There are “Catholics” who allow themselves to dissent from the doctrine of the Church as if it were not important. When asked to express their views, they may begin to present their views with the following words: “I am a Catholic, but …”. As we will see in the coming weeks, that way of being “Catholic” is actually a way of not being Catholic.
Sometimes you will hear people say, “I’m Catholic, but I am not interested in politics.” The exhaustion from so many words, so many politicians who have promised much and have done little, and the endless discussions and debates on television and radio end up “disconnecting” people from public life. And yet, as Catholics – that is, as disciples of Christ – we are obligated to worry about our country (which is an act of the virtue of justice) and participate in public life because of the importance of the issues that are at stake.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in # 2240 that the responsibility for the common good DEMANDS the exercise of the right to vote. St. John Paul II taught in Christifideles Laici (42) that the lay faithful are never to relinquish their participation in “public life”. It cannot be otherwise; it is a duty for us to participate in the common good of society. Not voting means leaving the destiny of the nation in the hands of others, renouncing my voice, however small, on the most important issues of social life. The Church would have an enormous transforming power in this country if all Catholics voted in unison according to the doctrine of the Church!
I want to stress the importance of voting in accordance with the teachings of the Gospel that have been faithfully transmitted by the Church. It is not enough to appeal to right of conscience and say that one can vote for any proposal as long as it is done “in good faith”.
As Bishop Olmsted reminds us, “Before following our conscience, we must form it in accord with the voice of God. Our conscience is not the origin of truth. Truth lies outside us; it exists independent of us and must be discovered through constant effort of mind and heart.” Catholics in the Public Square (15).
“In preparing to vote, Catholics need to understand their faith so that their consciences are properly formed. Subsequent to this formation, it is important to research all of the important issues and candidates that will appear on the ballot. Only after sufficient preparation and prayer, is a Catholic fully ready to discharge his or her responsibilities as a faithful citizen and cast a meaningful vote.” Catholics in the Public Square (13).
I want to remind you of the importance of the elections that are to be held on November 8th and the moral obligation to participate in them by exercising your right to vote. At the same time, I stress the importance of voting in accordance with -and not against- the teaching of the Church. This will require effort on your part to learn the Church’s doctrine and teaching, the humility to be enlightened and a sincere quest for conversion.
May God save us from being “Catholics yes, but…” and help the citizens of this country choose the option most in accordance with His Will.