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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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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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