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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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