From the Director of our Diocesan Catholic Charities
So, have you heard that there’s an election this year?
OK, seriously, the question many people are asking is:
Who am I going to vote for?
Catholics may be asking:
Who can I, as a Catholic, vote for?
Well, there is no Catholic voting card. However, for the past 10 years the US Catholic Bishops have overwhelmingly supported and updated their document
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
that can help us answer that question. But it takes study, reflection and prayer.
As the Bishops say in
, “In this statement, we bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote. Our purpose is to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God’s truth.”
With our ubiquitous access to social media it’s tempting to be intellectually and morally lazy - to disregard the distinction between facts and opinions or to ignore the moral consequences of political proposals. Regardless of our political affiliation, it’s easy to find pundits or politicians who echo what we want to hear.
or find the link on our Catholic Charities website:
. It’s worth the time.
Many Catholics start with a candidate’s position on abortion. Is abortion an intrinsic evil in Catholic Social Teaching (CST)? Yes it is. The Life and Dignity of the Human Person is the 1
principle of CST. Are there other intrinsic evils? Yes, including euthanasia, genocide, torture, targeting noncombatants in war, and acts of racism among others. As Catholics we can never support intrinsic evil.
As Catholics, however, we are called not only to oppose evil, but to do good and to call our elected officials to the same.
“The right to life,” say our Catholic Bishops, “implies and is linked to other human rights—to the basic goods that every human person needs to live and thrive. All the life issues are connected, for erosion of respect for the life of any individual or group in society necessarily diminishes respect for all life. The moral imperative to respond to the needs of our neighbors—basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work—is universally binding on our consciences and may be legitimately fulfilled by a variety of means. Catholics must seek the best ways to respond to these needs.”
So how does this do us any good when we’re deciding how to vote?
First of all, say the bishops, “two temptations in public life can distort the Church’s defense of human life and dignity: The first is a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity. The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.”
“The second is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity. The current and projected extent of environmental degradation has become a moral crisis especially because it poses a risk to humanity in the future and threatens the lives of poor and vulnerable human persons here and now. Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, pornography, redefining civil marriage, compromising religious liberty, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed. Catholics are urged to seriously consider Church teaching on these issues.”
I can’t think of any candidates for any office who have ever been in line with all of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. So we are usually left with imperfect choices and this year is no different.
However, the bishops point out that one thing never changes: “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior,
if the voter’s intent is to support that position
. In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil.”
In other words, as Catholics we can’t support an intrinsic evil and we can’t vote for someone
if the reason we are voting for them
is because they support an intrinsic evil.
However, the bishops point out that there “may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.”
Note the words “morally grave reasons…not to advance partisan preferences…” So just because you always vote for one party, doesn’t mean you always should if your party’s current candidate is unacceptable for morally grave reasons.
So that makes it easy, right? No, it’s not easy - it’s challenging. It takes study, reflection and prayer and, as Catholics, we are called respond to the challenge. Heed the words of Pope Francis in a speech on September 16, 2013: “We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern.”
Robert D. Gorman
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux