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'Catholic Advocate' shares thoughts on issues facing Catholic voters


CHARLOTTE — This is a presidential election year, and the race leading up to the November vote promises to be contentious. Issues of life, religious liberty and the possible redefinition of marriage are on the table on both the state and national level.

Pictured: Bishop Peter J. Jugis visited Feb. 10 with Dr. Deal Hudson (left) and Matt Smith of Catholic Advocate. The lay Catholic lobbying organization, based in Washington, D.C., encourages Catholics to get active in the political process and to support elected officials and policies that are in line with Church teaching. (SueAnn Howell, Catholic News Herald)

Dr. Deal Hudson, chairman of Catholic Advocate, a political activist organization based in Washington, D.C., is working to awaken Catholics and people of good will to rise above the rhetoric and educate themselves about the issues and the candidates, and compare what is promised to traditional American values and, for Catholics especially, what our faith teaches so that we can vote accordingly.

On a recent trip to Charlotte Feb. 10, Hudson met with Bishop Peter J. Jugis to discuss the work of Catholic Advocate in this election year. Hudson, a Catholic convert, professor, author and political activist, also shared his thoughts with the Catholic News Herald in an exclusive interview. Excerpts from that interview follow:

CNH: What is "Catholic Advocate?"

Hudson: Catholic Advocate is an organization that Matt Smith and I founded to encourage more Catholics to be politically involved as Catholics, to be involved in what we call a 'faithful way.' We have a very simple approach. The Church very clearly teaches that there is a hierarchy of issues in politics, beginning with life and marriage, and that we should make our political judgments in accord with that hierarchy. This involves not just judgment of specific candidates but legislation, which all of course builds culture. We would like to build a culture of life.

We get reports about Catholic voters doing this and doing that and sometimes it's discouraging that Catholic voters will support things that are opposed to Church teaching, or that specific members of Congress who are Catholic will oppose things – and there are lots of reasons for this. But one of the main reasons is that the Catholic laity don't demand that their representatives who call themselves Catholic represent what the Church teaches.

I've always said that our work at Catholic Advocate will be done when 100 percent of the Catholic members of the United States Congress have a pro-life voting record and consistently defend marriage as between a man and a woman.

CNH: What are the key issues facing Catholic voters?

Hudson: Once you get off the list of settled issues which are things like life, marriage, euthanasia and fetal stem-cell research, you start making prudential judgments. People don't always understand the simple distinction between what a settled issue is and what a prudential issue is. We sometimes call a settled issue a "non-negotiable," but that doesn't have any resonance in the Catholic tradition. But "settled" does.

One reason people don't have that distinction is because it's not talked about enough. The word prudential itself, from the Latin "prudentia," is kind of a fancy word. It's a virtue, one of the four natural virtues. It means the ability to apply a first principal to a specific situation. For example, the Church teaches us to care for others, to love the stranger. So you take immigration and the issue of the undocumented immigrant. Well, the prudential challenge is to translate what loving others, caring for the stranger means when you pass laws and create programs.

Most issues in politics are prudential. Most issues in politics we're not obliged to follow one specific solution or another. All the issues about the budget and foreign policy, etc. you have to have a sense of what your first principals are and what is the best solution on the table...

One of the challenges we face is being truly non-partisan, being Catholic first...

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get to the point in politics in America where both parties were strongly pro-life and strongly pro-marriage and we were arguing about other things? Where we could focus on what is the best kind of approach to the budget, to reduce the deficit...we could talk about all these prudential matters in a more profound way because we're not expending energy fighting these basic moral battles over protection of life and protection of marriage.

CNH: How is Catholic Advocate making a difference in the political process?

Hudson: Catholic Advocate is an independent c3, c4 and political action committee (PAC). It's typical of a Washington political organization to have all three. We have an arm that is educational (c3), and arm that is c4 which is the biggest part which means we can support specific issues and specific candidates, and we have a PAC that allows us to give money to specific candidates.

It's unusual to do this under the name Catholic, but if you read through the Catechism and encyclicals on the obligations of Catholics to be involved in politics, there is no limit, we are encouraged to be fully engaged to have all the expertise and to educate our children to be involved in politics.

My first choice in life is not to be involved in politics. My first choice in life is ideas, beauty...I became a Catholic because of the beauty of the Church...I'd much rather watch classic films or listen to classical music than to talk to people about politics. But God opened doors for me unexpectedly and I was asked to do a job and I'm doing it...I really like defending America and the role of the Catholic Church in America and trying to rebuild our culture toward something healthier for our children.

— SueAnn Howell, staff writer

Want to know more?

Get more information about Catholic Advocate and a free 2012 voter's guide.

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Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at  parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte: