Monday, November 3, 2008

The Catholic Vote

FRIAR'S CORNER, November 2, 2008:

We are, at last, coming to the end of what has been a long and interesting election cycle. On Tuesday, we will head off to our voting places and cast our vote for the man who will be our next President, along with a variety of other offices and issues. Catholics are always curious what the Church thinks and how we should vote while being true to our beliefs. So, let me reflect on that a bit today.

First, let me say, that the Church never backs a candidate or a party, but rather always issues. This is in part because of the separation of Church and state that we hold so dear, but it is also sadly because there is NO candidate who supports fully what the Catholic Church supports.

There is always going to be a struggle between the parts of a candidates platform that are in line with Catholic teaching and the parts that are not.But, contrary to what some partisan Catholics want us to believe - a Catholic voter can make a moral choice for either of the candidates in this election.

The Pope highlighted during the last election cycle that a Catholic cannot vote in conscience for someone who holds serious views that are in contradiction to Catholic teaching if that is the primary reason they are supporting them, but they can vote for that candidate for other reasons. And, so a Catholic could never support someone precisely because they support abortion, but could vote for other proportionate reasons; or a Catholic could not support someone precisely because they favor the death penalty, but could for other reasons.

So, what is a Catholic to do? Well, the US Bishops give us some guidance. Every election cycle they produce a document called Faithful Citizenship which is meant to help Catholic voters be more aware of the issues we should consider when making this very important choice. In it the Bishops say, "The Church is involved in the political process but is not partisan. The Church cannot champion any candidate or party. Our cause is the defense of human life and dignity and the protection of the weak and vulnerable. In light of these principles and the blessings we share as part of a free and democratic nation, we bishops vigorously repeat our call for a renewed kind of politics: Focused more on moral principles than on the latest polls; Focused more on the needs of the weak than on benefits for the strong; Focused more on the pursuit of the common good than on the demands of narrow interests."

Here are some of the issues Faithful Citizenship highlights:

A Safer, Better World: How will candidates build not only a safer world, but a better world? One that is more just, more secure, more peaceful, more respectful of human life and dignity? How will candidates keep our nation from turning to violence to solve some of its most difficult problems--abortion to deal with difficult pregnancies; the death penalty to combat crime; euthanasia and assisted suicide to deal with the burdens of age, illness, and disability; and war to address international disputes? How will our nation pursue the values of justice and peace in a world where injustice is common, desperate poverty widespread, and peace is overwhelmed by violence?

Protecting the Poor: Especially in our tough economic times, how will candidates address the tragic fact that more than 30,000 children die every day as a result of hunger and poverty; that the younger you are, the more likely you are to be poor here? How can we work together to overcome poverty, pursue the common good, care for creation, and overcome injustice?

Health Care: How will candidates address the growing number of families and individuals without affordable and accessible health care?

Prejudice and Racism: How will candidates help our society combat continuing prejudice, overcome hostility toward immigrants and refugees, and heal the wounds of racism, religious bigotry, and other forms of discrimination?

Stewardship of Creation: How will candidates establish policies that address protecting our environment and preserving our natural resources?

Pro-Life: How will candidates protect innocent unborn children? Will they support the full range of life issues, being against abortion, the death penalty, the use of embryonic stem cells, cloning, assisted suicide and euthanasia?

We are called to see political life through the eyes of our faith and to bring our moral convictions to our public life. We aren't called to approach politics as Democrats or Republicans, as conservatives or liberals - but, as Catholics.

The most important thing for us to do is be involved. Let candidates know what is important to us as Catholics, and most importantly, vote on Tuesday.

You can read the Bishop's complete statement at: http://www.usccb.org/faithfulcitizenship/.

Love, Fr. Tom

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