Catholic Social Teaching

Conference Testifies Against Killing for Property Bill

The North Dakota Catholic Conference testified against legislation that would allow people to use deadly force to protect property or when a person is fleeing a scene.

Executive Director Christopher Dodson noted that the bill violates the fundamental moral rule that a person cannot use deadly force except when it is necessary for self-defense.  The testimony is here.

 

 

 

Wisdom from St. John Chrysostom

ACTION ALERT – NO ON HB 1163 (REPEALS SUNDAY LAW)

ACTION ALERT – NO ON HB 1163 (REPEALS SUNDAY LAW)

Contact your House Representatives NOW and ask them to VOTE NO on HB 1163.

HB 1163 would repeal the state’s Sunday closing laws.

Setting aside a common day of rest and recreation puts families and communities first.  It is part of the “North Dakota Way of Life” that makes this state great.

Contact your Representatives

Column: Mercy in Anxious Times

berlinwallchurch2These are anxious times.  We have witnessed orchestrated acts of terror so senseless it boggles the mind.  Nearly 65 million people are displaced worldwide and there seems to exist no will or agreement to resettle them.  Mass shootings driven by hatred, despair, or mental instability seem to have become more commonplace.  A U.S. Supreme Court driven by abortion ideology has thrown-out decades of legal precedent.  Never before have the presumptive nominees for president been so disliked by the American public.  Christians and other religious minorities continue to face persecution and martyrdom around the world. Ideologically zealous bureaucracies are forcing people to embrace “gender philosophies” contrary to their religious beliefs and common sense.  Some political candidates seek a return of the use of torture.  Others support the use of drone strikes on civilians.

It is enough to think that we are living in W.B. Yeats’ The Second Coming:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

But we’ve been here before.  And we will be here again.

Yeats wrote his poem immediately after World War I, a war so violent, deadly, senseless, and sudden that it shook the Western world to its core. A mere twenty years later we experienced another world war.

How do we, as Christians, respond when troubling and chaotic times? Do we withdraw from the world, judging it irredeemable?  Do we embrace the changes, gradually or quickly, “going with the flow” enough so we can still make a difference elsewhere?  Do we let our anxieties and passions overtake us and join a worldly movement fighting in reaction to the changes and chaos?  Do we let our resistance become hatred of this world?

St. Paul instructs us to “have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” (Phil. 4:6)  This does not mean, however, that we should withdraw from society and only pray.  We are social creatures created to serve God and others.  We serve others not only through individual acts of charity, but also through social and government institutions.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church has this to say about times of trouble:

“When human authority goes beyond the limits willed by God, it makes itself a deity and demands absolute submission; it becomes the Beast of the Apocalypse, an image of the power of the imperial persecutor “drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev 17:6). The Beast is served by the “false prophet” (Rev 19:20), who, with beguiling signs, induces people to adore it. This vision is a prophetic indication of the snares used by Satan to rule men, stealing his way into their spirit with lies. But Christ is the Victorious Lamb who, down the course of human history, overcomes every power that would make it absolute. Before such a power, Saint John suggests the resistance of the martyrs; in this way, believers bear witness that corrupt and satanic power is defeated, because it no longer has any authority over them.” (382)

Three points come to mind when reading this passage.  First, it relies heavily on the Book of Revelation, which was written during a time when persecuted Christians were tempted to lose hope.  Second, the Beast of the Apocalypse, is not necessarily a ruler or world government. It could be a human-made ideology, like many of the false ideologies from the left and the right popular today.  Third, the lesson is that, by the cross and resurrection, Christ is victorious and overcomes every contrary power.

The Compendium goes on to note that we humans must perceive these truths and seek to fulfill, in social life, “truth, justice, freedom and solidarity that bring peace.”  We cannot withdraw.  Nor can we succumb to false man-made “solutions.”  Finally, we cannot be overcome by anxiety or despair.  Mercy is not served by any of those reactions.

Ten years after Yeats’ Second Coming, T.S. Eliot wrote Ash Wednesday.  A passage of the poem expresses this Christian idea of being in the world, caring for the world, but not being of the world, all the while embracing St. Paul’s call to prayer.  He wrote:

Teach us to care and not to care

Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death

Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Forum Editors: Restore local zoning of factory farms

13102825_10154637655125663_7099294328534931039_nThe Fargo Forum is calling for the restoration of local zoning when it comes to concentrated animal feeding operations.

This is consistent with the principle of subsidiarity.  In fact, the North Dakota Catholic Conference testified against removing local input as far back as 1999.

“This principle recognizes that human dignity requires that persons and communities should possess the ability to exercise responsible self-governance. Subsidiarity means that while larger governments have a role and sometimes a duty to involve themselves in local affairs, they should give deference and due respect to local communities. Specifically applying the principle of subsidiarity to rural issues, the bishops stated that local communities should be allowed to enact land use ordinances to further the common good. House Bill 1397 violates that principle by stripping counties of their rightful position to regulate for the common good of the larger community.”

You can read the full testimony here.

The great thing about Catholic social teaching is that it is timeless and prophetic.  The same principles for a good society that applied in 1999 apply to today and will apply seventeen years from now.

Year of Mercy: Care for Creation

“Mercy calls us to always include the common good and the environmental good, even if doing so is not required by the law and even if it means that others will have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”IMGP0048

In my last column I suggested that a key to understanding mercy is the call to never abandon. Not abandoning also means to be in relationship, including a relationship with the created world.

The environment, however, is not a person. How can we be in relationship with something that is not a person?

The key to understanding this challenge is to recognize that God the Father blessed us with this world and that he wants us to live within it according to his will. In Laudato si, Pope Francis states that Genesis teaches that “human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself.” (No. 66.) Sin disrupted these relationships. To walk right with the Lord, to walk in mercy, means to walk again in relationship with all three.

The importance of including creation in this triad of relationships should be apparent. God made us with physical bodies in a physical world. At this very moment you are touching the physical world. Christ became incarnate and lived in this same physical world, breathed the same air, ate the same fruits of the same earth, and walked on the same ground. By his life we learn that our bodies and the material world in which they roam are not just valuable, but also that they are part of God’s will for us. We were made for this creation and it for us. He means for us to be in right relationship with the environment.

Care for creation, therefore, is not just care for creation itself. Care for the human person is central to our care for creation and flows from our acceptance of the Father’s plan. Pope Francis explains that because of this relationship “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” (No. 49, emphasis is Pope Francis’.) It also means that the “human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together. . .” (No. 48.)

Contrary to portrayals in the news and social media, Pope Francis is not just talking about specific environmental problems, though he has done a little of that. Building upon what already is Christian teaching on creation, Laudato si consists mostly of a call to live with respect to the environment as a Christian. In other words, in right relationship with God.

The rupture which began in Genesis has become so great that it threatens the earth on a global scale and especially the poor of the world. Perhaps more damaging, however, is that it has become so engrained that we do not see the broken relationship in our daily lives, especially our public life.

Our relationships with God, others, and the environment should be an integral, not secondary, part of our economic and public life. Environmental concerns should not viewed as just limits on what we can do.

This is especially true with agriculture. John Cuddeback, a professor at Christendom College puts it this way: “Stewardship issues are not something that place an exterior limit on agriculture, as though we were to say: ‘Do your farming, but remember to be careful and don’t damage the earth too much.’ Rather, true farming is intrinsically environmental and stewardship minded.”

Nor would it be right to say: “I’ve followed all the laws and I’m just doing what I need to do to make a profit” or “we have to do it this way to compete.”

Here is where care for creation and relationship with others relates to mercy. Remember: mercy is about going beyond what required. Certainly, laws should protect people and the environment from practices harmful or detrimental to both natural resources and the common good. The political and legal system, however, often falls short. Mercy calls us to always include the common good and the environmental good, even if doing so is not required by the law and even if it means that others will have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

In its testimony against legislation to weaken the state’s anti-corporate farming law — legislation being put to the voters in June — the North Dakota Catholic Conference noted that Pope Francis has called the relationship a farmer has with the land as like the relationship that exists with in a family.

The same principle applies to all economic and social activity. As human persons we are called to be in relationship with God, others, and creation in all that we do. As agents of mercy, we are called to go beyond what is required, just as we do for family.

New Column: The Co-Op Pope

Money at the service of life can be managed in the right way by cooperatives, on condition that it is a real cooperative where capital does not have command over men but men over capital. - Pope Francis

Question: What do Pope Francis and North Dakotans have in common? Answer: A fondness for cooperatives.

North Dakotans are familiar with cooperatives. The Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives at North Dakota State University estimates that there exist over 500 cooperatives in the state. We have cooperatives involving agriculture, telecommunications, financing, insurance, electricity, and more. The state has often been called the nation’s leader in the cooperative movement.

Like many legal and economic developments, cooperatives often sprung from necessity. Farmers, for example, sometimes had to join forces to reduce purchasing costs. At other times, producers needed to work together to have sufficient bargaining power when dealing with monopolies like the railroads. Cooperatives have also allowed members to access needed resources for investment.

Cooperatives offer local control, direct ownership, and equitable distribution of the fruits of labor. Interestingly, support for these principles, and cooperatives themselves, are found in Catholic teaching.

Although often mislabeled as a document on climate change, Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si is really an exploration of what the Christian faith means for the economy. It is worth noting that cooperatives are praised twice in the document, once in relation to agricultural cooperatives and again concerning energy cooperatives — two segments of the cooperative model with which North Dakotans are familiar.

Pope Francis has repeatedly hailed cooperatives. Speaking to an audience in Rome, the pope said: “Cooperatives should continue to be the motor that raises and develops the weakest part of our communities and civil society.” In Bolivia he spoke of how he has seen how cooperatives “were able to create work where there were only crumbs of an idolatrous economy.” He has often spoke about how he developed an enthusiasm for cooperatives when, as a teenager, he heard his father talk about “Christian cooperativism.” Indeed, Paul Hazen of the U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council, has dubbed Francis, the “co-op pope.”

Pope Francis, however, is not unique when it comes to expressing the Catholic preference for cooperative models of ownership and production. Catholic monasteries have operated as cooperatives for centuries. Cooperatives got a significant boost in popularity after Pope Leo XIII issued Rerum Novarum in 1891. It was the first “social encyclical” and rejected by unbridled capitalism and state socialism. Cooperatives provided an alternative. As Pope Francis puts it: cooperatives “are the concrete expression of the solidarity and subsidiarity that the social doctrine of the Church has always promoted between the person and the state.” Nearly ever pope since then, especially the last five, has promoted cooperatives as an alternative to systems where all the economic power is held by those who own the capital, rather than the workers, producers, or consumers.

Catholics have been putting the cooperative alternative into practice.The first credit union in the United States was founded by New Hampshire French-speaking Catholics in 1908. The world’s largest network of worker-owned cooperatives was started by a Catholic priest in Spain. Dorothy Day, one of the four “great Americans” mentioned by Pope Francis in his address to Congress, promoted and founded cooperatives in the United States as an alternative to communism and a form of uncaring, detached capitalism. Even today, Catholic bishops, aid organizations, and lay groups promote and create cooperatives around the world.

Several themes run throughout Scripture and the church’s social doctrine that make cooperative models and worker ownership appealing. As already noted, they can be an alternative between collectivism and individualism run amuck. They also represent ways to respect both solidarity and subsidiarity, stewardship of the land, the dignity of labor and workers, respect for private property and the universal destination of goods, and the ecological integrity Pope Francis discusses in Laudato si.

Cooperatives may not work in every situation. Pope Francis warns that cooperatives, like other types of ownership can succumb to the temptation to put profit before people and thus become “false cooperatives.” Nevertheless, our experience with cooperatives might place North Dakotans in a better position to help create what Pope Francis calls a “healing” “economy of honesty.”

Video Series on Catholic Social Teaching Launches with ‘Care for God’s Creation’

WASHINGTON— A video on “Care for God’s Creation” is the first of a seven-part series on Catholic Social Teaching, designed to be an introduction to this body of thought with notable Catholics reflecting on each of the teachings. The video release comes in conjunction with Pope Francis’ declaration of September 1 as a day of prayer for creation. The video series is co-sponsored by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“We received the earth as a garden,” says Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in the “Care for God’s Creation” video. “It would be very unfair if we pass on the earth as a wilderness.”
The videos will be released every three weeks in conjunction with notable events on the Church calendar, leading up to the kickoff of CRS’ Lenten program CRS Rice Bowl on Ash Wednesday 2016. The series will comprise seven short videos, each highlighting one of the seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching as recognized by USCCB:
  • Care for God’s Creation
  • Call to Family, Community, Participation
  • Life and Dignity of the Human Person
  • Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers
  • Solidarity
  • Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
  • Rights and Responsibilities
 “Catholic Social Teaching is at the core of why and how CRS performs its mission to serve the poorest of the poor and people in need at times of emergency,” said Carolyn Woo, CEO and president of CRS. “These teachings are embedded in our identity as employees and servants of God.”
“Care for each other and care for creation, what Pope Francis calls integral ecology, are at the heart of our witness as disciples of Jesus Christ. This series will help us put our faith into action,” said Jonathan Reyes, executive director of USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.
Cardinal Turkson, Woo and Fr. James Martin, SJ, editor at large for America Magazine, all appear in “Care for God’s Creation.” The series will also feature:  Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, archbishop of Manila and president of Caritas Internationalis; Jonathan Reyes; Lisa Hendey, founder of Catholicmom.com; Kerry Weber, managing editor, America Magazine; Helen M. Alvaré, JD professor of law, George Mason University; and Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. Operations for CRS.

Join Pope Francis in Day of Prayer for Preserving & Protecting God’s Creation

laudato siPope Francis is urging all Catholics to a first-ever “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” on September 1. The day will be highlighted by prayer and contemplation as Catholics consider how they might live in greater harmony with the environment. This call flows out of the Holy Father’s latest encyclical Laudato Si’ On Care For Our Common Home.

The pontiff is imploring all members of the Catholic Church to unite in three prayerful activities this Wednesday. These include: 1) thanking God for the “marvelous works” He has given us, 2) invoking His help in protecting creation, and 3) asking for His Divine Mercy in forgiving the sins we have committed against the environment. Pope Francis is also asking for the prayerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Francis of Assisi to assist the faithful with these three intentions.

You may also want to access the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ reflection aids at Prayers for the Care of Creation

Prayer of Petition
For the Care of Creation

O Lord, grant us the grace to respect and care for Your creation.
Lord, hear our prayer.

O Lord, bless all of your creatures as a sign of Your wondrous love.
Lord, hear our prayer.O Lord, help us to end the suffering of the poor and bring healing to all of your creation.
Lord, hear our prayer.

O Lord, help us to use our technological inventiveness to undo the damage we have done to Your creation and to sustain Your gift of nature.
Lord, hear our prayer.

Reflections for the Care of Creation

  • How are we called to care for God’s creation?
  • How may we apply our social teaching with its emphasis on the life and dignity of the human person, to the challenge of protecting the earth, our common home?
  • What can we in the Catholic community offer to the environmental movement, and what can we learn from it?
  • How can we encourage a serious dialogue in the Catholic community—in our parishes, schools, colleges, universities and other settings—on the significant ethical dimensions of the environmental crisis?

Labor Day Statement Focuses on Importance of Work in Building and Supporting Families

57Creating sufficient, decent work that honors the dignity of families is a necessary component of the challenge facing all Catholics, and it is the Catholic way, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami cited the importance of work in supporting families in the 2015 Labor Day statement, which drew on Pope Francis’ June encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’.

“We must not resign ourselves to a ‘new normal’ with an economy that does not provide stable work at a living wage for too many men and women,” Archbishop Wenski said. “We are in need of a profound conversion of heart at all levels of our lives.” Archbishop Wenski challenged Catholics to “recommit ourselves to our brothers and sisters around the world in the human family, and build systems and structures that nurture family formation and stability in our own homes and neighborhoods.”

Archbishop Wenski noted that even though work is meant for the sake of family, “Wage stagnation has increased pressures on families, as the costs of food, housing, transportation, and education continue to pile up.” He added that “the violation of human dignity is evident in exploited workers, trafficked women and children, and a broken immigration system that fails people and families desperate for decent work and a better life.”

Archbishop Wenski said that, in Laudato Si’, Pope Francis challenges people to see the connections between human labor, care for creation, and honoring the dignity of the “universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect.”

The full text of the 2015 Labor Day statement is available online.

English: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/labor-day-statement-2015.cfm

Spanish: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/declaracion-del-dia-del-trabajo-2015.cfm