an open letter re: my soul

Segrada Familia, Barcelona


Last week, I voted early and then posted a photo to Instagram and my personal Facebook professing support for my candidate. The next day, I received a private message calling my vote into question on religious grounds. I took a few days considering if I should reply at all, reading relevant information, crafting a response and seeking insight from a handful of friends who are more pious than I. 

“I was really surprised to see you voted for Hillary. I thought you were Christian…”

This message was from a friend of a friend with whom I had not spoken in about a decade. I was definitely a bit taken aback, but I’m always up for a healthy conversation about deep issues with anyone. I sincerely appreciate being challenged, especially considering that I’ve been known to challenge others. I have decided to write about this, not to call anyone out or dig in my heels, but because I value discussions that can help us all to more deeply consider our own points of view and those of others. 

The note continued, “I’m sure you have your reasons, however I wanted to share this with you. All the best. By the way, I don’t support Trump, and I don’t send this to you with ill intent.”

What followed was a 20 minute video of a Catholic priest delivering a homily to his congregation regarding the upcoming election. If you don’t want to sit through the sermon, here are the highlights that I took away:

  • While neither party fully aligns with the Catholic church’s stances, one party is an unacceptable option because of its pro-choice platform.
  • Throughout the video, I found several inaccuracies and misleading statements, not to mention a tone intended to instill fear and shame.
  • He felt compelled by his position to state to his congregation that a vote for a candidate who is pro-choice will put “your soul in grave danger.”
  • He compared abortion to capitol punishment and casualties of war.
  • He even drew similarities between abortion and issues like Affirmative Action and immigration. 
  • He stated that a vote for the Democratic Party would “jeopordize the well-being of your soul,” make you “unworthy of holy communion” and that “you will be a source of scandal for others.”
  • He asks his congregation for the same outrage toward the pro-choice stance as is shown toward priests who sexually assault children. 
  • Finally, he demands the support and “admiration” of his people for speaking on this issue, “rather than resistance and criticism.”

Frankly, this sermon is precisely the type of thing that has kept me from attending church outside of special occasions. That and sentiments fueling the firestorm surrounding Jen Hatmaker, a prominent Christian voice who is currently being skewered for speaking in support of the LGBTQ community, but that is an entirely different blog post.

My religious and spiritual beliefs have evolved since my days with Young Life and Campus Crusade for Christ. My great grandfather was a Jewish man who married a Catholic woman. I am the granddaughter and daughter of Catholics and Protestants. I was baptized in the Methodist church and my children were baptized in the small Presbyterian church that has been home to generations of my husband’s family. In a college debate class I chose a pro-life stance and fiercely argued with my pro-choice counterpart. I am now unwaveringly pro-choice. I am still deeply spiritual, though I can’t claim any one denomination. My approach to religion is complicated at best. 

By the time I had finished watching the sermon, I felt as though it was sent to me out of concern for the “well-being of my soul,” but I was also a bit rattled. I stuffed down my feelings of offence and started viewing this as an opportunity for an honest discussion on opposing points of view. Thus, my open letter in response to the sender.

Hi,

I hope you and your family are well.

While there are many reasons behind my vote, as a matter of math, either the Democrat or the Republican candidate will be elected. Though I was a single issue voter 10+ years ago, I am no longer a single issue voter and the unbelievably high stakes in this election have only reinforced that stance. My conscience won’t allow me to either directly or indirectly support Trump and I believe that anything other than a Democratic vote in this election is doing just that, aside from the fact that I am a Democrat.

“In a speech delivered at the Vatican just three days before the U.S. presidential election, Pope Francis urged social justice activists from around the world not to give into the politics of fear by building walls but instead work to build bridges.

“Because fear—as well as being a good deal for the merchants of arms and death—weakens and destabilizes us, destroys our psychological and spiritual defenses, numbs us to the suffering of others,” he said.”

American Magazine 

I have to say the sentiments in this sermon are not reflective of my relationship with God or that of many other Christians. In fact, it is my understanding that what this priest did is both strictly forbidden by the Catholic Church as well as illegal, as a tax-exempt religious entity.

“Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy said in a statement…

“It is contrary to Catholic teaching to state that voting for a Democrat or Republican automatically condemns the voter to hell,” the statement said. “The Catholic Church does not endorse specific candidates, use parish media or bulletins to favor candidates or parties or engage in partisan political activity of any kind.””

Reuters

I encourage you to read the entirety of the Patheos piece I link to in the excerpt below. It is a thoughtful and well-researched article that addresses the points made by the priest in the specific sermon you shared.

“Using this homily, as imprecise as it is, for or against some political trend or candidate or party, knowing its flaws and understanding that more accurate teaching is available, seems insincere, an abuse of Priestly authority, and disrespectful of the Holy Mass.

In the end, Father’s homily lacks much that is easily accessed in other teachings on voting from a Catholic perspective and is not recommended for guidance.”

Patheos

I appreciate that we all have our own views and values and I know that you meant no ill will expressing yours. In kind, I hope you will appreciate my confidence that my soul is not in grave danger because of my support of the Democratic Party or my vote. 

Wishing you nothing but the best,

Lauren

3 thoughts on “an open letter re: my soul

  1. Kate says:

    The homily:

    Regress if you agree or disagree with what Fr. has to say (and whatever happened to freedom of speech), it’s about our obligation as Christian’s to support and defend those who have no say – the innocent victims and murdered babies through abortion. All pro-choicers need to watch some real-life videos of abortions at all stages. It’s barbaric. If you need some references, let me know. If you support the killing of innocent babies through abortion, I will not judge, but I will question you and I will indeed pray for you. Happy election week.

    Like

    • MB says:

      This isn’t a freedom of speech issue. No one is suggesting the priest be jailed for his homily. It does, however, raise some ethical questions about a priest using the pulpit as an occasion to threaten eternal damnation due to political affiliation.

      I appreciate your passion about defending innocent victims. Your suggestion that those who identify as pro-choice view videos of abortion is interesting. Logic, I hope, would then follow that all those identifying as pro-life should speak to the innocent victims of rape and incest who have been impregnated by their abusers. The assumption underlying both suggestions is that one should recognize that abortion is a complex issue, one that cannot be boiled down to simplistic, rhetorically-charged words such as “killing” and “murdered.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Terri says:

    The beauty of the vote … to each their own opinion. & I don’t believe for one second that either candidate makes the “best” choice for President. I also don’t believe that a vote for one party means you agree with every single damn thing they present on their platform. For crying out loud!!!!!! It’s the lesser of 2 evils this election and to each their own. While my vote was not Democrat. I fully support your opinion Lauren. & I don’t believe it should be presented as a single overarching issue! Keeping doing you! ❤ always.

    Like

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