Get informed, register and vote!
As we make our way through another election campaign––with the conventions now behind us and the contests for president and for other major offices having entered their final and most intense stage––all citizens are encouraged to become informed on key issues, to register and to vote.
Catholics, like all other citizens, have the right to evaluate competing political candidates and their ideas, to choose from among the various legitimate political positions which ones they judge to be the best, and to cast their votes accordingly. As individual citizens, each one of us is entitled to form his or her individual judgment concerning the various political candidates and their policy proposals. As Catholic citizens, we ought rightly to pay attention to and to take into account the complex moral and human dimensions of the issues facing our country and the political candidates’ responses to them.
Thus, the Catholic bishops of the United States have produced a teaching document on the political responsibilities of Catholics, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The bishops introduce this statement by saying that it “represents the continuing teaching of our Bishops’ Conference and our guidance for Catholics in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy. We urge our Catholic pastors and people to continue to use this important statement to help them form their consciences, to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue, and to shape their choices in the coming election in the light of Catholic teaching.”
The Church numbers among its members not only those from every nation, race, people, and tongue, (Revelation 7:9) but also people with diverse political opinions and who vote for different political parties. The Church does not endorse particular political parties or candidates, nor does it allow Church events or facilities to be used for evidently partisan purposes. As the 1971 Synod of bishops explained, all citizens, including priests, have a right to select among different legitimate political, social and economic options.
However, “since political options are by nature contingent and never in an entirely adequate and perennial way interpret the Gospel,” the Church maintains an appropriate distance from partisan politics – both to “remain a valid sign of unity and be able to preach the Gospel in its entirety” and lest individual political preferences “become a cause of division among the faithful.”
Elections are an important part of our civic life, a preparation for the even more essential process of governing. Let us then, during this election season, pray fervently for God’s continued blessing upon our country. Let us pray in particular for all current candidates for public office, and for all who hold or hope to hold public office, that God will mercifully pour out upon them an abundance of his wisdom that they may act for the wellbeing and the common good of all in our society, for justice and prosperity at home and peace and security around the world.
Father Ron Franco, CSP, is the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Knoxville, Tenn.