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NorthDakotaSenator Bishop

NorthDakotaSenator Bishop

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Published by Dennis Coday
North Dakota State Senator Tim Mathern responds to Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck, N.D.
North Dakota State Senator Tim Mathern responds to Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck, N.D.

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Published by: Dennis Coday on Oct 25, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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MEDIA ADVISORYState Senator Tim Mathern of FargoUrges Bishop Kagan to Withdraw Election-Related LetterToday's Date: October 23, 2012Contact: Tim Mathern, North Dakota State Senator and Roman Catholic Church Member,701.893.5016Senator Mathern's Statement:Bishop David Kagan has prepared an internal letter to be read in all Roman Catholic parishes inNorth Dakota during the liturgies of the weekend of October 27 and 28, 2012. The letter engagesin partisan politics and damages the bounds of personal conscience, the Church's role in buildingthe common good, and the non-profit status of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Iurge Bishop Kagan to withdraw or change the letter.As a matter of respect for the person of Bishop Kagan and Office of Bishop, I have attempted tospeak with Bishop Kagan about the letter, which was scheduled for release this weekend but hascome to my attention in advance. My preference was to ask him privately to change or withdrawthe letter as written. Yesterday, I was informed by Bishop Kagan’s staff that Bishop Kaganwould not be returning my call. As a private conversation is not possible, it is now myresponsibility to communicate publicly about this matter of immediate importance.Bishop Kagan's letter reads as follows:My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,In this “Year of Faith” each Catholic citizen has the privilege and duty to participate inour Nation’s governing by the exercise of our constitutional right to vote in national, stateand local elections. As your Bishop I urge you to exercise this cherished right.I will not tell you how to vote. However, I ask you to vote as a Catholic citizen with aproperly formed Catholic conscience.
A properly formed Catholic conscience willnever contradict the Church’s teachings in matters of faith and morals
. [Emphasisadded.] In this letter I wish to explain what this means in direct relation to the issues onwhich each person’s vote will have a lasting impact.What is “a properly formed Catholic conscience?” The
says: “A well-formedconscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, inconformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. Everyone must availhimself of the means to form his conscience.” (1798) The Catholic Church’s teachingsare the means for us to properly form our consciences so that we seek always what is trueand good.
At the heart of all Catholic moral and social teaching is a single fact: the respect given toan individual human person must always be first and must govern every law and actionso that the person’s life and dignity is always and everywhere protected and defended. Inother words, from the first moment of human conception to the last moment of life onearth, the person must be respected without exception.For this reason,
there are some actions that are never acceptable and should not bemade so by law
, they include: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research,and not recognizing the unique and special role of marriage as the union of one man andone woman.
[Emphasis added.]All of the other social, economic and political issues gain importance only from thefundamental issue of the respect for the individual person and the inviolability of eachperson’s life and God-given dignity.Thus, if there is no respect for the life and dignity of each person from conception tonatural death, then every other moral evil can be justified. There are some things we mustnever do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with loveof God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed tothe authentic good of persons.
These are called “intrinsically evil” actions
They mustalways be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned.
 [Emphasis added.] A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life as inabortion and euthanasia.
In this election year, the positions of the two political parties and the positions of their candidates are well known
. [Emphasis added.] What I ask each of you to dobefore you vote is to consider carefully what our Catholic Church teaches about theseissues, then consider how your vote for a particular candidate will contribute to thecommon good of us all as persons with that human dignity which must be respected andprotected always.We know that we have a representative form of government and that those we elect are torepresent us. When you vote, I ask you to vote for the candidates who represent you asCatholic citizens.
Please do not vote for the candidate who is most likeable
We can find something likeable in each candidate but that person may notrepresent us as faithful Catholics. Our vote as Catholic citizens has to focus on who andwhat protects human life and dignity and therefore, the common good.I close with a quote from Blessed John Paul II. He wrote: “The common outcry which is justly made on behalf of human rights – for example the right to health, to home, to work,to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic andfundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended withmaximum determination.” (
Christifideles Laici, 38 
May God bless and guide us at this important moment and may Our Blessed Motherremain with us!Sincerely yours in Christ,Most Reverend David D. KaganBishop of Bismarck Apostolic Administrator of FargoI ask Bishop Kagan to withdraw or change the letter for three primary reasons:1) The Bishop's position is inconsistent with the principle of Primacy of Conscience, a longaccepted position of Roman Catholic moral theology.The Bishop's letter states:
“A properly formed Catholic conscience will never contradict theChurch’s teachings in matters of faith and morals.”
As exemplified in the sentence above, Bishop Kagan short circuits conscience formation byinsisting that properly formed conscience must follow his direction. He speaks as if the Churchand he himself are infallible on matters of personal conscience. In a misstep of power, hecolludes the complicated doctrine of papal infallibility with the positions of the Church.A Catholic owes a duty to listen thoughtfully to the Bishop, but if in "good conscience" he or shecannot give assent, the Catholic must be free to follow his or her own conscience, which is thetrue moral responsibility.On his blog, Franciscan author Richard Rohr writes about the primacy of conscience:“Althoughthe first principle of Catholic morality is that 'You must follow your conscience,' we usuallyimmediately override it with the second principle, which is that 'You must form your conscience'through Scripture, tradition, and prayer, which I surely agree with. It balances individualism withcommunity. But let’s never forget the first principle is still first!”In placing the second principle before the first, Bishop Kagan's letter impedes the neededdiscussion of what we all can do to promote the value of life and solve difficult public policyissues.2) Bishop Kagan’s approach misuses parishioners' trust in Church authority and is therefore notin the best interest for the Church or the building of the common good.The Bishop's letter states:
“There are some actions that are never acceptable and should notbe made so by law.”
After outlining some of these actions, the letter then says:
“These arecalled 'intrinsically evil' actions
They must always be rejected and opposed and mustnever be supported or condoned.”
Ultimately, the letter declares:
“In this election year, thepositions of the two political parties and the positions of their candidates are well known.”

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