How to Vote Catholic (Or, Faithful Citizenship in 3 Bullet Points)


By Sara Knutson

With midterm elections coming up next week, most Massgoers have received a bulletin insert summarizing USCCB’s Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. Given that the full document is a hefty 45-page PDF, the 2-page summary that showed up in most bulletins is a big help. (Both versions can be found here.)

Even so, the type is awfully small and plenty of us have enough trouble getting through the bulletin itself, let alone bonus reading. So I’ve condensed the insert further into 3 critical points. Here are my key takeaways:

  1. Get out and vote. “Participation in political life is a moral obligation,” the bishops write, which builds up the virtue of responsible citizenship. Feeling depressed about your options? Me too, enough that it’s tempting to sit this election out. The bishops address that point and respond that if this is the case, we should work toward creating better options by voicing our concerns or even running for office. Fair enough.
  1. Vote in a way that upholds life and dignity. The bishops urge Catholics to be guided by a “consistent ethic of life,” which takes into consideration the unborn, the elderly, the poor, and other marginalized people whose lives are undervalued.

One framework for thinking about a consistent ethic of life and what it includes is covered in the seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching. An explanation of these themes comprises a good portion of the insert, indicating their importance to the bishops.

  1. Abortion is a critical issue but not the only issue. Faithful Citizenship clearly states that “as Catholics we are not single-issue voters,” and Catholics are not obliged to vote for a candidate based on his or her position on any one issue, including abortion.

That said, when an issue involves an intrinsically evil act, of which abortion is one along with issues like euthanasia, torture, and racism, Catholics may legitimately not vote for a candidate who supports it on the basis of that issue alone.

Abortion is mentioned several times in the summary. It is a top issue for the bishops and the church. But they do not demand that Catholics vote according to a politician’s position on abortion alone. Abortion matters—a lot—but it’s not everything.

The bishops conclude by calling for a “renewed politics that focuses on moral principles, the defense of life, the needs of the weak, and the pursuit of the common good.” Tuesday is our next opportunity to bring that renewed politics about.


A Curious Incident of Ecumenism in the Night

by Patrick Angiolillo

The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.

So beings “An Order for Compline” from the Book of Common Prayer according to the use of the Episcopal Church.

As a recently matriculated student to Yale Divinity School, I have found myself in a new place, with new friends, and among new religious traditions. At Boston College, I was never for lack of Mass, prayer, or all things Catholic. As a member of several Catholic student groups on campus, I had ample opportunity to discuss everything from the Bible to Church teaching to recent issues facing the church and her leadership. “My cup overflows,” as the Psalmist writes.

But, as with many things, life kept moving, even though I probably did not want it to. I graduated. And now I have begun my studies in Bible here at YDS.

I have already connected with the school’s Roman Catholic Fellowship group, and I have fast become a regular at the college’s Catholic Chapel, the aptly named St. Thomas More chapel. I have, in my several short weeks here, already dug my roots into the soils of New Haven.

But there has been, for me, a conspicuous lack of Catholicity. Or, perhaps more precisely, there is an abundance of catholicity, such that my Catholicism is unique.

This melting pot of Christianity at YDS has its advantages and disadvantages. I have found myself extremely at home with many new friends whose lives have been shaped by a very different forms of the Christian faith. But, equally so, I have found my comfortability stretched and tested at times, particularly with regard to liturgy.

None of this is to pass a value judgment on YDS or any of my Christian brothers and sisters. Indeed, the mission of the school and its demographic composition are not considerations of this article. What I mean to note is the beauty of this community of Christians who have come together to learn, prayer and grow as individuals and groups.

And such has been my project. I have exposed—and will continue to expose—myself to many Christian traditions, to their worship, and to their faith. Continue reading A Curious Incident of Ecumenism in the Night

Hollywood Moms Are People : Why We’re Going Ad-Free


By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

Last week, I received an email from one of our contributors, Katie Morroni, with the screen shot I’ve embedded above.

And so, after a few emails back and forth to the kind folks over at WordPress, an anonymous benefactor ponied up the $30 to help us go ad-free here at Catholic How for the next year.

In the first place: thanks to the benefactor.  (S)he knows how much I appreciated this.

In the second place: sorry if you’ve ever seen an ad and been offended.  I’m hoping that you were so enthralled with our content that you didn’t scroll down far enough to see the advertisements.  If you did, however, and noticed something out of school, I’m sorry.  It won’t happen again.

There is a third point that I’d like to make regarding the larger impact of an ad which invites readers to explore the world of “Hollywood Moms” that are just “TOO HOT.”  It’s the sad irony of a world in which the phrase, “Would you talk that way around your mother?” still has some cache, but the actual dignity of motherhood generally, and women specifically, remains terribly suspect.

I often find myself telling high schoolers that I couldn’t imagine undergoing the pressures they endure: the omniscient social media, the ready availability of drugs significantly more powerful and addictive that a harmless joint, a world whose patterns of war seems to mirror Orwell’s 1984.  The list could go on and on.

On these pages, however, we have tried to attempt to create a space where discussion is open and honest: civility, as John Courtney Murray once wrote, dies with the death of dialogue.

The ad that many of you saw last week won’t appear again: it’s not because we don’t care for dialogue, it’s because the exploitation of women, regardless of age or number of children birthed, is not a matter for sales, but rather serious conversation about its prevention.


Borrowing a pencil, or being a neighbor? A Kids Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time


By Ellen Romer

*For my preaching course, the assignment was to preach the week’s readings as if we were at a family Mass and/or talking to young people. This is what I came up with.

I hate borrowing things from people. I really do. It makes me feel so weird inside. When I was growing up I was always the kid who forget their pencil. Or their homework (even though I had done it!). Or their lunch money. I even forgot to brush my hair a lot. Were you that kid in school, like me? Or were you like some of my friends, who always had their hair neatly pulled back into a ponytail with the ribbon, who had very neatly organized pencil box? I found pencil boxes to be a bit of a waste for me, because everything ended up in the bottom of my bag or under my bed or somewhere and then I had no pencil. I didn’t mean to be careless I just am not the person who remember pencils. Even now, I have to keep a secret stash of pens in my desk at work. Being the forgetful one, it was always the worst to have to ask for a pencil. Or to go get something out of my locker. Or to scour in the bottom of my bag for loose change so I could get some lunch. Continue reading Borrowing a pencil, or being a neighbor? A Kids Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Enough is Enough

Note: the following is not an open letter, but the actual email I sent today to the staff at the online magazine Slate. I’ll miss this news source, but it has ceased to be trustworthy.
Subject: Ending my reading of Slate
Dear Slate staff,

I wanted to briefly write to express my disappointment in Slate‘s recent coverage of Christianity and particularly the Catholic Church, and to inform you that I will no longer be reading Slate.

This is unfortunate, as I have often found fascinating and unusual points of view in Slate‘s various departments. John Dickerson’s coverage has been a particular high point, along with Slate‘s consistent attention to social justice issues.

However, after reading Brian Palmer’s piece a few weeks ago, “In Medicine We Trust,” I was dismayed by his brash and almost totally unsubstantiated argument against Christian medical missionaries. I laid out my case in the blog I write for, but in essence it undermined my trust in Slate‘s ability to write about religion objectively.

I continued to read Slate‘s pieces, though with a grain of salt, until I got to its coverage of the Vatican Synod over the past two weeks. Both pieces were distressingly uninformed, written by people without enough understanding of Catholic processes and history, and the the second in particular (“Surprise: Catholic Church is Still Homophobic“) was titled as provocatively as possible in order to attract clicks, and gave up any sense of objectivity or fairness in doing so.

I’m a fairly progressive Catholic, hardly one of the caricatures presented in these recent op-eds. But I’m also a committed and practicing one, and I’ve found these pieces so falsely simplistic and uninformed that it’s offensive — offensive that Slate wouldn’t bother to rigorously research and present each perspective fairly when it comes to the church.

I have a Master of Divinity and know enough to know when Slate is being misleading regarding church issues. But I don’t know as much about politics, science, or the other humanities. What if the same poor reporting is happening in those departments and I can’t recognize it? For that reason, I no longer feel confident in the accuracy and excellence of any of Slate‘s essays and will no longer be visiting your site.

It’s unfortunate that this is the case; I’ve been reading Slate for nearly 10 years. But I cannot afford the risk of my judgment being formed by inaccurate essays or subpar reporting.

I wish you the best and hope you are able to upgrade your coverage of this area. Please let me know if you do so and I’ll gladly return to regular reading.

Kind regards,

Sara Knutson

St. John Paul II: Thank you, every woman!

On this first-ever feast day of St. John Paul the II, I’ve been reflecting on my gratitude for the example of the late, great pope. (This beautiful post by Fr. Robert Barron is a good short read if you’re looking for a brief tool for your own reflection.) Meanwhile, I also find myself in the 8th month of pregnancy, and my husband and I are eagerly anticipating the arrival of our first son or daughter!

With that in mind, I decided to reread the pope’s Letter to Women this morning, which was written in advance of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. The entire letter is worth a read, but I’m frequently drawn to this portion of the letter where he thanks all women in the world for their “vocation and mission.” Emphasis in italics is from the saint himself:

“This word of thanks to the Lord for his mysterious plan regarding the vocation and mission of women in the world is at the same time a concrete and direct word of thanks to women, to every woman, for all that they represent in the life of humanity.

Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.

Thank you, women who are wives! You irrevocably join your future to that of your husbands, in a relationship of mutual giving, at the service of love and life.

Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.

Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.

Thank you, consecrated women! Following the example of the greatest of women, the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, you open yourselves with obedience and fidelity to the gift of God’s love. You help the Church and all mankind to experience a “spousal” relationship to God, one which magnificently expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with his creatures.

Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.”

I wish so much that women who struggle with understanding their own dignity in ways big and small would hear these words and take them to heart.

St. John Paul II, pray for us.


Related posts you may like re: St. John Paul II and/or women in the Church:

Best Thing We’ve Read All Day: Talking about Marriage Edition

From Mike Laskey writing for the National Catholic Reporterthree things he’d tell the Synod regarding marriage:

  1. Catholic marriage preparation is a great opportunity. Don’t miss it!
  2. A young family needs a supportive community to survive. Building authentic community is hard work.
  3. When thinking about ways to help make sure marriages last, don’t forget Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Read it all here.


Changing World; Stagnant Formation

By Matt Keppel

The times are a changing, but will our schools of formation follow suit? At this delicate juncture of the Church, it seems like our seminaries better get on board or be left behind.

I grew up during the JPII revival, which was supposed to be the revival of the seminaries. In many ways, it was. Young men joined priestly formation in numbers not seen in years. We patted ourselves on the back. However, it seems as though something had been forgotten along the way. It wasn’t enough to simply bring these guys in, but we must be sure to adequately prepare them for the work of their vocations too! Continue reading Changing World; Stagnant Formation

Christian Witness in a Toxic Political Climate: A Homily for the 29th Sunday


By Mary Kate Holman

I have heard this week’s Gospel reading invoked by so many people to support so many different, often opposed agendas. Usually it goes something like this: “Jesus said it’s good to pay taxes!” “No, Jesus died so that we wouldn’t have to pay taxes!”*** “This means the Church shouldn’t interfere with politics!” “No, it means that the state shouldn’t interfere with the Church!” There’s nothing worse than hearing people appropriate Jesus for their own personal political message, particularly because the upshot of this reading is, I believe, fundamentally non-partisan.

The central moment of this passage is a trick question. The Pharisees have “plotted…to entrap” Jesus. They don’t ask the question sincerely as an opportunity to learn. They ask it to bait their opponent. How often do we hear politicians, pundits, even our own acquaintances in the vitriolic comment boxes of social media, do the very same thing? They debate, seize upon, and exploit their opponent’s misstatements, and take their words out of context, but they never truly listen to those whose opinions differ from their own.

Interestingly, it is not just the Pharisees who are testing Jesus here. They approach him “with the Herodians.” As Jesuit Scripture scholar (and my dear former boss), the late Dan Harrington notes, the Pharisees and Herodians would most likely have had very different ideological motivations: the Pharisees would have opposed Roman rule, and therefore the system of taxation, while the Herodians allied themselves with Rome, and would perceive a defiance of the tax system as rebellious. The only thing these two groups have in common is their insincere approach to conversation: they want to trick Jesus, not to learn from him. Continue reading Christian Witness in a Toxic Political Climate: A Homily for the 29th Sunday

Reflections on the Extraordinary Synod: How It Could Affect (My) Parish Life


By Brian Niemiec

Like many of you, I was struck by the tone and content of the recently released document from the Extraordinary Synod on the Family currently taking place in Rome. While the remarkable statements on homosexual relations seems to have made the biggest splash across the western world, I was struck by one very concrete pastoral concern found in the document.

I find it interesting to first note that this document does not have a lot of specifics. Rather, it has within it an openness to further discussion. In several sections, like the paragraphs about reception of communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, the Bishops acknowledge the conversation, what has already been discussed, and most importantly, the reality that a decision has not been made. The bishops are living in a tension of openness, and allowing the Holy Spirit to enter into that space and orient hearts and minds to the will of Jesus Christ.

In that light, I was taken aback by the detailed discussion of pastoral practice toward couples living outside the sacrament of marriage. The document addressed the need for more pastoral presence and engagement with couples who are civilly married, or couples living together outside of marriage (cohabitation). “A new sensitivity in today’s pastoral consists in grasping the positive reality of civil weddings and, having pointed out our differences, cohabitation“(36). This opening sentence, by acknowledging the positive, the good, and the holy in these committed relationships, forces us as church to look anew at how we minister to these populations. This section was the closest to outlining a pastoral directive, and it was quite clear that these non-sacramental relationships should be nourished and engaged by the Church, not rejected as an intrinsically sinful state of life.

Continue reading Reflections on the Extraordinary Synod: How It Could Affect (My) Parish Life