The political season is well under way as political candidates mount their campaigns for election and begin the deluge of advertisements, bumper stickers, bill boards, buttons, phone calls and personal appearances. It can be a confusing time for Catholics as they begin to decide which candidate is worthy of their vote.
All Catholics should be faithful citizens and engage in the political process as educated voters or as good candidates. However, if you choose to call yourselves Catholic, then that must mean something – even in the voting booth.
Voters and candidates cannot truthfully claim to be Catholic and then act contrary to such beliefs. For to claim the title Catholic indicates a relationship with the church and with Jesus Christ and being faithful to his teachings.
The church is not a political organism. She has no interest in partisanship because gaining power or running governments is not her mission, and if she identifies herself with any single party or an individual candidate, the fewer people she can effectively reach. Therefore, as the Diocese of Providence has frequently reminded its parishes, it is never permissible for the church or her official agents to make political endorsements.
However, Scripture and Catholic teaching do have public consequences because they guide us in how we should act in relation to one another. Loving God requires that we also love the people He created, which means we need to treat them with justice, charity, and mercy. The Catholic faith has implications for social justice-and that means it also has cultural, economic and political implications. The Catholic faith is never primarily about politics; but Catholic social action, including political action, is a natural by-product of the church’s moral message. Speaking for those without a voice is and will continue to be the work of Christ.
We can’t call ourselves Catholic, and then simply stand by while immigrants are mistreated, the poor get victimized, or unborn children get killed. The Catholic faith is always personal but never private. If our faith is real, then it will bear fruit in our public decisions and behaviors, including our political choices. Each of us needs to follow our own conscience. But conscience doesn’t emerge from a vacuum. A well formed conscience submits to and is shaped to God’s will; and the way we find God’s will is by conforming our lives to the counsel and guidance of the Church that Jesus left us.
Many will ask how to make good political choices when so many different issues are so important and complex and so many candidates to consider. It is important for Catholics to remember in this political season that the heart of truly faithful citizenship is being a more faithful Catholic. The more authentically Catholic we are in our lives, choices, actions and convictions, the more truly we will contribute to the moral and political life of our nation.
Cast a vote this year as a faithful Catholic Citizen not a party member, a union member, a taxpayer, but as a citizen of the City of God.