Finally, we got a good sermon on the election and just what’s at stake. No more lumping of all the social justice issues as equal. No vague references to “proportionate reasons” for allowing the abortion holocaust to continue.
(The bulletin insert today could, as usual, be understood… or misunderstood, depending on whether or not you read the whole thing. It was a shortened (but not short) version of the USCCB document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” complete with the explanation that intrinsic evils include issues like “abortion and racism.” As if anyone’s running on a platform calling for the return of the Jim Crow laws. The flyer did say, however, that support of an intrinsic evil could disqualify a candidate from receiving the support of faithful Catholics. So, by that argument, while John McCain’s pro-life stances do not guarantee him a Catholic’s vote, Obama’s radically pro-abortion stances should disqualify him from receiving a Catholic’s vote. There were several explicit statements that abortion is always “morally wrong,” but they were somewhat lost among everything else.
One of my jobs in the Navy included trying to get 6,000 people on an aircraft carrier to obey the rules about e-mail use. I learned pretty quickly that it had better be short, to the point, and colorful if there was going to be any chance of the most likely offenders reading it (i.e. those who hadn’t read the three paragraph “E-mail Use Agreement” before signing that). If you’re going to produce a double-sided flyer in normal-sized type for distribution in church bulletins, then the large-type, bold-faced headings better get your message across… because many people are not going to read all the small print, as thorough and well-thought-out as it was. The flyer today is better than what we’ve gotten from the USCCB previously, but there is still room for improvement.)
I had begun to lose hope we’d hear anything at all.
For “Pro-Life Sunday”, we heard a sermon on “hope;” not a single mention of the hopelessness that leads to abortion and euthenasia, or even a clear refutation of a certain campaign’s abuse of Scripture quotes about hope (to be fair, there was maybe a tangential refutation). The following week, when Birthright was doing its annual fund drive, they were in the commons area, outside the main worship space, but not a single thing was said during mass to draw attention to the fund drive or Birthright’s work to provide support to women in unplanned pregnancies.
Today, however, was different. My ears perked up while Father was sending the kids off to Children’s Church. The kids all gather around the base of the altar, and the priest sends them off to their classrooms to talk about the readings at their own level. Some of our priests just send them off quickly (yes, I go to a very large parish, and we are blessed to have three priests assigned here). One priest, however, always takes time to stand among the kids and talk a little about what the theme of the readings are for the weekend. So, as he shushed the kids and tried to get them to listen, Father concluded that they should listen to their teachers and think specifically about how life is a gift from God.
The Gospel reading this weekend was the story of how the Pharisees were trying to trip Jesus up, so they sent their followers to ask Jesus whether or not it was lawful to pay the census tax. The problem was that the Romans required that their taxes be paid with Roman coins, which bore the image of Caesar. The Romans considered Caesar to be a god, which, of course, was not acceptable to the Jews, who were strictly monotheistic. So, if you have to implicitly condone idolatry by using the Roman coins, is it lawful to pay the tax? Jesus replies by asking the questioners for a Roman coin. “Whose image is this, and whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Then render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.”
The sermon made clear what, exactly, Father had in mind when he told the kids to remember that, “Life is a gift from God.” The coin, he said, was due back to Caesar; we all pay taxes to support various government functions. (And, at the same time, we should be careful not to put our “trust in princes.”)
People, however, are stamped with the “image and likeness of God.” Life belongs to God, not to the government. (Yes, Sen. Obama was right on one thing: it is “above my paygrade” to decide which innocent child should live and which should die.)
Father went on to explain that we can disagree on how best to fix health care, how best to create peace, how best to improve education… we all agree that those things are important. Abortion, however, is not an issue with a “middle ground.” Life is the root of all rights; dead people have no rights.
If we get everything else right and get abortion wrong… then we got it all wrong.
May God pour out His blessings on our faithful priests.