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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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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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