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Let's Be Civil View Comments
By Judy Ball

COARSE LANGUAGE, extreme rhetoric, and highly charged exchanges—Nick Cafardi, Catholic lawyer and voter, is tired of them. The professor of law at Duquesne, a Catholic university in Pittsburgh, doesn’t claim to have a simple, surefire solution to the negativity in the U.S. political system. But he does offer an intriguing, if challenging, path to get there: holiness, through a fully informed conscience.

“It is our job to be holy, to be holy in everything that we do, including when we vote,” says Dr. Cafardi, who is the editor of Voting and Holiness: Catholic Perspectives on Political Participation (Paulist Press, 2011) and writes the introductory chapter. Other leading Catholic thinkers, teachers and writers contribute essays that explore the connection between politics and religion.

St. Anthony Messenger turned to Dr. Cafardi to ask how we got to the troubling state we’re in and how we can surmount it. In particular, we wanted to know how Catholics and other well-meaning citizens can play a constructive role in the way they go through the 2012 campaigns—local, state, and, most important, national.

Though he is no political junkie (“I just follow the broad strokes”), Dr. Cafardi, 63, is an informed and committed Catholic who is eager to put the focus on the positive and to “get beyond campaign ads that seek to destroy the reputation, the character, and the good name of candidates. We need to advance the political discourse in our country. We cannot live in armed camps on either side of a great divide. Sometimes it feels we’re headed that way,” he laments.

Dr. Cafardi holds two legal degrees: one in canon law from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, the other a civil law degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Today, as a faculty member at Duquesne, he teaches courses such as Family Law as well as Taxexempt Organizations and Canon Law. He also serves as president of the faculty senate.

At the invitation of the U.S. bishops, he was an original member of its National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People and served as its chair (2004-5). He is the author of Before Dallas (Paulist Press, 2008), a history of the child sexual-abuse crisis in the Church in the United States. He is often called on to represent archdioceses, dioceses, and religious orders across the nation as a canon lawyer.

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Judy Ball is a widely published freelance writer and editor from Cincinnati, Ohio. She has an MEd in guidance and counseling and an MA in humanities from Xavier University in Cincinnati.

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Catherine of Siena: The value Catherine makes central in her short life and which sounds clearly and consistently through her experience is complete surrender to Christ. What is most impressive about her is that she learns to view her surrender to her Lord as a goal to be reached through time. 
<p>She was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa and grew up as an intelligent, cheerful and intensely religious person. Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband. Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation. </p><p>She entered the Dominican Third Order at 18 and spent the next three years in seclusion, prayer and austerity. Gradually a group of followers gathered around her—men and women, priests and religious. An active public apostolate grew out of her contemplative life. Her letters, mostly for spiritual instruction and encouragement of her followers, began to take more and more note of public affairs. Opposition and slander resulted from her mixing fearlessly with the world and speaking with the candor and authority of one completely committed to Christ. She was cleared of all charges at the Dominican General Chapter of 1374. </p><p>Her public influence reached great heights because of her evident holiness, her membership in the Dominican Third Order, and the deep impression she made on the pope. She worked tirelessly for the crusade against the Turks and for peace between Florence and the pope </p><p>In 1378, the Great Schism began, splitting the allegiance of Christendom between two, then three, popes and putting even saints on opposing sides. Catherine spent the last two years of her life in Rome, in prayer and pleading on behalf of the cause of Urban VI and the unity of the Church. She offered herself as a victim for the Church in its agony. She died surrounded by her "children" and was canonized in 1461. </p><p>Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church. In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy. Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila doctors of the Church in 1970. Her spiritual testament is found in <i>The Dialogue</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The gates of hell cannot withstand the power of heaven. Gates of sin melt in the presence of saving grace; gates of death fall in the presence of eternal life; gates of falsehood collapse in the presence of living truth; gates of violence are flattened in the presence of divine love. These are the tools with which Christ has equipped his Church.

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