By Tom Venzor
It’s nearly that time again: (Primary) Election Day! Though it is all too easy to think this is ‘just’ the primary elections and there is no presidential race this year, as Catholics we have a civic and moral duty to exercise our right to vote—in a way that is faithful to Jesus Christ. As the United States Bishops have stated in their document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: “We are called to bring together our principles and our political choices, our values and our votes, to help build a better world.” To prepare for the primary election, a few points are worth consideration.
Be Formed by Christ & His Church. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship reminds us that “as Catholics we are called to participate in public life in a manner consistent with the mission of our Lord, a mission he has called us to share.” Holy Mother Church, in her wisdom and grace, provides clear guidance for this mission through Catholic social teaching. In particular, the United States Bishops have offered a brief, yet thorough summary of the principles in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship outlines the four basic principles of Catholic social teaching: the dignity of the human person, subsidiarity, the common good, and solidarity. These principles are considered the “very heart” and “enduring themes” of Catholic social teaching and should instruct our decisions in the political sphere.
The document then provides a summary of policy positions that should be considered when voting. The issues highlighted are: human life; promoting peace; marriage and family; religious freedom; preferential option for the poor and economic justice; health care; migration; Catholic education; promoting justice and countering violence; combatting unjust discrimination; care for our common home; communications, media, and culture; and global solidarity.
Notably, regarding these issues, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship instructs that “some issues involve principles that can never be abandoned, such as the fundamental right to life and marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Others reflect our judgment about the best way to apply Catholic principles to policy issues…. While people of good will may sometimes choose different ways to apply and act on some of our principles, Catholics cannot ignore their inescapable moral challenges or simply dismiss the Church’s guidance or policy directions that flow from these principles.” In other words, there are issues upon which reasonable minds cannot and should not differ and then there are other issues upon which reasonable minds can and may differ and should do so in a spirit of charity.
Take part of an evening to read Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.
Do Your Homework. As with many other things in life, it is all too easy to walk into the ballot box unprepared and partially informed. While the candidates at the top of the ballot might be easier to choose from, the candidates and issues on the “down-ballot” become tougher. Perhaps you have never heard of them before, are unfamiliar with the political office they are running for, or are unclear about their stance on the issues.
In a digital age, it is fairly easy to overcome these shortcomings—most of the time, it’s as easy as a Google search. Of course, there are other ways of going about this as well. For example, I recall a friend who would call judges that were up for retention and ask them about their legal opinions and stances on issues. While a seemingly far-fetched idea, such a phone call to a candidate in a local race is certainly within the realm of possibilities.
Before stepping into the ballot box on May 15 (or dropping your ballot by mail, if that’s your method), take time to research the candidates and issues that will be on your ballot.
Pray. In the days leading up to the election, pray to God that He would look over our nation and that all eligible voters—especially Catholics—would take seriously their responsibility to vote, so as to build up the common good and protect the dignity of all human life.