Catholics And The Elections

Tomorrow we head to the polls to vote. As Catholic Christians we have a moral duty to vote.

There are certain things that the Church asks of us as we exercise our civic and moral duty.

First we need to have a well formed conscience. Emphasis on well formed conscience. Conscience is not just a feeling, belief, ideology, or gut reaction.

“We Catholics have a lifelong obligation to form our consciences in accord with human reason,enlightened by the teaching of Christ as it comes to us through the Church.” ( USCCB Summary Faithful Citizenship).

A well formed conscience, therefore, is formed by Christ through Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition as interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church.

Faithful Catholics cannot plead ignorance.

While it is true that Catholics should not be single issue voters, it is also true that we can never vote for intrinsic evils or a candidate that supports an evil.

An intrinsic evil is something that is always and everywhere morally wrong even if a good end would result. The ends can NEVER justifies the means.

In our culture of death, therefore, the pro life issues are paramount. Abortion, euthanasia, cloning. Embryonic stem cell research are always evil. They can never be justified. In addition,

“Other assaults on human life and dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified. Disrespect for any human life diminishes respect for all human life.” (USCCB Summary on Faithful Citizenship).

The fact is without the right to life from conception to natural death, human beings do not have rights. The right to life is foundational.

That is why the US Bishops state,

“As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet 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.”

Catholics are also called to develop the virtue of prudence. The Catechism states:

“1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.” 65 “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.” 66 Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. 67 It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.”

Catholics may not cooperate with intrinsic evil. So what is a Catholic to do when all of the candidates are anti life? Good question.

One option is to not vote for those candidates (Faithful Citizenship #36). We may only vote for an anti life candidate for grave moral reasons. Perhaps, for example, one candidate will do less harm. Contrary to anti catholic rhetoric, the Church does not spell out exactly what this means. We are expected to do our homework.

The important thing to remember is that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. All human beings are sacred, unique, unrepeatable, and have intrinsic value.

People are more important than things, or income, or success.  This is true apart from the so called “quality of life”.

Catholics, then may never vote their pocket book.  We should always be Catholics first and not put loyalty to a particular party over the Church’s moral teaching. People come first. Period.

Oh. I almost forgot. The most important part our our discernment process is to pray that we are guided by the Holy Spirit.

About Susan Kehoe

I am the wife of a Catholic deacon living in Des Moines Iowa. My husband Larry was ordained in 2006. We have two children and five grandchildren.. Our daughter and her family live in Ireland, and our son and his family live in Franklin Massachusetts.
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