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The God That Failed

When I got off the train from work the other day, there werea couple of people sitting at a card table registering voters for the upcomingelection. I had to fight a sudden urgeto run as fast as I could in the opposite direction.

Ten years ago, I would have been those people behind thecard table. At this time in 1996, I was inNew Hampshiredoing GOTV work for the state AFL-CIO. Ispent two weeks eating cold pizza and doughnuts and telephoning as many unionmembers as I could

Politics was something I learned literally at my mothersknee. One of my earliest memories is mymother taking me to an envelope stuffing session at a campaign office. The day I turned 18, she slapped a voterregistration card into my hand and said fill this out. I eventually followed in her footsteps, andfrom 1988 through 2000, I dutifully volunteered for (or was assigned to) a campaignevery two years. For most of thatperiod, I lived in Washington, DC, where we followed pollresults the way that baseball fans follow box scores.

So what happened? There was no single cause. The deepening of my faith in my 20s led me tofeel a greater tension between some positions taken by my politicalpartypositions that at one time I had sharedand those of my Church. But I felt no attraction to the oppositioneither. I began to feel a sense ofpolitical homelessness that many Catholics seem to share today.

But it wasnt only that I had changed my mind on a fewthings. I was also growing increasinglydisenchanted with the way that politics was being practiced, and at my role inenabling that. Two decades of advocacyfor a variety of causes and candidates had turned me into a person who caredmore about winning than the truth. Ifound myself writing talking points I no longer believed in and finding ways todiscount evidence that didnt fit my preconceived worldview. Id become an ideologue and after a campaignwhere I was depressed after my candidate won,I realized that it was time to get out.

As Lemony Snicket might say, this is not a story with ahappy ending. Ive become so cynical andsuspicious of advocates for causes and candidates that sometimes Im paralyzedwith indecision. I tend to assume that Imnot getting the whole truth, and all too often I can find evidence to back thatup. Even when I see candidates andelected officials embracing the things I believe in, I tend to grimace. I am certainly not recommending this as amoral stance; its an emotional cul desac in which I seem to be caught.

In their statement Faithful Citizenship, the U.S.bishops argue that participation in the political process is a moralobligation. This may be true, but thereare moral dangers here too. You can getso caught up with a cause, a candidate, or a party that you start shaving smallbits off the truth and sanding down the sharp edges of the Gospel.

In an election where issues of great moralimportabortion, war, torture, poverty, marriageare at stake, it may seem absurdto suggest that there is something more important than who wins this Novemberor how these issues are dealt with in the months to come. But there is. First and foremost, we need to be faithful and we need to betruthful. We need to preach the fullnessof the Gospel, even ifperhaps especially ifit embarrasses our comrades andgives comfort to our opponents. We needto remain committed to the search for truth, even if the truth we discoverundermines our arguments. We need totrust enough in eternal victory to risk temporal defeat.

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In his frontpiece in the current America, Fr. Drew Christiansen indicates the hard lessons he learned about politics over the years: perception "is" reality, loyalty counts more than morality, and symbolism trumps reasoned argument. He is partucularly disturbed with how easily his fellow Americans are manipulated and disheartened by the Administration's Military Commission's Act.My question here would be whether he and our presenter were merely naive years ago or is the problem how much politics have changed?Surely we were more idealistic years ago, though we have not necessarily become less caring of God's word. But the belnding of religion and politics has been more about winning than the values at base.It was easier for this to occur because we have lost much of our sense of community and allowed the notion of the common good to be questioned.Because the idea of that common good is central to Faithful Citizenship, it should be a primary key for approaching the tangled world of religion and politics - it asks us to think about whether our take on issues ar really driven by our philosophical l;eanings instead of our faith. It asks us not to let symbols trump reasoned argument but to put our morality above being on point.

Some Catholics are fed up and are doing something about it. http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkzJmZ..., you are so spot on. Abortion is political not moral. The neocons are for war and the death penalty. Archbisops Meyer's speech is a flagrant abuse.We have to stay away from being aligned with a particular party.

40 million dead babies is not moral? How many more until it becomes so? 50 million? 100 million? Please advise so I will know when to pay attention. Can I still pray in the meantime? Thanks for your help, Fr. Mazella.

Diogenes had some words on the "Common Good" voter guidelines.http://www.cwnews.com/offtherecord/offtherecord.cfm?task=singledisplay&r...

Mr. Mazzella,No one is asking you to align with a particular party. But your statement that abortion is political, not moral is specious and fallacious. You cannot call yourself Catholic without recognizing the evil of abortion. Just to say, as you do, that the neocons support war and the death penalty, both of which involve prudential judgments, unlike abortion, shows that you have not the slightest understanding of Catholic theology.

Who's Diogenes?

Robert said:"... we have...allowed the notion of the common good to be questioned."Three things:1) Who's the "we" who have "allowed" the notion of the common good to be questioned?2) In a democracy we have the constitutional right to ask questions. No one has the right to not "allow" anyone to ask questions.3) Who gets to define "the common good"?

First, when I said that the notion of the common good was questioned, it meant just that -vivz some Catholics (mainly on the right) have questioned the notion there is such a thing. Of course, anyone can question anything, but having a right doesn't make it right.How delightful that we have semi-anonymous mlj citing Diogenes -that clearly is in line with the anti-common good.Diogenes is not talking about the Bishop's statement, but clearly he's an estimable companion of Bernard Law who battered poor Bernandin and the "whole cloth" argument. I would hope Diogenes would join Bernard in Rome, for, from where I sit, he's devoid of insight on the American scene.In our ecumenical discusion group here back when (before this electin time and all the donkey snot connected with it) we thought that empathy was necessary to appreciate the common good -clearly Diogenes in writing about the "whole cloth garbage" is lacking therin.I submit a serious discussion of the topic should start with Fr, Bryan Hehir's book of a couple of years ago on the topic. It might answer some questions.t,

Mr. Nunz,Cardinal Bernardin proposed the "seamless garment" argument which was corrected by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2004 in his "Worthiness to Receive Communion" document.

Something in this post struck me about the changing context of political involvement, in how we imagine truth, discernment, and prudence. "I tend to assume that Im not getting the whole truth, and all too often I can find evidence to back that up." We now live in a world, where political rhetoric stands out as a special class of communication.rather than something we wrestle within to find the most appropriate response to a given situation. It is purely instrumental language, aimed at achieving a desired result. Of course, on so many things, there is no neutral, objective truth to be found, but we _imagine_ the truth is out there. If only we could read the whole internet.As de Certeau noted about television viewers, their sense of truth is based on an imagined other space from which corrective truth would come, and since it doesnt, what TV is saying must be true. This applies today in the inverse, there's always an other voice saying the information itself is spun. It seems to me all of this deprives us of a sense of political discernment, of prudence; of thinking and discerning through debate. The results are obvious. When truth is extrinsic to argument which is understood as purely instrumental, we get:-polarizationtwo sides that simply cant argue with one another.-any attempt at returning complexity to political decisions is derided as nothing more than fostering confusion for partisan advantage.-winner take all approaches to policy, where the other side is viewed as beyond rational appeal-despair of political involvement, which Peters post seems to approach at times; and which many voters, especially young one's seem to be embracing.

Actually Janice, if your theology was consistent you would insist that all Catholics who practice birth control should not receive communion As a result there will be merely 20% or less of present Catholics left in the church. This is nothing new as it is Neuhaus and Weigel who tout this as the "truce of 1968." Don't yield but insist that all contraceptive Catholics fess up and stop receiving communion as they have in record numbers since the Second Vatican Council.When this confrontation happens Weigel and Neuhaus, etc. will be excommunicated. Then Catholics can get down to observing personally Matthew 25: 31-46 as it will no longer be fashionable to tell others what to do.

Mr. Mazzella,You made (another) incorrect assumption. I DO think that Catholics who use birth control should not receive communion. Birth control is against Church teaching.Where did you get the notion that people who insist that Catholics who use contraception are good Catholics? From your "reading" of the "signs of the times?"

Peter's post struck a lot of chords with me. I was raised to believe that the UMWA and the Democratic Party could pretty much solve all the problems of the world. It didn't take more than a scant year as a reporter on the local and state political beats to blow those delusions away. Politics is politics, and neither party has a monopoly on hypocrisy, stupidity or weasel-wording. What was even more astounding were the rationales people gave for their behavior when they were caught out in their own actions. One politician, now dead, was arrested for soliciting prostitutes. A local party aparatchik defended him by saying, "Now you have to understand, he has a retarded son at home." How that explained the man's need for paid sex was beyond me, but it somehow made sense in political circles because I heard it more than once.While I do not have the faith in politics I did years ago, there's no denying that politics shapes the world, and we all have to live with the consequences. So it troubles me when Catholics abstain from voting entirely in hopes that some acceptably moral individual will decide to run. It seems to me that a better alternative is to let candidates know that they have your reluctant support, and then to keep dogging them and letting them know if and when you change your allegiance and why. People tell me this is naive, but it's no more futile, certainly, than the rants people go off on over coffee or lunch. This election year, I've gotten real sick of the complaining, so I hand out biz cards with the e-mails of most of the candidates on them. I give friends and relatives 10 minutes of political rant time, and then I give them a card and tell them to tell the pols, not me.

I find it impossible to believe in or to put my hopes in any political party. At the same time I recognize that it is irresponsible to decline to vote for the candidate, among those who have a chance of being elected, who in my best judgment, on balance, represents the lesser evil. Does any one have a better idea?

Mrs. Kraus, You miss my point. I am saying that you should insist to the bishops that Catholics who use birth control should not receive communion.Right now the bishops say that you should go to confession and then receive with the intention (ha ha) of not practicing birth control again.This is called "handling it in the internal forum." You should insist that this hypocritical practice cease and that the truce of 1968 (look it up) should be erased. Priests should be excommunicated latae sententia if they give absolution on this.

" Cardinal Bernardin proposed the "seamless garment" argument which was corrected by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2004 in his "Worthiness to Receive Communion" document. "Well! I guess Joe B was put in HIS place by Joe R. Service the cheeky bugger right.And notice well that I used the term "bugger" and not "buggerer." My name is not Dolan.

" Cardinal Bernardin proposed the "seamless garment" argument which was corrected by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2004 in his "Worthiness to Receive Communion" document. "OOPS .. this should have read:Well! I guess Joe B was put in HIS place by Joe R. Serves the cheeky bugger right.And notice well that I used the term "bugger" and not "buggerer." My name is not Dolan.