In a courageous and remarkable letter to his parishioners, Bishop David Ricken, the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, has called for the rejection of political parties who violate the tenets of the Catholic Church. The implicit rejection of the Democratic Party, which champions abortion on demand and same-sex marriage, along with the HHS mandate requiring institutions to provide early-abortion pills, contraceptives, sterilizations among other issues anathema to the Catholic Church, may have profound consequences for the state of Wisconsin; 25% of Wisconsin is Catholic, and Ricken’s diocese is comprised of over 300,000 members in 16 different counties.
Ricken minced no words; in his letter he clearly states that voting for a party that endorses positions intrinsically opposed to Catholic teaching could put the voter’s soul in jeopardy. And Ricken also made it clear that there were temporal issues that also mitigated against voting for the Democratic Party. He alluded to the fact that Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate would hurt the many health care services to the poor that Catholic hospitals donate; and that only Catholic people would be treated by Catholic institutions, which violates Catholic teaching. According to the HHS mandate, any religious school or charity, (e.g. a Christian soup kitchen, a Catholic school,) that serves people of other faiths is not exempt because it does not meet the requirements .
One issue Ricken didn’t mention was the choice faced by Catholics who own businesses between losing their employees or their souls. According to HHS, large employers (businesses that employ more than 50 people) must provide their employees with ObamaCare- compliant insurance plans or pay a heavy fine. This means the Catholics who own businesses will have to support insurance plans that violate Catholic teaching., thus possibly endangering their own souls.
Ricken has thrown down the gauntlet. Will other Catholic Bishops around the nation have the courage to take it up?
His letter follows.
October 24, 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
AN IMPORTANT MOMENT
It is almost time to vote and to make our choices for president and other political offices both local and national. You have often heard it said that this is a turning point in our country’s history and I could not agree more.
The Church is not a political organism, but as you hopefully have learned in the US Bishops Faithful Citizenship material (which we have made widely available to you in the parishes, in the Compass and on-line), the Church has the responsibility to speak out regarding moral issues, especially on those issues that impact the “common good” and the “dignity of the human person.”
I would like to review some of the principles to keep in mind as you approach the voting booth to complete your ballot. The first is the set of non-negotiables. These are areas that are “intrinsically evil” and cannot be supported by anyone who is a believer in God or the common good or the dignity of the human person.
3. embryonic stem cell research
4. human cloning
5. homosexual “marriage”
These are intrinsically evil. “A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program that contradicts fundamental contents of faith and morals.” Intrinsically evil actions are those which have an evil object. In other words, an act is evil by its very nature and to choose an action of this type puts one in grave moral danger.
But what does this have to do with the election? Some candidates and one party have even chosen some of these as their party’s or their personal political platform. To vote for someone in favor of these positions means that you could be morally “complicit” with these choices which are intrinsically evil. This could put your own soul in jeopardy.
The other position to keep in mind is the protection of religious liberty. The recent aggressive moves by the government to impose the HHS mandate, especially the move to redefine religion so that religion is confined more and more to the four walls of the Church, is a dangerous precedent. This will certainly hurt the many health care services to the poor given by our Catholic hospitals. Our Catholic hospitals in the Diocese give millions of dollars per year in donated services to the poor. In the new plan, only Catholic people can be treated by Catholic institutions.
It has never been our mission to be exclusive of those who are not of our faith. This mandate also places Catholic business owners in a very precarious position in that they, too, will have to pay for those medical “services” which violate Catholic teaching. This has never been the American way and now these moves and others by the present government, will significantly alter and marginalize the role of religious institutions in our society.
These positions are indicators of a broader societal disposition to remove God from the public square and from any relation to society whatever. It is precisely religion and the free exercise thereof which has made this country great in the past.
Many people in our Diocese are presently without work. Our Catholic Charities is serving more and more people who are unemployed or under employed and can barely keep up with the demands. Work is so critical to the family and to the sense of human dignity. An economy which does the most for the common good is an economy that works and provides people gainful employment for the country’s citizens. A government that works pays its bills and models for citizens what it means to be responsible and contributive.
Let us pray for the electorate and let’s take action, that we may vote for good and moral leaders for this great country which will only remain great, if she continues to be and to do the good.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend David L. Ricken, DD, JCL Bishop of Green Bay