In case you haven’t noticed, we are in a big year for Texas and national politics – it’s election season. Here are some questions to ponder:
How can I best know for whom to vote?
As a Catholic, are there some voting guidelines we can follow? What authority do Church leaders have regarding politics and voting?
Here’s another question for you – are you an American Catholic or a Catholic American?
This was a question presented at a recent Catholic men’s conference I attended. It caused me to think and reflect. With that reflection, I began to get a clearer picture of my answer. I know without a doubt, I love America and I love my Catholic faith.
As the conference, it was Father Ken Geraci, a well-known speaker and radio guest, who posed this question. He also asked another question: Are we taking our relationship with Jesus Christ seriously?
Father’s answer to that last question was, “I can only affect that person in the mirror. I can do it for myself, but for no one else!”
The person in the mirror
I really don’t like using the word “I” and would rather use “we” or “us,” but just as I can only affect that person in the mirror for my faith relationship, I believe I have a similar responsibility when it comes to the exercise of my right to vote. It is my responsibility to become an “informed voter.” I will therefore be using the “I” word for a good part of this article.
My conclusion is, first and foremost, that I am a Catholic American.
I say “Catholic American” because the principles and things in which I believe, and the values that define me, were established by my Catholic upbringing, its teachings, and principles. I attempt to live every day of my life by the Catholic teachings which formed who I am.
There are certain things that are “intrinsically evil” and I can never participate in any of these because doing any of these is seriously wrong, violates God’s truth, and therefore is a mortal sin.
There are other things, not intrinsically evil, upon which I can exercise “prudential judgment” – that is, consider all the facets of an issue and then determine my position on that issue.
I, as a reasonable person, may agree or disagree with another reasonable person on the policy decision surrounding an issue. Both I and the other person have done no wrong (no sin committed) by our decision. The virtue of “prudence” enables us to discern, over time, good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it. (ref. Catholic Catechism, CC1806)
So, let’s apply this background to the political process of choosing for whom to vote.
What does it mean to be an “informed voter”?
I claim to be an “informed voter.” It is not enough to just register and then vote. I must inform myself about the candidates, the issues, study the candidates answers to questionnaires, the party of the candidate, its platform and about the other candidates.
After doing this, I become not just a voter, but an “informed voter.” This allows me to weigh the pros and cons of each candidate and how each stands up alongside the values that guide my life. I can then cast my vote accordingly.
When I hear a candidate, or an elected office holder, who proclaims to be Catholic, and yet that same candidate leaves his or her Catholic values at the door when entering the Capitol to vote as my elected representative on issues of local, state or national significance, this is like setting off an alarm!
A person who leaves his Catholic principles and values at the door when voting signals to me that this person most likely will not vote his or her expressed Catholic values as understood by a well-catechized Catholic.
Actions speak louder than words
In politics and life, actions speak louder than words. I want to support someone knowing his or her values which will most often inform me as to how he or she will vote based on those values.
The Catholic Church through its bishops does not tell people for whom, or against whom to vote. But through the bishops it helps Catholics form their conscience in accordance with God’s truth.
This formation of conscience includes:
- A desire to embrace goodness and truth by studying Sacred Scripture (the Bible) and the teachings of the Church contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
- Examine the facts and background information about various choices, and
- Have prayerful reflection to discern the will of God. A person then will need to use this process to assist in decision making of all aspects of one’s life including the determination of for whom to vote in the political process. The Bishops have written and recently updated a guide called Faithful Citizenship which is very helpful to outline all the facets in determining for whom to vote. So, in summary, each person needs to properly form his or her conscience and be an informed voter.
Overcoming very real challenges today
In current American society, it is often difficult for individuals to accept that a bishop or any other person has authority over them. This is made even more difficult because of the sex abuse scandal involving certain individuals within the hierarchy of the Church.
Moral relativism causes individuals to believe there are no absolute truths, there is no God, and one can do whatever feels good or pleases them.
Combining these problems often causes some to become ”cafeteria Catholics”, picking and choosing what they will follow (and ignoring what they won’t follow).
“Bishops are not supposed to just make things up as they go along, however smart and sensitive they imagine themselves to be. They serve a higher authority.,” explains Randall Smith, Scanlan Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX, The Catholic Thing, October 31, 2019.
He continues: “The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum) states clearly that, ‘This teaching office [of the Church] is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.’ The only reason anyone would listen to our Bishops is the belief that they faithfully represent the teachings of the Catholic Church from Christ down to the present time.”
This guides me, as I accept the authority of the Catholic Bishops. I know the teachings that guide them. Even though over the centuries there have been some bad Popes and Bishops, never have they changed the teachings of the Catholic Church for over 2000 years.
When the Bishops write that there are intrinsically evil acts that can never be done, I respect and accept their authority and that determination. When the Bishops say it is a grave sin – a mortal sin- to do or participate in such act and it puts one’s soul at risk for eternity, I accept this as well.
Intrinsically evil acts are abortion and euthanasia which are preeminent threats to human dignity. Also, human cloning, destructive research on human embryos, other acts that directly violate the sanctity and dignity of human life and redefining marriage to deny its essential meaning are such acts.
“It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life as merely a matter of individual choice” #22 Part One Faithful Citizenship, November 2019.
I strongly believe in the need for social justice, but we must recognize that the greatest social justice issue of our time is the destruction of unborn human life in the womb.
Keep in mind that political parties require candidates on their ticket to pledge to support the party’s platform.
That means when a party platform includes “support for abortion rights,” the candidates in this party support this position unless there is an explicit statement by the candidate to the contrary.
Super Tuesday and impact of Texas
Texas will have its Primary Election on what is called Super Tuesday March 2, 2020.
The winners of the primary (it may require a runoff if no candidate receives 50% plus one vote) will be in the General Election on November 3, 2020.
There is an amazing amount of money coming in from out of state to change Texas from a conservative to a liberal state.
Texas is truly the bell weather for setting standards that, when adopted, eventually become the standard across America. If you enjoy the many benefits we have as Texas residents, I urge you to vote to keep Texas conservative and to keep a Pro-Life President.
Political parties will revisit their platforms at their state and national conventions this summer.
Before November you should find out how the party platforms have changed and compare them. There is too much at stake for the future of Texans and Americans – form your conscience, be an informed voter – then vote. It’s a right many people in other countries do not have.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church– second edition
- Faithful Citizenship – by U.S. bishops, USCCB
- The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum)
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