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opinion/commentary View Comments

Open Letter to Congress
By The Editor
Source: Our Sunday Visitor
Published: Tuesday, November 23, 2010
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Whatever party or candidate one supported during the recent midterm elections, what is consistently more amazing than any specific outcome is that we continue to transfer power in our democracy without resorting to guns or coups or rigged elections. This is something quite remarkable in the course of human history, and we should not lose our appreciation for it.

At the same time, the actual practice of democracy sometimes takes a tough stomach to watch. The grotesque exaggerations, the scaremongering, the ridiculous promises and the pandering are all part of the process these days, along with lots and lots and lots of cash to spread these messages around.

For some years now, Americans have been oscillating between ideological extremes. The electorate increasingly tilts independent, and independents appear to be a fickle lot. This has given more than a few politicians heartburn as they try to read the will of voters who vacillate between "Yes we can" and "heck no."

Now that the election is over, and there is a new, and newly chastened, Congress, we'd like to issue our own exhortation to our elected leaders.

First, may our elected leaders keep foremost in their minds and hearts the common good. While it is a ritual of politics to reward friends and punish enemies, always mindful of what satisfies the voters back home, we are living in an age that cries for a strong sense of the nation as a whole. This means above all a concern for the weakest and most defenseless among us: the unborn, the aged and the elderly, the handicapped, ethnic and racial minorities, and the immigrant, the poor. As Catholics, we believe that the concern for the common good is a hallmark of an ethical government. Catholics have a strong sense of community, and while we do not expect the government to replace the necessary roles of church and neighborhood, we also recognize that some of the challenges we face are beyond the capacities of local or voluntary organizations to address effectively.

Any laws which make abortion more available should be resisted. Federal tax dollars should not pay for abortion. At the same time, America has built up a social safety net through Social Security and Medicare that lifted the elderly and the chronically infirm out of the ranks of dire poverty. As a nation we made a commitment that should not be reversed.

Pope Benedict XVI recently addressed from the perspective of Catholic principles the issue of immigration, which has challenged Europe as well as the United States. "The challenge," he said, "is to combine the welcome due to every human being, especially when in need, with a reckoning of what is necessary for both the local inhabitants and the new arrivals to live a dignified and peaceful life."

Two key issues of the last election were jobs and the growing national debt. Perhaps nothing is so important for the stability of families and the strengthening of the local community as good jobs that pay a living wage. The current high unemployment has had a devastating impact on families and communities and is a top social priority.

At the same time, as a society we have grown accustomed on both a personal and a national level to living beyond our means. Experts will argue about the impact of addressing the national debt in a recessionary environment, but the moral challenge is to recognize that it is unacceptable neither to impose huge burdens on succeeding generations nor balance our budgets by restricting aid to the most needy.

The election is over. May God grant us the strength, sober spirit and grave resolve to accept our responsibilities while always thinking first of those less fortunate than us.

From Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic newsweekly based in Huntington, Ind. Provided by Catholic News Service


More Catholic Community Speaks
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Katharine Drexel: If your father is an international banker and you ride in a private railroad car, you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. But if your mother opens your home to the poor three days each week and your father spends half an hour each evening in prayer, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did that. 
<p>She was born in Philadelphia in 1858. She had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn. </p><p>She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s <i>A Century of Dishonor</i>. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities. </p><p>Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Indian missions. </p><p>She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of St. Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!” </p><p>After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. </p><p>Two saints met when Katharine was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her Order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans. </p><p>At 77, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000.</p> American Catholic Blog Our task during these forty days is to examine our lives in light of God’s Word and see where we’ve allowed darkness to creep in, where we’ve taken the bait of the diabolical fisher of men. It’s time to use the sword of the Spirit to cut through his web of deception, to free ourselves from the net that holds us as prey.


 
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