April 22nd, 2012

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#558 – Dick Bernard: Election 2012 #14 – “The Catholic Vote” and “Making Hay While the Sun Shines”

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

UPDATE May 5, 2012 at end.

This afternoon I attended the first of three sessions called “Forming Our Conscience” in the Undercroft (church basement) of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. I was most positively impressed. There were 50 of us in the room – more than I expected.

Linked is the outline for the “Forming our Conscience” session I attended, as well as the topics for April 29, and May 6: Basilica Workshop001.

Stop by Basilica the next two Sundays if you wish. I found todays session an excellent use of my time.

There is no need to interpret the words, questions and opinions of speaker and the 50 or so of us in attendance today. The attached outline speaks for itself. That’s the outline for the modified dialogue that Dr. Evans capably led. A surprising amount of ground was covered in the short 1 1/2 hours.

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m lifelong Catholic. Put Basilica of St. Mary or Catholic in the search box on this blog, and you’ll find many references. I’m Catholic.

I go to Church, I usher frequently (as I did again today), and I’m not passive when it comes to expressing a point of view, including to those among my non-Catholic friends who think that there must be some monolith of “typical” Catholics.

When all is said and done, I contend there are really two Roman Catholic Churches, at least as I experience them today: one is the official Church, the power people like the Bishops who are quoted by the major media. Then there’s the rest of us.

We ordinary Catholics seem roughly divided into camps, much like the population at large. So, if we comprise, as we do, perhaps 20% of Minnesota’s population, on our typical days the so-called Catholic view might represent, at best, 10% of the state’s population, and not all of these think alike either. This is a rough estimate, but I think fairly close.

We ordinary folk get little attention, but we have a lot of power and we exercise it in many ways.

The American Bishops attempt to dominate certain kinds of public policy debate and thus impose religious beliefs and doctrines on the rest of the population and this troubles me, even though I’m Catholic.

This dynamic is worse now, than I remember before.

But there is no single ‘Catholic’ point of view. We Catholics adults act like other adults. The Church itself admits that only one-third of us are actually in Church on any particular Sunday.

It is likely not easy to be the Parish Priests who have the job of getting unsolicited ‘advice’ from both ‘sides’, and being leaders, message carriers and diplomats at the same time.

There is, no doubt, tension within the Catholic community about many things. This tension was not on display this afternoon. There were perhaps a dozen different opinions expressed through questions, and we all learned in the back-and-forth.

An observation I had, but didn’t have an opportunity to articulate at the meeting, is the real dilemma when religion dances into the political sphere: politicians make promises they have no intention of keeping. They all do it, as a political survival skill, but it’s incumbent on ‘we, the people’ to be aware of this natural and very practical tendency of the persons who are running for office, and look for the most reasonable alternative.

And my Church hierarchy has a different dilemma that it seems to want to ignore.

In the good old days, whether merited or not, the Church had considerable spiritual power over its flock.

Dr. Evans recalled his days in rural Minnesota when “keep holy the Sabbath day” was still the religious rule. As anyone who’s farmed knows, good weather doesn’t just happen when it is supposed to, and you “make hay while the sun shines”. In the good old days, if it looked like a good day for haying would be Sunday, the loyal Catholic farmers would troop to see the Priest after Sunday Mass to get permission to do the haying. Of course, permission was granted: it was common sense. But the Priest was asked, first.

As recently as 50 years ago this still worked pretty well.

No more.

We are adults, we need to act like the adults that we are.

(click on photo to enlarge)

Part of group April 22, 2012

For past and future posts related to Election 2012, simply enter those two words in the search box and click. A list will come up.

UPDATE MAY 7, 2012:

The April 29 and May 6 sessions were equally strong, with the attendance higher than at the first, approximately 60 at each. The outlines for the subsequent sessions is here. Basilica Workshop002.

It would be nice if everyone could see how a civil dialogue can take place within a church as diverse as my Catholic Church. Dr. Evans outline and remarks were consistent with official Church teaching, while respectfully listening to questions and noting other points of view within this large institution. Most of the 4 1/2 total hours was devoted to dialogue.

We do not all think alike. There is not a “Catholic bloc”.

During dialogue time I raised a single question, essentially as follows: The 2012 election is exactly six months away. The only objective of any political party is to win, and to do this they and their candidates and supporters will make false promises and false charges against the opposition. We will be inundated with this. What are your thoughts?

I didn’t expect a definitive answer, and I didn’t get one. There are assorted factcheck websites, and Dr. Evans mentioned one or two of his own. He was justifiably nervous (it appeared he was a bit nervous) about recommending specific news media, so I won’t go there. These days it is probably impossible to find a truly objective media source. All that differs is the degree of bias towards one pole or the other….

One lady mentioned the possibility of checking the actual record of persons actually in office.

I thought to myself, as others brought up their own issues, that even voting records are not a surefire way to the “truth” since in this polarized political world, there is almost no legislation that is politically “safe” to vote for or against: it usually includes some component with which the lawmaker will disagree. “Poison pills” are often inserted in legislation so as to be used against a sitting politician later. In addition, far too many of us don’t think of the consequences of our vote, or even know why we’re voting a certain way, or vote based only on our interpretation of a single issue: all very dangerous practices.

All we can do is urge people we know to pay attention to what is really the most important decision one has to make in a democracy like ours: who we choose to represent us.

We are, after all, the very “politicians” we despise, or more hopefully, respect.

Directly related post here.