by Most Rev. John T. Folda, Bishop of Fargo
“This election will determine the course of our nation’s life for the next decade or more. So, as people of faith, we should pray for our nation, and we should pray deeply before we vote.” – Bishop John Folda, Diocese of Fargo
Over the last months, I have heard numerous people, many of them Catholic, express frustration at the current state of our nation’s political life. We will make big decisions next month about the future leadership of the United States and of our state, and many are unhappy with the choices before us.
I could list a litany of flaws in each of our presidential candidates, but that is being done on a daily basis in the media. I won’t repeat what we have already heard or read many, many times over. This should remind us, however, that there is no perfect candidate, and there is no perfect political party. No one candidate or party fully represents the Church’s thinking on issues of public life.
For this and many other reasons, the Church does not endorse or identify with any particular candidate or party. To do so would limit our freedom to address and engage all people of all political persuasions.
But the Church does raise its voice on issues of public policy because the Church has a responsibility to promote human dignity, the care of creation, and the common good. For that matter, every Catholic and every citizen shares in that responsibility. This is why Catholics should be well informed and active in the public life of our community and our nation. Each of us has a contribution to make to the wellbeing of our fellow citizens and future generations.
As Catholics and as citizens, we also have a responsibility to exercise the right to vote and to do what we can to work for the common good. The realm of politics can be frustrating and disappointing, but it is that place where each of us can make a stand for what is right and good. As I have written before, there is a growing effort in our society to silence the public voice of believers and to thwart their involvement in the public life of the nation. All the more reason, then, to exercise our right to speak and act in accord with our most deeply held beliefs.
The issues in public life and in this year’s election are increasingly complex, but fortunately, there are good resources to help us as we prepare to vote in November. The North Dakota Catholic Conference, which acts on behalf of the Catholic bishops of North Dakota in areas of public policy and social teaching, has issued “Your Faith, Your Vote.” This resource offers pertinent questions to ask candidates regarding their positions on key issues, like the right to life, religious freedom, family life and care for the poor. It also gives us principles to follow as we discern how to cast our vote. “Your Faith, Your Vote” can be found on the NDCC website at ndcatholic.org.
The Catholic Bishops of the United States have also reissued their document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” (available at usccb.org). It too contains important principles of Catholic teaching that we should consider when voting, including the dignity of the human person, the common good, solidarity, and the formation of conscience.
The role of conscience is especially important in carrying out our public responsibilities. Conscience is a judgment of reason that helps us to recognize and seek what is good, and reject what is evil. As Pope Francis states, “This does not mean following my own ego or doing what I am interested in or what I find convenient or what I like” (Angelus address, June 30, 2013). We have an obligation to form our consciences; it does not just happen.
Conscience formation requires openness to the truth as it is found in Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Church. It may be easier to base our voting choices on political ads or party affiliations, but rather than vote as members of this or that party, we should vote as Catholics. That means we submit our lives in faith to Jesus Christ and actually believe and act on what the Catholic faith holds to be true. A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote in favor of a program or law that contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. But when voting for a person to hold office, one may morally choose even a candidate with imperfect behavior or principles, if there are no alternatives.
This can be done, positively, by seeking the greater good rather than the “lesser evil.” A faithful Catholic may also choose not to vote for a particular office if major candidates are unacceptable. This also can be an intentional act for the good in exceptional circumstances.
As responsible voters, we need to look at all the issues, but we must recognize that not all issues are equal in weight or priority. The Church even tells us that some principles are non-negotiable. The right to life is foundational to all other rights, and it cannot be counted simply as one issue among many. The integrity of marriage and family life are written in the law of God, and cannot be subject to political whim or expediency. The Second Vatican Council tells us that religious liberty is a fundamental right of the human person, and must be protected.
There are other issues of grave importance, like care for the poor and the elderly, the proper treatment of visitors and immigrants, and the decision of whether to go to war. These too are rooted in our faith, for Jesus told us, “Whatever you did to these least ones, you did to me.” There are, of course, many legitimate ways to serve and to care for those in need, so there can be legitimate diversity of opinion among Catholics about how to address these and many other issues.
This election will determine the course of our nation’s life for the next decade or more. So, as people of faith, we should pray for our nation, and we should pray deeply before we vote. Voting is serious business, and even when we are faced with imperfect choices, we cannot leave this responsibility to others, who might not share our faith in the divine law of God.
We must ask God for the wisdom and courage to choose what is right and good, what will be best for the people of this great country. The right to vote and to have a say in our nation’s governance was hard-earned and should not be taken for granted. Many people around the world would make great sacrifices to have such a right. Let us then be faithful citizens and do what we can to promote the Gospel of Christ and the common good for all our brothers and sisters.
Diocese of Fargo, which serves more than 72,000 Catholics and 132 parishes and missions in the eastern half of North Dakota. The Holy See made the announcement today at noon in Rome, 5 a.m. Fargo time.
Bishop-elect Folda will be the eighth Bishop of Fargo. He succeeds Bishop Samuel Aquila, who was named Archbishop of Denver on May 29, 2012. Bishop David Kagan, Bishop of Bismarck, has served as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Fargo since Archbishop Aquila was installed in Denver on July 18, 2012. He continues as Apostolic Administrator until the episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Folda, which is expected to take place in the second half of June.
A priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., Bishop-elect Folda currently serves as Rector of St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, Neb.
Bishops who previously served the Diocese of Fargo include: Bishop John Shanley, 1889-1909; Bishop James O’Reilly, 1910-1934; Bishop Aloisius J. Muench, 1935-1959; Bishop Leo F. Dworschak, 1960-1970; Bishop Justin A. Driscoll, 1970-1984; Bishop James S. Sullivan, 1985- 2002; and Bishop Samuel J. Aquila, 2002-2012.
Biography of Bishop-Elect John Thomas Folda
John Thomas Folda, 51, was born on Aug. 8, 1961, in Omaha, Neb., the son of Mabel and the late James Folda. He is the youngest of three children. His brother, James, and his wife, Paula, live in Brookfield, Wis. His sister, Mary, and her husband, Karl, live in Adams, Neb. They have four children and one grandchild.
Bishop-elect Folda grew up in Omaha, where he attended St. Thomas More Grade School and Archbishop Ryan High School. After graduating from high school in 1979, he attended the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, where he studied architecture and electrical engineering.
In August 1983, Bishop-elect Folda entered seminary formation for the Diocese of Lincoln. He attended St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and graduated in 1985 with a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy. He continued his theological studies at St. Charles Seminary, where he earned a master of divinity degree in 1988 and a master of arts in theology in 1989.
On May 27, 1989, Bishop-elect Folda was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Lincoln by Bishop Glennon Patrick Flavin. For two years, he served as parochial vicar at Cathedral of the Risen Christ, and was a teacher of religion at Pius X High School in Lincoln.
In 1991, Bishop-elect Folda was sent to Rome, where he earned a licentiate in sacred theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. Upon returning to the Diocese of Lincoln in 1993, he was assigned as pastor of St. Paulinus Church in Syracuse and Holy Trinity Church in Avoca. He was also guidance counselor and teacher of religion at Lourdes Central Catholic Schools in Nebraska City. During this time, he also served as assistant to the Vicar General of the Diocese of Lincoln.
In 1995, Bishop-elect Folda was appointed pastor of St. Leo Church in Palmyra and St. Martin Church in Douglas, while continuing to work in the diocesan offices. In 1997, he was appointed diocesan Director of Religious Education, Co-Vicar for Religious, Master of Ceremonies, and Censor Librorum. He was also appointed Delegate of the Bishop to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and continues as vice president of the Board of Directors. Bishop-elect Folda has been a member of the Board of the Nebraska Catholic Conference since 1993. He has also been a member of the Presbyteral Council, College of Consultors, Finance Council, Priests’ Continuing Education Committee, Catholic Social Services Board and the Ethics Committee of St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center.
In 1999, Bishop-elect Folda was appointed rector of St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, Neb. He served as president of the National Association of College Seminaries from 2008 to 2010. On Oct. 10, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI named him “Chaplain of His Holiness” with the title of Monsignor.
On April 8, 2013, Pope Francis appointed him Bishop of Fargo.
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- About the Diocese of Lincoln
- About St. Gregory the Great Seminary
- Biography of Bishop-Elect John Thomas Folda (PDF)
- Archbishop Aquila’s statement about Bishop-elect Folda (PDF)
- Bishop Conley’s statement about Bishop-elect Folda (PDF)
- How bishops are appointed (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)
Effective July 18, 2012, as approved by Pope Benedict XVI, the Most Rev. David Kagan, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Bismarck, has been named apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Fargo due to the appointment of the Most Rev. Samuel Aquila as archbishop of the Denver Archdiocese.
In a statement concerning his interim appointment, Bishop Kagan said, “It is a sign of the high regard which our Holy Father has for the Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Fargo, and for all that has been accomplished by Archbishop Aquila with the good cooperation of the clergy, religious and laity, that he has made this provision for the diocese in this time of transition and growth.”
During any “sede vacante” (vacant see), the period of time between bishops, one of two scenarios takes place. Either the pope appoints an apostolic administrator, as he did with the appointment of Bishop Kagan, or a “College of Consultors,” a committee made up of diocesan priests, elects a priest as administrator to lead a diocese until a permanent bishop is named.
The apostolic nuncio – the pope’s representative and ambassador in the United States – along with the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops will begin the search for Fargo’s new bishop and present their thoughts directly to the Holy Father, who makes the final determination. The process typically takes between eight months to a year or more.
During this interim time, Bishop Kagan has been entrusted with the authority of the diocesan bishop to teach, sanctify and lead Catholics residing within Eastern North Dakota.
Bishop Kagan was appointed to be the seventh bishop of the Bismarck Diocese on October 19, 2011, and was ordained and installed as its bishop on November 30, 2011. Prior to arriving in Bismarck, he had served in numerous pastoral capacities, including 17 years as Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Rockford, Ill.
The Catholic faith teaches that bishops serve as successors to the 12 apostles who were called and ordained to this ministry by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. They serve as shepherds of the flock, and – like the apostles – have a special call to teach, govern, and sanctify, or make holy through prayer and sacrifice. The bishop is pastor of his diocese and maintains unity with the Holy Father, thus playing the indispensable role of unifying the various churches in the one Universal Church.
Pope Names Bishop Aquila Of Fargo, North Dakota As Archbishop Of Denver, Bishop Malone Of Portland, Maine As Bishop Of Buffalo, Accepts Resignation Of Bishop Kmiec Of Buffalo
WASHINGTON—Pope Benedict XVI has named Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota, 61, as archbishop of Denver; Bishop Richard J. Malone of Portland, Maine, 66, as bishop of Buffalo, New York; and accepted the resignation of 75-year-old Bishop Edward U. Kmiec from the pastoral governance of the Buffalo Diocese.
The appointments and resignation were publicized in Washington, May 29, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop Aquila succeeds Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., who was named archbishop of Philadelphia last July. Samuel Joseph Aquila was born September 24, 1950, in Burbank, California. He studied at St. Thomas Seminary, Denver, where he earned a master’s degree in theology, and at San Anselmo University, Rome, where he earned a licentiate in theology. He was ordained a priest for the Denver Archdiocese in 1976. In the archdiocese he served as director of the Office of Liturgy, secretary for Catholic education, the first director of the St. John Vianney Seminary, and chief executive officer of Our Lady of the New Advent Theological Institute. He was named coadjutor bishop of Fargo in 2001 and bishop of Fargo in 2002.
Richard Joseph Malone was born in Salem, Massachusetts, March 19, 1946, and ordained a priest for the Boston Archdiocese in 1972. He holds a bachelor of theology degree, a master of divinity degree, and a master of theology in biblical studies from St. John Seminary School of Theology, a doctor of theology degree in religion and education from Boston University, and a licentiate in sacred theology from Weston Jesuit School of Theology.
Bishop Malone was named an auxiliary bishop of Boston in 2000, and bishop of Portland in 2004. Prior to his ordination as a bishop, he taught theology at the archdiocesan seminary, had served as director of campus ministry at Harvard University, director of the archdiocesan office of ecumenical and interreligious affairs, director of religious education and secretary for education.
Edward Urban Kmiec was born in Trenton, New Jersey, June 4, 1936. He studied at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, the Gregorian University, Rome, and the North American College. He was ordained a priest in 1961. He was named auxiliary bishop of Trenton in 1982, bishop of Nashville, Tennessee, in 1992, and bishop of Buffalo in 2004.
The Denver Archdiocese has a population of 3,299,911people, with 541,419, or 16 percent, of them Catholic. It includes 25 counties across 40,154 square miles in northern Colorado.
The Buffalo diocese has 1,527,470 persons, with 633,550, or 41 percent, of them Catholic. It includes eight counties across 6,357 square miles in western New York State.