Many Catholics are in a quandary about casting a vote for the next president of the United States because neither major party candidate embraces all of the principles of Catholic social teaching. Targeted marketing campaigns and popular bloggers are taking advantage of this dilemma by glorifying the candidate that a Catholic may be leaning toward and vilifying the opponent. That harms, not helps, the decision-making process on behalf of the common good. That’s why The Catholic Messenger chose to devote nearly a full page in this week’s issue (see Page 7) to a document titled Faithful Citizenship for Iowa Catholics.
The document, updated for this year’s presidential election, is a project of the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy voice for the bishops of Iowa. As Catholics, we are reminded to consider every issue and candidate through the lens of God’s Word. “…The principles of Catholic teaching — dignity of the human person, subsidiarity and solidarity, freedom, participation, the common good, and care for the poor and vulnerable among us — must define our positions on issues,” the Faithful Citizenship document states.
In choosing our next president, we should be looking for a leader committed to sharing fully in the destiny of the people and who seeks solutions to social problems. Look for a leader with virtues that “put power into practice as service (patience, modesty, moderation, charity, efforts to share).” This leader should be someone who exercises authority with an eye on the common good.
Issues that impact the common good — dignity of all human life, poverty, a living wage, equality in education, underemployment, immigration, discrimination, among others — get short shrift or relegated to sound bites in favor of character assassination. That’s where we, as faithful citizens, can make a difference. Get informed about issues that impact the common good by visiting the Iowa Catholic Conference website (www.iowacatholicconference.org), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website (www.usccb.org), and by reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the New American Bible and, of course, The Catholic Messenger.
Our discernment process includes continually developing a well-formed conscience; prayer is an essential component of that development. The U.S. bishops describe conscience as “the voice of God resounding in the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good while shunning what is evil. Conscience always requires serious attempts to make sound moral judgments based on the truths of our faith.” We are obliged, as the catechism states, to follow faithfully what we know to be just and right (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, No. 17).
Once we’re well-informed on the issues, and well-formed in our consciences, we’ve got to speak up to the candidates and insist that they make these issues a priority in their campaign and a commitment in their administration. Bread for the World, for example, asks its members to “ramp up efforts to make hunger and poverty key issues in the presidential and congressional elections.” Join the Vote to End Hunger campaign by visiting Bread for the World’s website: www.bread.org.
With the nation’s attention focused on the presidential race, our congressional and state legislative races get overlooked. Visit the Iowa State Secretary of State’s Office website at http://tinyurl.com/zhzth2e for state legislative races; Ballotpedia for the U.S. Senate races at http://tinyurl.com/zp2d4vo; and for U.S. House of Representative races at http://tinyurl.com/haqomb7. Let these candidates know what you expect of them on issues that address the common good.
Bishop Martin Amos reminds us that the church does not endorse or oppose any candidates or a particular party. Nor does the church permit advocacy for or endorsement of a particular party or candidate. The decision on who to vote for belongs to each one of us.
Finally, for the duration of this election season — and beyond — let’s follow Paul’s advice to the Romans: “Let us then pursue what leads to peace and to building up one another” (Romans 14: 19b).
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor