Faithful Citizenship Part 3

faithful-citizenship-black-logoThis week is the third of a five-week series to assist you in determining how you will cast your vote in the November election. I hope that you will find it helpful in fulfilling one of your most important responsibilities as a citizen – voting.

I have been reflecting upon the teaching of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Faithful Citizenship regarding the upcoming General Election. The bishops, as pastors, are most importantly encouraging Catholics to be involved in political life as Catholics – that means with a well-formed and morally mature conscience. This demands that we be well-informed about the issues and candidates and what they are really striving for. It also demands that we be well-formed in our faith and the moral teachings of the Church. We need to be sure that we are doing this with a prayerful attitude relying on the Holy Spirit for guidance. With a commitment to those three things, a Catholic can enter the voting booth, prepared to make the best available choice to further God’s Kingdom at this time in our country.

What is at risk for us a Catholic Christians when we engage in politics is that we can improperly align ourselves (our time, money and vote) with the immoral evil at work in the world. It is often heard today that Catholics will say that they disagree with the Church’s teaching and that they are actively supporting evil in and through a political campaign. That is never acceptable. No Catholic can claim to be such while publicly and personally promoting moral evil. When we intentionally align ourselves (either by our personal contributions, public speech or vote) with a candidate because of a particular moral evil that the candidate is proposing, then we are guilty of that moral evil (in our Catholic moral teaching we call that material or formal cooperation with evil). As Catholics, we don’t ever want to participate in evil, especially not publicly.

However, it is possible (and quite frankly usually necessary) for us to support morally flawed candidates in spite of the moral evil they may be promoting, because of the many moral virtues associated with their campaigns. So, the answer to the question, “Can a good Catholic vote for “Candidate X?” lies with the intention and the conscience of the voter. The reason that we are supporting a candidate determines the morality and the culpability of the voter.

The bishops outline four foundational principals to consider as Catholic citizens. The first principal is the dignity of human life. Human life is sacred because every person is created in the image and likeness of God. The dignity of every person therefore means that that individual takes precedence over the state, and the state must protect the life and dignity of each and every person from conception through natural death.

The second foundational principal is subsidiarity. This means that solutions are to be found and initiatives are to be taken at the most local level. The smallest social unit is the family. Catholics affirm that the family – based on the natural marriage between one man and one woman – is the foundational unit of society. It is a government’s function to support and uphold this basic unit of society where children are conceived, born, and nurtured.

The third foundational principal is the common good. Governments are not in existence for themselves, but are meant to serve all people and develop a common good for all. This includes proper care for workers, defense of human rights, concern for the poor and vulnerable, welcome to the immigrants, education, health care, principals of just war, and the protection of the shared environment.

The final foundational principal is solidarity. This is the conviction that we are indeed “our brother’s keeper.”

Some Catholics would like all of this to be more “clear cut” and less burdensome on them as voters. They might say, “Father, just tell us who we as Catholics should vote for in the election.” No Way! Such teaching by any pastor is fundamentally disrespectful of the consciences of the faithful and would violate the “sanctity” of the voting booth. Let’s rather grow our faith, be educated on the candidates, and vote for the morally imperfect candidates that has the greatest promise of doing the largest portion of God’s will in the office they will hold if elected.

I would caution you about materials, even those published by bona fide Catholic organizations that indicate which candidate should receive your vote.

Three good sources for information to help you prepare for the November General Election the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Conference of Ohio, and the Social Action Office of the Diocese of Cleveland.

Question – How are you preparing yourself for the November Election?

October 12th, 2016 |