Election Day, USA, is one week away. Our votes, God willing, will be cast and counted. As an American, what a privilege it is to live in a democracy with the opportunity to vote. As an Iowan, while I yearn for some respite from the stream of negative political ads, what an honor it is to live in a swing state that often feels like the epicenter of this election. One vote certainly can make a difference here. And as a Catholic, what an obligation it is to form my conscience and cast a responsible vote for candidates who will best (better?) represent my values in the public square. My vote is a small but important part of my Christian life.
Much has been said this election cycle about the collective conscience of Catholic voters. While visiting a parish near Omaha, Nebraska last weekend, the priest reminded us of that via his homily. As Christians, he said, we are the conscience of this country. No other group is capable of carrying out God’s mission like we are. Indeed. As St. Bonaventure teaches, “Conscience is like God’s herald and messenger.”
In last Sunday’s Gospel, we walked with the blind man who went to Jesus and told him what he wanted. Jesus gave him what he requested, and told him, “Your faith has saved you.” The Year of Faith has begun. One way to make our faith manifest in this election cycle is to pray before voting. Essentially, just as the blind man went to Jesus and told him what he wanted, we must go to Jesus and tell him what we want. Collectively, we’ll get what we truly want in this election by the measure of our faith. However, our prayer shouldn’t be influenced by our vote; that’s backward. If we simply pray that our favorite candidate wins office, that’s putting our politics before our faith. Instead, our faith must come first — offer our vote to God, and ask Him to accomplish His divine will in this election through our vote.
We must ask for the gift of wisdom by the power of the Holy Spirit to inform our voting choices.
As I exited St. Patrick Catholic Church last Sunday, I picked up a parish bulletin. Inside it was a letter written by Archbishop George J. Lucas, shepherd of the Archdiocese of Omaha, to the 230,000 some Catholics entrusted to his pastoral care. The Archbishop’s words are concise, direct, and reasonable. Here is part of his message (emphasis mine).
The Church teaches that we must pursue the common good. There are many issues which touch on that good, but not all issues connect to the common good in the same way. Intrinsic evils, which are always wrong regardless of circumstance or intention, are fundamental obstacles to achieving the common good. Left unchecked, intrinsic evils undermine this good regardless of our other efforts. Therefore, we must always oppose them. They are abortion, euthanasia, embryonic destructive research, cloning, genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of innocents in war or terrorism.
We must also be mindful of fundamental principles of human rights such as the right to religious freedom and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. The common good requires that we oppose evils and that we fight to maintain the fundamental freedoms and truths about faith, marriage, and family.
Our responsibility to the common good goes beyond focusing on one issue. However, at times a Catholic may rightly eliminate a candidate from consideration if that candidate supports one or several intrinsic evils or supports attacks on religious liberty and the sanctity of marriage. For if the State can force us to violate our consciences by trampling our religious liberty, if the State can ignore the dignity of an entire class of human persons, if the State can redefine marriage, then every other work for the common good is, in the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II, made “false and illusory.”
May we all form our consciences and cast a responsible vote on Election Day. Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, pray for us.
Related articles: I recently reviewed the Catholic Voting Guide App for my Tech Talk column at CatholicMom.com. The app is especially intended to help Catholics cast a responsible vote on Election Day using a well-formed conscience. Head over here to learn more and download.