Elections and calling evil good

As I listen to the political discussion leading up to the Nov. 4 election, a warning from the prophet Isaiah comes to mind: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Is 5:20).

This rings especially true when it comes to the issue of women’s health, which has been a strong focus of the contest between Congressman Cory Gardner and Senator Mark Udall for the U.S. Senate.

I have made the Church’s beliefs on these issues clear to the candidates. Championing abortion and contraception as good for women, is calling evil good. It is no secret that the Church teaches that abortion, which ends the life of an innocent human being, is evil. Science teaches us that the life of a human being begins at the moment of conception. Without conception there is no human being. Life is an inalienable right, not bestowed by the state, but recognized by the state as inherent to what it means to be a human being.

It is also well-known that the Church teaches contraception is immoral because it introduces a refusal of the gift of life, hinders marital unity and reduces each person to a mere object of pleasure.

But fewer people know that contraception is bad for women from a scientific point of view. The possible side effects for the pill include: developing high blood pressure, blood clots, depression, having a stroke, heart attack, or migraines and having difficulty with breast-feeding. The pill also increases the risk of breast cancer by over 40 percent if it is taken before a woman delivers her first baby. Many people have not read the contraindications for taking the pill or using other forms of birth control and rarely are they made public.

Certainly this cannot be good for women. I bring this to your attention because it is my responsibility to teach on these issues so that you are able to vote with an informed conscience.

On the topic of women’s health issues, neither candidate is perfect. Congressman Gardner has proposed making the pill available over the counter, and this is problematic.

Senator Udall has gone a step further by backing the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide contraception, including some forms that can cause an abortion, and sterilization.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the mandate violated the religious freedom of Hobby Lobby, Senator Udall moved to reverse the ruling through legislation.

This past July, he co-sponsored the “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act” with Senator Patty Murray from Washington state. As voters, you need to be aware of what this act will impose on people.

This legislation does more than call evil good. It eliminates the option for people of faith to cite their beliefs as a reason not to provide contraceptive coverage, including abortifacients.

Supporters of the bill say that it is aimed at reversing the Hobby Lobby decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, but the bill would do much more than that. It states that when the federal government decides to mandate any item in health plans nationwide, no one will have a right to object that it violates their religious freedom or conscience.

Just as contraceptives have been mandated as a “preventive service” to avert unintended pregnancies, coverage for all abortions–including late-term abortions–could be mandated to avoid unwanted live births. In short, any federal law protecting conscience rights on abortion would be null and void, not just for “corporations” but for everyone involved.

When you decide how to vote in the coming days, I ask you to do so with a well-formed conscience, with real knowledge of what each candidate stands for, and to be mindful of the impact of your vote for good and for evil. We need more respect for religious freedom in our nation, not less.

Finally, remember the invitation given by Pope Francis, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern.” Let us never fear bringing our well-formed consciences, values and beliefs into the voting booth!

The Colorado Catholic Conference has created a voter guide that is available in English, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese here.

COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.