Of the Huffington Post, North Dakota, Catholic News & Elections

Today, I learned of this article at the Huffington Post with the blaring headline:

North Dakota Senate Race: Bismarck Bishop David Kagan Said To Write Letter To Influence Voters

If you read the article you’ll find it detailing Diocese of Bismarck Bishop David Kagan’s embargoed letter to the faithful of his diocese instructing them to vote according to their well-formed consciences.  Bishop Kagan is also currently serving as apostolic administrator of Fargo. The HuffPo piece details a few snippets of the letter but Bishop Kagan’s entire letter (with some emphasis added that was not the Bishop’s) is reproduced in full in a media advisory released by North Dakota State Senator Tim Mathern. Out of respect for the Bishop’s embargo of the letter I am deliberately choosing not to reproduce or link to the letter here.

If you take the time to read the version of the letter as it stands in Senator Mathern’s advisory (and remembering that the Bishop’s actual letter remains embargoed), you will find a spiritual shepherd instructing his flock. The letter opens with a Year of Faith reminder to participate in our civic duty to vote with informed consciences. It quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church and closes with a quote from Blessed John Paul II’s Christifideles Laici. The letter does not name political candidates by name, but addresses life issues which are of vital import to Catholics.

Given my desire to respect Bishop Kagan’s embargo, I am not going to reprint the letter here. I also hope that all of you will join me in praying for him and for the faithful across the Dioceses of Bismarck and Fargo. But truly, we all need to be praying at this time, and informing ourselves as we prepare to make important electoral decisions. I do also want to point you to this video distributed by the diocese about a week ago which answers the idea of legislators being “personally opposed” but not wishing to impose their beliefs on others. Bishop Kagan’s comments are clearly directed to enlighten the faithful:

The Dash Report: “Addressing the ‘I won’t impose my beliefs on others’ mentality” – 10.17.12 from Bismarck Diocese on Vimeo.

In closing, I thought I’d ask if YOUR diocese has given any written or verbal directives with respect to the elections. Do you welcome such directives and will they make any difference to you when you vote this year?


About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of CatholicMom.com and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at LisaHendey.com and connect with her at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

  • http://sfomom.blogspot.com Barb

    In the Diocese of Trenton, NJ we have heard nothing.

    • lisahendey

      Barb, I’m wondering if I ask this question again after this weekend — one of the last Sundays before the election — if the answer will be different. Thanks for chiming in.

  • Kate Daneluk

    Thanks for this Lisa. They are really tying the Bishops hands. They aren’t allowed to specifically endorse a candidate, but when some candidates throw around the Church’s name as if they speak with authority or directly attack the Church with legislation, the bishops need to be able to point out the policies that Catholics are expected to support at the polls. Not the bishop’s fault if they are so clearly espoused with policies that oppose the Church! This is dangerously bordering on censurship and propaganda in their attempt to control the Church hierarchy with a law meant to keep us free.

    • lisahendey

      Thanks for chiming in Kate. Have you seen directives in your diocese?

  • dorisk8s

    Just to pray for the right to life…no specific directives…I don’t think they will this week either.

  • http://www.thepracticingcatholic.com Lisa Schmidt

    Here in my diocese (Des Moines), the Iowa Catholic Conference, which operates under the direction of the bishops, has been issuing statements, directives, guidelines, etc. Our bishop has been quite vocal – no formal statements that I’m aware of (yet), but plenty of discussion on his weekly radio show and op ed pieces about religious liberty and life issues as they relate to this upcoming election.

    • lisahendey

      Thanks Lisa — I wish we had some kind of interactive map where we could put pins into the dioceses where Bishops have formally taught, instructed or written on this…

  • Leslie Rohrbacker

    The video is interesting and I appreciate the argument. But what if the rationale is really not that you are declining to impose your beliefs on others, but rather declining to impose your theological beliefs on a secular government? I think that’s an important intellectual and Constitutional distinction. Also, I find it interesting that the video mentions abortion and euthanasia, but not capital punishment.

  • Scott Mathern-Jacobson

    The Bishops letter echoes words used by GOP advertisements to describe a certain Democratic candidate. In the letter the words were paired with a “Do not vote for this candidate” message. This kind of obvious partisanship was one of the reasons Senator Mathern tried to approach the Bishop with his concerns. The Bishop would not even speak to him.

    By the way, Senator Mathern, in over 25 years as a State Senator, has a 100% pro-life voting record.

    • lisahendey

      Scott, I thank you for taking the time to come and share a comment with more information on this situation. Not being from the area, I definitely do not know the players involved. I did want to take this opportunity to discuss what is being done in dioceses around the country. Thank you very much for commenting.

    • charles

      The mere fact that the letter restates Catholic teaching that a person should not vote for candidate just because he or she is likable and some PAC or party uses the word “like” in their ad does not create a connection. What a stretch . . .

  • Tony

    To the commenter above: All law imposes; no exception. There is nothing in the Constitution, absolutely nothing, to suggest that people cannot attempt to persuade other citizens to act politically according to the directives of any faith. You should take some time to read the writings of the people who were politically active at that time — their speeches in the House and Senate, their public broadsides, their treatises, and so forth. Secularists now just want religious people to shut up — not because secularists have good arguments, but because they don’t. They have nothing.

  • http://www.snoringscholar.com Sarah Reinhard

    Nothing in Columbus, Ohio, and come to think of it: I haven’t included anything in my parish bulletin either! We did do quite a promotion of 40 days for life, though. (I’m already laying out the Nov. 10th bulletin. Too late for the Nov. 4th bulletin for us. Yipes.)

    So, that said, this is an interesting discussion. I’m especially intrigued that the Constitution doesn’t say anything about persuasion about political candidates.

    I’m pretty non-political in terms of wanting to just crawl under a log and delete all commercials and such. It’s getting more and more to feeling like there is no choice, just bad and worse.

    That said, I get the feeling, every so often, that maybe I should pay attention to politics more closely. And then when I do, I become impossible to live with in my own head.

    Ahhh, well. At least there is here. ;)

  • Miss Marple

    We were given the instructions for the Novena for Religious Liberty. Also we got a note from our parish priest in our parish bulletin which explained our duties for voting with an informed conscience and pointed us to web sites to check on candidates’ positions on the issues.

    This is the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which just received a new bishop so we haven’t received any word from him yet.

  • Leslie Rohrbacker

    I could not resist one last comment. Of course the Constitution does not preclude persuasion; that is protected free speech under the First Amendment. The First Amendment also protects the free exercise of religion — the basis for the Church’s objection over forced subsidies of contraception — and prohibits “excessive entanglement” of a secular government with a particular religion. Persuading on behalf of a political candidate presupposes that you wish that candidate to enact certain laws, in this case, consistent with religious beliefs. It was the constitutional implications of the latter to which I referred in my earlier comment.

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  • http://www.westchesterinstitute.net Daniel

    If the bishop’s letter crosses some imaginary IRS line, that is for a prosecutor and a jury to decide. If it is close, to the “likeable line” so be it. It certainly rattled some and that was the purpose of the letter.

    I for one, are happy to see the shepherds of the various dioceses finally understand that the crozier (shepherd’s staff) is for not only gathering the lambs but beating the coyotes – and you can tell the difference because the coyotes whine when they are struck.

    At least a dozen dioceses have formal letters and this one (Bismark) is one of the more benign ones. Thank God Mathern lives in the bubble that is ND – in Philly, Springfield, Peoria he would have been apoplectic. The bishops there played the sin and hell card (both of which, the Franciscans will confirm are real).

    A vote for a Christian is an authentic exercise of conscience. Since the act is deliberately chosen, grave sin is indeed a possibility, which is the universal warning. Following a corrupt conscience – one contrary to the Church one claim’s adherence to is dangerous.

    It is fantastic that the B16 bishops have finally found their voice. As well, a law motivated by a religious value is equally as valid as one motivated by a humanistic or atheistic one. Most laws are Judea-Christian in origin already, and the Civil Rights and Anti-Slavery Movements were clearly religious in origin.