Persons, places and things: In all things, charity

Barb Arland-Fye

While my classmates and I tackled beginning and end of life issues in moral theology class this past weekend, opportunities for practical application awaited attention in my email folder. One email writer asked why I didn’t include Church teaching on abortion in a Nov. 8 article about Vice President Joe Biden attending Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport before the presidential election. Another email writer whose letter arrived prior to class referred to Biden as “Vice Abortionist.” Biden has previously said that on the issue of abortion he would submit to religious authority, but as a lawmaker, he would not impose his religious beliefs on others.
Clearly, the Church teaches that abortion is never permitted. One of the articles Professor Keith Soko of St. Ambrose University in Davenport had our class read and reflect on was the U.S. Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services. It states that “every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which in its moral context, includes the interval between conception and implantation of the embryo (No. 45).”
Another email I received at The Catholic Messenger came from a writer who seemed to imply that forming one’s conscience is as simple as opposing abortion, period.  Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1995 encyclical on The Gospel of Life that it was “meant to be a precise and vigorous reaffirmation of the value of human life and its inviolability, and at the same time a pressing appeal in the name of God. Respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! …” the Holy Father urged.
His words came to mind when another electronic letter to the editor arrived. This time, the writer criticized the Iowa Catholic Conference for its list of “wants” concerning a living wage, expansion of programs that support poor families and children and “entitlements” for undocumented immigrants, among other things. How are these wants going to be paid for? The writer concludes that the Iowa Catholic Conference’s legislative agenda “is a one-way road to economic ruin for our country.”
Pope Paul VI, in his 1971 Call to Action letter, “reminded Christians that ‘the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due to the poor and the special situation they have in society: the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of the poor’” (“Catholic Social Teaching and Movements,” Marvin L. Krier Mich).
“The Church is called to be a sacrament of God’s Reign, a visible embodiment of the type of community God is working to bring about,” say the authors of “Catholic Social Teaching, Our Best Kept Secret.” They note that “this sacred mission challenges the Church at each moment to be a discerning community grappling with the problems of the larger human community, witnessing to justice, working to heal, redeem and transform the institutions, policies and patterns by which the people of the planet live with each other and with the whole earth community” (p. 25).
We have a long way to go, but I feel encouraged knowing that my classmates – among them candidates for the diaconate in the Diocese of Davenport – are learning the value of a pastoral approach in dealing with the challenging issues that confront our Church.
It’s a work in progress for me, as well. In a reflection paper for Soko’s class, I shared how my decision to publish two columns with differing ideas on what it means to be pro-life had generated criticism from readers. If I look above the fray, I see Catholics who are passionate about their faith and strive to live the Gospel mandate. My hope is that readers gain a deeper appreciation for the challenges and complexity involved in forming consciences and keep in mind that love is a guiding principle in our faith tradition.
Barb Arland-Fye

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1 thought on “Persons, places and things: In all things, charity

  1. Barb Arland-Fye
    You used parts of my email letter to the editor in your November 15 column. However, the point I was making is that if the church depends too much on government grants, etc., and not individual charity, then we will have empty churches like in Europe (PEW Report). I have been to Europe and have seen the paucity of religious in England, Germany, France and Italy, especially among the young.

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