well-being of society entails a particular responsibility for society to support and strengthen marriage and the family. Civil authority should consider it a grave duty `to acknowledge the true nature of the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality and domestic prosperity.’“(CCC 2210)
What marriage and family issues are important in this election?
Assistance to Families
Each party has a plan to assist families, through tax breaks, daycare subsidies, and other means. Not all of these plans will be helpful to families, and some will make family life more difficult. As voters we need to discern which candidates believe that parents have the primary responsibility to care for their children, and which candidates will work to ensure that the government’s family policy truly will assist parents and not hinder them.
There are so many important life, marriage and family issues to consider. I am just giving you some highlights. The little book I have encouraged you to consult highlights the issues of Human Dignity , Poverty, Homelessness, Health Care, Indigenous Issues, Immigration and Refugees, and the Environment as the most essential moral issues in this election.
So what do we, as Catholics, look for in a candidate and party?
First, we must vote for candidates and parties that uphold the right to life for all Canadians and for all human beings everywhere.
Second, we must vote for candidates and parties who recognize that a family is “a man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children,”(CCC 2202) . For candidates who will enact policies that recognize that children are the responsibility and duty first and foremost of their parents and not of the state, and who will enact policies that assist and do not hamper parents in raising their children.
Sadly, we need to ask what if I cannot find a suitable candidate that fits the criterion above?
Scripture tells us we can never ‘do evil that good may come of it’ (Cf. Rom 3:8). Thus it is wrong to support a candidate who fails to uphold the right to life and the good of marriage and the family. However, it is not wrong to limit evil that good may come of it. Therefore, we can work to limit something wrong being done in order to lead to a good outcome.
Thus, if no candidate upholds the right to life and the rights of the family, we can still exercise our responsibility to vote. We can vote for the candidate who is the least hostile to the right to life and to the family – and limit the harm that worse candidates might do. At times, as voters, we can do no better than to make a choice for the lesser of two evils.
One theologian wrote, “It is sinful to vote for the enemies of religion or liberty, except to exclude a worse candidate….”( Henry Davis SJ, Moral and Pastoral Theology, vol.2., p.90)
When no truly good option is given to voters, we are then forced to use our vote to ensure the least objectionable outcome.
As Christians we are called to evangelize our culture by bringing Christian values into the market place, into every phase of our life in society. We need to voice our views publicly and by getting involved in the political process, influencing the nominations of candidates and the setting of party policy, and supporting candidates who stand for the Gospel of Life in all its aspects.
Throughout this election I have been encouraging you to vote. And you should. However, if you are not informed on where your candidate stands on these essential issues, I would advise that you consider not voting. An uninformed vote can do more harm than the good it is meant to do.
A very long homily today and I apologize for that. These are all such important issues. It has been an ugly campaign. Leaders and many candidates have not acted honourably or statesman or stateswoman-like. They have desperately argued their positions or argued against another party’s position rather than argue what is right and wrong and what is true and therefore for the common good.
As Catholics we surely should be focussed on what’s right and what’s wrong and vote for the party whose position, we have ascertained is closest to the truth.