So, last night at mass our Parish handed out the US Conference of Catholic Bishop's Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. It reminded me that I should definitely remember to participate in political life as much as possible, and I think that includes voting to some extent, and as a person's conscience dictates:
In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation
in political life is a moral obligation. This obligation is rooted in our baptismal
commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do. As
the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “It is necessary that all participate,
each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This
obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person. . . . As far as possible
citizens should take an active part in public life” (nos. 1913-1915).
That being said, I will definitely go to the polls and vote for officials (governor, senator, house of representatives, local elections) that my conscience allows me to vote for. Those who I find are upholding many or most of the values of the Church and also going beyond principles to actually help people in other ways. Community development (especially downtowns, eliminating driving, and increasing public transportation) is very important to me as well, so it will help me form my mind on local candidates especially.
I decided to read it in light of the pressing Presidential election though, and this is what I found:
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
The second is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of
dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity. Racism and
other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war,
the use of torture,4 war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering
from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious
moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are not
optional concerns which can be dismissed. Catholics are urged to seriously consider
Church teaching on these issues. Although choices about how best to respond
to these and other compelling threats to human life and dignity are matters for
principled debate and decision, this does not make them optional concerns or
permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore Church teaching on these important issues.
Clearly not every Catholic can be actively involved on each of these concerns,
but we need to support one another as our community of faith defends human life
and dignity wherever it is threatened. We are not factions, but one family of faith
fulfilling the mission of Jesus Christ.
It must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience
does not permit one to vote for a political program or an
individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents
of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity,
and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to
the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political
commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social
doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the
common good. (Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the
Participation of Catholics in Political Life, no. 4)
Frankly, neither candidate has illustrated to me a dedication to right to life issues on abortion or any other of the important life issues. Nor has McCain demonstrated to me that he genuinely cares or wants to improve the war situation (outside of "winning), health care, the economic situation of the poor, immigrants, etc. etc. etc.
I cannot vote for either one of them with a clean conscience. That's my personal decision, no one else's, and it is not something I would bind on anyone or ask anyone to try to bind on me. In fact, I have chosen to:
When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the
conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the
extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation,
may decide to vote for the candidate
deemed less likely to advance such
a morally flawed position and more
likely to pursue other authentic
because I really don't know which one will be less likely to advance a morally flawed position, as they both seem to me to be extremely morally flawed!
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