This sermon speaks to the desirability of Civil Law being as closely as
possible in accord with Divine Law. This is an absolute--a sort of
"God's way or the highway" for government legitimacy. But all of us
are sinners, and God has mercy on repentant sinners. The individual
who has sinned should not be afraid to repent and contritely confess his
say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that
more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance."
“Render therefore to Caesar the
things that are Caesar' s;
and to God, the things that are God' s."
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Today’s Gospel is one among two or
three Scripture passages often erroneously quoted to promote unquestioning
support for the policies of governments. The thirteenth chapter of Saint
Paul’s epistle to the Romans is another: “[The Prince] is God' s
minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil.”
Another, in the same vein. would be our Lord’s words to Pontius Pilate who
asserted power to crucify Him: “Thou wouldst not have any power against
me, unless it were given thee from above”—the implication being that the
Roman government actually had authority from God.
It must be clearly understood that all
power does come from God, but that power is legitimately administered only by
governments that rule in general accord with the laws of God. I say “general
accord,” for few governments are one hundred percent in accord with God’s laws.
I am very enthusiastic about the American Republic of the Founding Fathers, but
giving it “100%” would be unrealistic. As we approach the November election,
the question most upward in our minds should be: how much less than “100%” is
our current government, and what will our votes do to increase or decrease that
percentage. As Catholics we must admit to an obligation to
vote for candidates who will actually increase America’s conformity to God’s
Otto von Bismarck, no great friend of
the Church, tells us that “politics is the art of the possible, the attainable —
the art of the next best”—we may not hit “100%” but we should whatever is
possible to approach that mark as closely as possible.
So what are the issues that Catholics
must vote upon? Our Declaration of independence speaks of men and women
being “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among
these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Above all other matters a legitimate
government must respect it's citizens' right to act on an informed conscience,
and the right to life for all human beings from conception till natural death.
Any other rights are meaningless without these two. Without life one can do
nothing on this earth, and without freedom of conscience one can do nothing to
Correlative to the right to life, we can
name a few intrinsically evil behaviors—things that government should not allow,
and certainly shouldn't encourage: abortion, euthanasia, cloning, embryo
destructive research or treatments, and same sex “marriage.” Of course even
these admit of greater and lesser evil. Those that take an innocent human life
are most seriously wrong. This may be important in a real world political
contest. A candidate may have wrong ideas about the lesser evils and still be
preferable to a candidate who has wrong ideas about a greater evil.
There are a number of moral issues that
will require a prudential judgment by the voter. For example, immigration is a
complex issue wherein the voter will have to weigh the nation's obligations in
charity against its own needs and its own security. The voter must distinguish
between immigrants who are merely different from us and those that are dangerous
to us. There should be no threat that a community's resources (like hospitals,
schools, police force, and welfare programs) will be overloaded.
Capital punishment often comes up as a
political issue. It should not be confused with the right to life issues, for
in a just society it is inflicted on the guilty but not on the innocent. While
the possibility exists that innocent people may be put to death, the society
must employ judicial procedures designed to minimize that possibility. While
the mandate for capital punishment is found in sacred Scripture
it should be noted that a society may elect not to follow that mandate, but must
be sure that abstaining from administering it will not jeopardize the citizens
or place an unreasonable economic burden on them. Saint Thomas says that the
death penalty benefits the converted murderer by expiating his sin.
Welfare programs are another opportunity
for making prudential judgements. Ideally charity is best administered by the
Church and local communities and not by the government. Even government funding
of local charities has its problems. Church authorities eager to receive lavish
funding have sometimes financed immoral behavior and encouraged reckless
immigration policies. Voters also must address the effects of welfare policy on
the recipient—people ought not be made to become dependents by incentives not to
work, and families must not be torn apart in order to maximize payments.
Wherever possible there must be an emphasis on developing self-reliance.
Some issues exist only because
governments want to acquire greater power. Excessive regulation of people and
industry often springs from cronyism. Over regulation expands the size of
government payrolls and top salaries, and often will bring campaign
contributions from large firms, better able to cope with the regulations than
their smaller competitors. Great centralization of power (even global
centralization) tends to infringe the God given rights of the people for the
benefit of the ruling elite.
Environmental issues are often power
grabs. Yet the worst examples of environmental destruction have come under big
No one wants to live in a polluted world, but voters ought to examine scientific
Claims to environmental destruction
need to be verified by real world observation and not just reference to computer
models and “adjusted: data.
The ice is expanding at both poles and the bears are doing fine.
The “climate refuges” don’t exist.
I started out by mentioning “freedom to
act on an informed conscience.” No government has the authority to compel
people to violate God’s laws. Yet we have seen nuns required to carry insurance
for contraception and abortion, doctors required to perform abortions and
euthanasia, and caterers forced to cater same sex “wedding” parties. This is
right up there with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The human life issues are, of course,
paramount. A candidate may get some of the lesser issues wrong without being
unacceptable. The Family Research Council has published a chart listing
the positions of the major candidates on the major issues at
I put a copy on the bulletin board for those without internet access. Most all
of the candidates have websites describing their position on the issues.
I ask you to become informed about the
candidates you can vote for, to be registered to vote (Tuesday, October 18th is
the deadline to register in Florida), and then on election day (November 8th) go
to the polls and vote to make our government as close to being 100% in
conformity with God’s laws as possible.
Render unto Cæsar
the things that are Cæsar’s—but fist, be sure that they actually belong to Cæsar.