North Dakota bishop stands by pastoral letter on election
“It’s with a properly formed conscience, which we regularly nourish with prayer, the sacraments, and continued study, that we can…set a good example, which ultimately isn’t about you or me,” Bishop Kagan told CNA Oct. 30.
The example we set, he emphasized, presents Christ to other people.
Bishop Kagan is the ordinary of Bismarck, and is serving as the apostolic administrator of Fargo while the see is vacant.
As part of his role, Bishop Kagan issued the letter asking parishioners “to vote as a Catholic citizen with a properly formed Catholic conscience.”
Bishop Kagan wrote that the teachings of the Church are “the means for us to properly form our consciences so that we seek always what is true and good.”
He went on to say that intrinsically evil actions, such as abortion and euthanasia, “must always be rejected and opposed,” and that issues that do not directly affect the life and dignity of people are secondary to these.
Though Bishop Kagan “will not tell you how to vote,” he wrote that “I ask you to vote for the candidates who represent you as Catholic citizens. Please do not vote for the candidate who is most likeable.”
Responding to an advance copy of the letter, however, state senator Tim Mathern asserted in an Oct. 23 statement that the obligation to “follow your conscience” is in conflict with the obligation of Catholics to form their conscience according to Church teaching, and that Bishop Kagan’s teaching “short circuits conscience formation.”
Mathern’s statement also characterized Bishop Kagan’s letter as “a request on voting for or against a specific person or party,” thus risking the Church’s non-profit status.
Though no candidates or parties are mentioned by name in the letter, Mathern believes Bishop Kagan’s plea not to vote for the “most likeable” candidate is too particular.
“North Dakotans who have been exposed to political coverage or advertisements this election season can readily identify the candidate who is considered the ‘most likeable,’” he said. “Repeatedly, newspaper reports use this designation for one candidate, as do ads against her candidacy.”
Bishop Kagan responded to CNA, however, that he wrote the letter out of concern for the souls of the Catholic faithful under his charge. [More]