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October 27, 2010 |The Long Island Catholic Vol. 49, No. 27 | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY

As citizens we all share a common responsibility for the good of our communities and our nation. As Catholic Christians we have a special obligation to contribute to the common good by voting with intelligence and with a conscience informed on the issues by Catholic social teaching. The New York State bishops have issued a brief statement with a set of helpful questions to aid you as you choose those candidates that will best serve the public interest and best reflect the vision and the principles of our faith and our moral code. That statement, “Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty,” with the questions that flow from it can be found in this issue of TLIC and on our diocesan website,

This election year we in New York will be electing two persons to the U.S. Senate, all the New York members of Congress as well as all men and women to serve in state offices, the State Senate and the State Assembly. It is never easy to choose the best candidate in an election. The number of offices to be filled this year makes our common task that much more difficult but, equally, that much more important. In addition we are surrounded by loud voices and emotional charges that often cast suspicious allegations and negative images rather than bring objective facts and calm insight into electoral races that are extremely important for our nation, for our state and all our communities.

Many of the issues are very complex. Some of them inspire emotional reactions. Others are clear cut and relatively easy to find an answer that is morally clear and politically good. One such difficult issue is that of immigration which will surely be addressed by the U.S. Senate this coming year. We must add voices of reason to a volatile subject. We must be concerned for the maintenance of law and order and the safety of our

 borders. We must also recognize that we need a better way to regulate the entrance of persons who come here looking for a new life and new opportunities for themselves and their families. We also cannot overlook the many who are here, most of whom have entered the country according to the current rules, but many others who must be judged according to the law but treated with the dignity and respect that belongs to every human being.

One thing in the immigration debate should receive from us a loud and clear NO. Some in Washington want to use immigration reforms as a vehicle to extend family recognition to same-sex couples. I have already spoken to our senior senator on this. The complexities of new and fairer immigration laws should not be hijacked by those who favor same sex unions. That latter issue is separate, deserves honest debate, and should not be snuck into law by partisans of same sex marriage.

The Congress is a place where we need persons of integrity and commitment to defend human rights, human dignity and freedom of conscience. Obviously we Catholics do not support candidates who are committed to positions that favor abortion, same sex marriage, federal funds for embryonic stem cell research and similar threats to human life such as euthanasia and including the death penalty. Irrespective of a candidate’s religious faith, we should support those whose views and commitment best advance human life and human dignity because that is the way to create a just society in which no one is excluded and all have the right to protection under a law that serves justice and not special interest groups.

All this applies as well to the state offices of Governor and lt. Governor, Attorney General and Comptroller. While most of the attention normally goes to the Governor’s race, the role of the Attorney General is a very important one. The Attorney General is the state’s official lawyer charged with defending all of us against any and all forces that would exploit us. Here we need to look very closely at the character of the persons who present themselves. Do they have a record of defending people and upholding the law? Have they shown a commitment to human life and dignity especially for the poor and the marginalized? Have they shown respect for freedom of conscience and upheld the rights of religious institutions to fulfill their spiritual roles privately or publicly? Have they shown respect or disdain for those whom they serve or those who need the protection of the law to uphold their rights against the more powerful forces in our state?

Taxes are of course a challenging issue. How do we provide people with what they need for the good of their communities without a sufficient tax base? How do we guarantee that taxes will be fair and not excessive? How can we distinguish one from the other? One clear example of discrimination is the MTA tax which unfairly targets residents of Long Island. In addition it also unfairly targets our Catholic schools that have not been given an exemption from a tax that favors only the city. Candidates for the Senate and the Assembly should be challenged about a tax that is unfair in itself and adds an additional burden for parents who are already paying their taxes for local schools while, at the same time, paying tuition to send their children to Catholic schools.

Many of these and other issues will be played out in the State Senate and Assembly. Much of the last year-and-a-half has been taken up with jockeying for power within the corridors of Albany. Still politics is a noble profession and we, as citizens, should encourage all those leaders who live up to the higher standards of the art of politics and look beyond immediate advantage to the good of the people and the common good of all.

The issues I have mentioned are not the only ones of significance but they are among the most important we will be facing in the days and years ahead. Please, I urge one and all to vote on November 2. That is our right and our duty. Please, do so calmly and with knowledge of the candidates and their positions. Please, use your conscience informed by Catholic social teaching  because that is the best way to defend and promote human dignity and human rights, the family, the good of our communities and the common good of all.

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