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Explore upcoming election issues Sept. 30

By Anne Severes
Social Ministry

            I have often heard people remark that they don't vote because it just doesn't seem to matter. Or that somehow registering to vote will expose them to tax audits, jury duty, recalculation of back child support, becoming a 'person of interest" by the FBI, a discovery of unpaid parking tickets, and so on.

            The truth is, of course, that voting in every election is our first line of participation in the democratic process and a right that we defend and promote in other less-free societies. As Catholics, we see our right and duty to vote as even more precious because we can and should take our faith into the voting booth and practice faithful citizenship with each election.

            On Saturday, Sept. 30, the Social Ministry Office in cooperation with the Creighton Graff Chair in theology will welcome Father Thomas Massaro, SJ, as the keynote speaker for the Faithful Citizenship Conference. The theme of this conference is 'Voting Our Gospel Values" and it will focus on how we discuss and discern the best candidate and which issues deserve our full attention in that discernment.

            Breakout sessions will include: The Human Face of Immigration, The Catholic Voter's Guide panel discussion, and War and Peace panel discussion. The conference will take place at the St. James Parish Center, 4710 N. 90th St. Registration begins at 8:15 a.m. with opening prayer commencing at 8: 30 a.m. and keynote beginning at 8:45 a.m. Cost of registration is $5.

            Father Massaro, an associate professor of moral theology at Westin Jesuit School of Theology, has written and spoken extensively regarding United States public policy and Catholic Social Teaching. In a recent article published by the Josephinum Journal of Theology (Jan. 14, 2006), titled 'Catholic Bishops and Politicians: Concerns about Recent Developments," he writes about the 2004 election and what we can hope to learn from that experience. At the heart of the article is what Father Massaro has termed 'The Unfortunate Decline of Civility in Church Circles." He writes, 'Even if the cacophony that rocked the church during the last election cycle does not ultimately constitute a serious threat to her existence or effectiveness, it is nevertheless easy to agree at least that the shrillness of the charges and counter-charges quickly became unpleasant."

            Father Massaro then cites four very public incidences where voices on all sides of key partisan issues became threatening. He concludes this section by writing, 'The impression they [the four incidences] afford to outsiders about the Catholic Church is that the most important aspect of American Catholic life is how one votes. These episodes suggest that to be a Catholic is to be contentious, judgmental, and eager to condemn "“ a far cry from the example and command of Jesus Christ, a Savior who embodies love for others" (Massaro, page 10).

            There are several issues before us this coming election season. The Faithful Citizenship Conference will offer an opportunity to explore those issues and to discuss, pray and reflect on how best to apply our faith as we work toward the common good.

            Anne Severes is director of Social Ministry for the Archdiocese of Omaha.

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