Another presidential election season is upon us. This may fill you with dread, hope or anticipation, depending on your interest in politics and this year’s candidates. For myself, it is easy to experience election fatigue, wherein I tire of the endless parodies, smear campaigns and the ubiquitous political platitudes found on social media. Regardless of our personal feelings—be they positive or negative—we have a responsibility not only to vote, but to vote with knowledge and discernment.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops state that “Responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship). But, what does that mean for each one of us, during this year’s primaries and a general election?
Let’s start with Responsible Citizenship doesn’t mean. On the one hand, it doesn’t mean picking the issue or issues that are most important to you personally and voting solely because of candidates’ stance on them. On the other hand, there is no “Church candidate” who the Catholic Church is backing and asking you to vote for. In fact, there is—of course—no Catholic political party, much as it would be easy for us to just consistently vote along party lines.
Rather, we have the privilege and the responsibility to participate in the political process by casting our vote for the leader who will best further the common good—a good that we understand through the lens of our Catholic faith. This understanding and ability to discern comes from our own natural gifts as well as a proper formation in conscience. An essential part of this formation is an understanding of principles, which we can then apply to particular circumstances and political issues as we strive to make the best decision about for whom to vote. The USCCB reminds us that “Foremost amongst those teachings are the four basic principles of Catholic social doctrine: the dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity” (Ibid).
So that we may more deeply enter into formation of our consciences on these issues, the Forum will be running a series in the coming week or so on major principles about which we should be informed. A variety of contributors will be examining the topics of Solidarity and Subsidiarity; Marriage and Family; Abortion and Life issues; The Free Market, Labor and Regulation; Environmental Stewardship; Human Rights; and the Promotion of Peace. Each writer will examine these issues not in terms of individual candidates, but by explicating what the Church teaches.
We hope that these articles are useful to you as you prepare to vote in the coming year. Together, we have an opportunity to be measured and ethical voices to promote the protection of the vulnerable and the flourishing of a just society. As we move forward through this year, we can recall the words of Pope Francis:
An authentic faith . . . always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, it hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. The earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters. If indeed “the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics,” the Church, “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 183)
Please consider not only following along with this series, but commenting, dialoguing and sharing about these important topics.