Ray Gonzales recently wrote an opinion piece suggesting the upcoming presidential election is a "clash of different views of Christianity, and more specifically, Catholic social doctrine" ("Same church, different doctrines," Sunday Forum, Sept. 30). He names Catholic politicians on both sides of the aisle, and then proceeds to frame his argument around biased descriptors of the positions of the two major political parties. He writes, "The Democrats talk about improving health care for Americans and supporting education and protecting Social Security, while the GOP talks up big business, tax breaks for the wealthy, and more money for defense." This one-sentence summation of the positions of both parties contains an inherent bias more akin to demagoguery than the product of a reasoned argument.
He attempts to draw parallels between what Catholic Democrats are fighting for in this election with the liberation theology movement in Latin American, but fails to mention this movement often falls into the error of Marxist ideologies. He includes a portion of Sister Simone Campbell's speech at the Democratic National Convention, but fails to mention this nun repeatedly dissents from the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The authentic Catholic position in this or any election is not to align oneself with the liberal Catholic or conservative Catholic position, but to form our consciences on the orthodox Catholic position and adjust our votes accordingly. Sometimes, this may involve voting against a candidate that represents the party we belong to, but each vote we cast in every election is a vote we must justify before Jesus Christ upon our deaths.
Gonzales further exacerbates the confusion sown by numerous individuals and groups within the Catholic community who feel their interpretation of moral truths trumps that of the Magisterium. Fortunately, good Catholics are benefiting from clear teachings in this election cycle from our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and those bishops united with him. One example of this is found in Bishop Armando Ochoa, who has clearly communicated to all Catholics in the Diocese of Fresno, which includes Bakersfield, that "we cannot -- we will not -- comply with this unjust law," referring to the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate.
As Gonzales wraps up his commentary, he cites the First Amendment of our country's Constitution that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." He uses this to justify his position that our Founding Fathers "understood the dangers of bringing religion into our political life." Unfortunately, Gonzales confuses the "establishment" of a religion with its practice. Catholics are called to live the gospel of Jesus Christ every minute of their lives, including those minutes devoted to the political process.
Religious liberty is seriously threatened in America today. While Ray Gonzales espouses a false dichotomy between liberation theology and "evangelical" Catholics, Catholics and other people of faith find themselves at the beginning of a very real persecution that will only grow more severe if left unchecked. Catholics are called to properly inform their consciences not on the gospel of men, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Catholics, we have been given the gift of the Magisterium to gauge when our consciences conflict with that gospel. May we be in union with Christ as we cast our vote this November.
Deacon Daniel Rindge serves at Christ the King Catholic Church in Oildale. Another View presents a critical response to a previous editorial, column or news story.