Published in Cumberland Times-News Letters on October 26, 2008.
Election messages are convoluted with thunderous clanging and clamoring for months on end – the contending voices and maneuverings of candidates and their interest groups. The crescendo peaks as Election Day nears. We voters weary; but we know our duty: To persevere in sorting through the noise and confusion, to discern the truth: To exercise our privilege to vote – and to vote responsibly in accordance with our consciences.
“When he listens to his conscience,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1777-78, available at www.usccb.org/catechism/text), “the prudent man can hear God speaking.... [M]an is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right.”
“Faith helps us see more clearly the truth about human life and dignity that we also understand through human reason,” states the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in its 2007 publication titled “The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” (available at http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org/).
The bishops continue: “The United States Constitution protects the right of individual believers and religious bodies to participate and speak out without government interference, favoritism or discrimination. … Our nation’s tradition of pluralism is enhanced, not threatened, when religious groups and people of faith bring their convictions into public life.”
Politics reflects society; and society is complex – and often self-interested. Considering the myriad of issues is dizzying. Listening to the rhetoric is confounding. We citizens are obliged, though, to seek clarity and to vote for the ticket that our faith and reason tell us is best for the common good – now and into the future.
Catholics are urged to be guided by our “moral convictions” when discerning our vote, rather than being swayed by a candidate’s party or other affiliation. In the Faithful Citizenship publication, the bishops state that voters should “examine candidates’ positions on issues and (their) integrity, philosophy and performance.” Prudent consideration, then, of the candidates’ formation, motivations and records is a practical place to focus.
The publication summarizes seven “themes of Catholic social teaching (to) provide a moral framework for decisions in public life.” The first listed is “Right to Life”: While no voter should be single-issue minded, the bishops note, “a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.” The right to life is basic to all other rights. (Visit http://www.catholicvote.com/.)
The next theme listed has to do with the sanctity of marriage as “the fundamental unit of society…(a) sanctuary for the creation and nurturing of children (that) must not be redefined, undermined or neglected,” as marriage between one man and one woman is essential “to promote the well-being of individuals and the common good.” Society is built upon families. (Visit http://www.mmarriagematterstokids.org/.)
In addition to calls to preserve life and family, five other themes are noted by the bishops as most deserving of voters’ discernment: Balance between individual rights and social responsibilities; treatment for “the weakest among us;” dignity of work; pursuit of justice and peace; and stewardship for the environment.
No one tells me how to vote; but I appreciate the Church’s wisdom and guidance in basic moral matters of life and dignity. Faith is a steady compass for navigating the political storm.
Nancy E. Thoerig
P.S. to blog readers: This prayerful video titled "In Your Silence" sums up beautifully.