Preparing to Vote in November 2016

     As citizens of the United States, we are blessed to live in a country where we have the right to participate in our own governance through free and fair elections. This great responsibility comes with a grave moral obligation to ensure that we cast our ballot only after careful consideration.[1] The right to vote is a sacred right which was won for us and continues to be protected by the countless brave men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country and should not be taken lightly. It is our obligation as Catholics and citizens of the United States to inform ourselves of the candidates and issues and then cast our ballots considering the common good of mankind and our nation.

      The Catholic Church, concerned primarily with the salvation of souls, does not directly interfere with secular politics. Rather “it is primarily the task of the lay faithful, formed in the school of the Gospel, to be directly involved in political and social activity.”[2] The Catholic Church does not tell her members who to vote for, but she does have an obligation to help form us in the school of the Gospel so that we can cast our ballots with a properly formed conscience. Since “the conscience in its capacity as the mind judging right and wrong is the point at which both reasoning and prayer coalesce,”[3] in preparing to vote, we must pray for guidance and be properly informed about the morality of each issue.

      The United States of America was founded on the principle that all men are created free and voting is one of the primary ways we exercise that freedom. “Liberty without truth is deceitful; the absence of a moral connection between liberty and truth can only produce a form of anarchy.”[4] While we may feel uncomfortable voting for any of the candidates on the ballot, we must remember that “liberty continues to be real when it truly accomplishes the supreme good of human existence which is to live in the truth of God.”[5] In other words “development is impossible without uprights men and women, without financiers and politicians, whose consciences are finely attuned to the requirement of the common good.”[6] Our vote ultimately should not be cast on who we like the most or who we believe the best candidate is for us, but rather our vote should be cast on what we truly believe is for the common good of all.

      When considering what is best for the common good we must also remember that we vote for a particular office and not simply for a particular candidate. For example, when we vote for the President of the United States we also vote for cabinet positions, ambassadors to every country we have diplomatic relations with, and judicial appointments to the Supreme Court and federal courts, all of which are directed by the President. While we may not like an individual candidate we also have to evaluate his/her platform in light of their powers, recognizing that their platform can have a far wider reach than the individual candidate.

      At the end of the election, there will be a transfer of power regardless of whether we vote or not. When we vote for someone we do not necessarily vote for them because we like them or we believe they are the perfect candidate. Sometimes it is necessary to vote practically for the best available options. Much like Captain Sully of US Airways Flight 1549, we often have to make the best of bad decisions. I’m sure Captain Sully didn’t want to have to put his plane down in the Hudson River and I’m sure he probably thought it was going to cost lives if he did. He evaluated all of the possible solutions available to him and determined that his best option was to put the plane down in the Hudson and did so without concern for whether he liked the idea of doing so or not. Likewise, we may not like any of the realistic options presented before us, yet at the same time, as a nation we are going to make a choice between perhaps unrealistic options, so we have an obligation to participate in choosing the better of unrealistic options.

      When deciding how to vote, we can never forget that the right to life is the most fundamental right. Without the right to life, we do not have any other rights. Think about it for a second, all the other issues, racism, poverty, access to healthcare, unemployment, etc. are important because people have a right to life. The second we take away the concern for the right to life the concerns about racism, poverty, access to healthcare, unemployment, etc. fall away.

      America was founded on the principal that all people are entitled to the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.[7] The Founding Fathers placed life as the first of the inalienable rights because like all Americans they understood that the right to life is fundamental. If a candidate came forward and promoted the actions of the terrorists who attacked the Pulse Night Club, we would rightly say that person should drop out of politics. Likewise if life begins at conception, which the Church teaches and any legitimate medical specialist admits, how is promoting the taking of an innocent life in the womb through abortion any different than the taking of lives at the night club?

      There are certainly many issues including the morality of candidates, which must be weighed when discerning how to vote but nothing is more important than the protection of the right to life, which is the foundation of all other rites. As we prepare to vote it is essential that each of us take the time to study the position of the candidates and the other ballot issues. Only after informing our consciences and praying for guidance should we cast our ballots for what we believe is truly for the common good.

 

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 1619. Par. 2240.

[2] Pope Paul VI, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum. (18 November 1965) Par. 100. Accessible at http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

[3] James Keating. Listening for Truth. Praying Our Way to Virtue. Liguori: Liguori Press. (2002). Pg 80.

[4] Robert Cardinal Sarah, God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith with Nicolas Dias San Francisco: Ignatius (2015) pg 184.

[5] Robert Cardinal Sarah, God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith with Nicolas Dias San Francisco: Ignatius (2015) pg 184.

[6] Pope Benedict XVI. Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate. (29 June 2009) Par. 74. Accessible at http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20090629_caritas-in-veritate.html

[7] Declaration of Independence (US 1776)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s