Even more than in 2008, there has been widespread discussion (including in letters to this paper) about whom Catholics should vote for in the presidential election.
Largely because of the Health and Human Services mandate for insurance coverage of birth control, bishops nationwide pretty much say you shouldn't vote for our current president.
On the other side, however, the Republican candidates all deny or dismiss the message stated prominently in both the Old and New Testaments: the love of money (greed) is the root of all evil.
They also oppose the church's strong social justice message to look out for the poor and vulnerable and unprotected by, among other things, the redistribution of wealth so that everyone's basic needs are met before the wealthiest few have their every want satisfied.
So if we Catholics really lived our faith, if we really informed our consciences and heeded our leaders' messages, maybe none of us would vote. At least not for anyone from the two major parties.
This, of course, would never happen. Catholics are as divided as the rest of the nation.
This is apparent in the few Catholic magazines I read online. All have room for comments, and these can get quite divisive, even though they are moderated. A fair number are edited or deleted.
Although the magazines I read lean liberal, the comments seem fairly equally divided between liberal and conservative. Often there is spirited and not so polite back-and-forth.
I don't know as much about the conservative sites. I suspect there are at least a few liberal troublemakers there stirring things up and keeping it interesting.
Among those I read and participate in, there are also some comments that tend to bring divergent viewpoints together. I attempt to do this, but it is difficult. It's much easier to answer right back in a so-there manner rather than take the high road, the Christian way.
So no, Catholics will not join together for a united non-vote against our current deadlocked and dysfunctional system. Some of us will decide for one party, some for the other, as we did last time, when it was close to 50-50, with a slight edge for our current president.
Depending on how the birth control controversy plays out, the margin this time could shift to a slight edge for the Republican candidate.
In conclusion, an attempt to take the high road in responding to the April 1 letter by Brian Stein, particularly his citing the Parable of the Talents as showing "that wealth redistribution is not Christian nor charitable."
Of course parables are not to be taken literally, nor taken alone. They are part of a group, including the Prodigal Son and the Vineyard where those working one hour made as much as those who worked all day.
As Theologian Barbara Reid, a Dominican Sister, points out in the November 7 America magazine: "An important key to understanding this parable is to keep in mind that Jesus did not live in a capitalist system in which it is thought that wealth can be increased by investment."
Back then the wealthy landowner "would be seen as greedy and wicked," not as a good person and certainly not representing God.
In the Dec. 12 magazine, a letter writer commented on her article with a view somewhat similar to Stein's letter. She responded: "One of the features of Gospel parables is that they are not stories that confirm the status quo; rather, they are destabilizing and puzzling, often turning accepted notions upside down. For this reason, even Jesus' first disciples found them difficult to understand. (Mark 4:10)"
Her view is that the third servant is the honorable one: "only he has refused to cooperate in the system by which his master continues to accrue huge amounts of money while others go wanting."
(Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily?news)