03 November 2014

Toward a Catholic conviction in the democratic process

It is difficult to hear a petition within the universal prayer of the Church for Catholics involved in political life that cannot be placed in one of two extremes. Either such a petition will tend toward the trite and meaningless or it tend toward a partisan platform (and composing a petition that doesn't at least suggest one or the other is not easy, particularly since they are to be brief).

This morning, though, a friend shared with me a phrase he heard yesterday. The faithful at the parish he attended prayed for a "Catholic conviction in the democratic process." This phrase seems a very good one, provided that Catholics who enter the voting booth - or who now cast their ballots early through an absentee process - are formed in the faith to understand what a Catholic conviction in the democratic process entails and requires.

As might be expected, I've preached about the necessary role our faith must play in the voting booth several times and thought this might be a good opportunity to revisit this aspect of faithful discipleship (hopefully it isn't too late!).

Before all else, when we enter the voting booth we have to remember what I said on October 14, 2012:
No political party fully supports the truth of the Gospel or the mandate Jesus Christ has given us, though some parties are in greater alignment with it than others; that is not our fault, but theirs. Our allegiance must not be to one political party or another, but to Jesus Christ.
Faith requires something of us. It requires that we love both God and neighbor and that every decision we make, every word we speak, and every action we perform, be in keeping with the love of God and of neighbor, even in the voting booth. Faith, if it is to gain us eternal life, requires a full adherence to Jesus Christ. Faith can never be laid aside, for we are servants of the Lord at all times and in every place. We must remember that “no creature is concealed from [the Lord], but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account” (Hebrews 4:13). If we remember this and live accordingly, America will truly be an enlightened nation.
If we recognize this important reality when we seek to bring a Catholic conviction to the democratic process, we will enter the voting booth with a desire to foster and attain the common good. We often hear the notion of the common good bandied about, but rarely do we hear what the common good actually entails.

Simply put, the true common good - as I mentioned in my homily of September 19, 2010 - is comprised of three necessary and essential elements:
  1. a respect for the person;
  2. the social well-being and development of society; and,
  3. peace, by which is meant stability and security (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1909).
If one of these is not present, the common good will not be fostered.

In the homily I preached on October 19, 2008, I explored the first concern of the common good, namely a respect for the dignity of human life, beginning at the moment of conception.

In this regard we often hear it said that we cannot be so-called "single issue voters." Those who make this claim forget something forget very important, namely:
We know that of all of the choices we make in life, not every decision is of equal importance or of equal consequence. Whether I have cereal or fruit for breakfast is not as important as whether or not I am faithful to my spouse. Clearly, marital fidelity comes first, for the good of the spouses; for the good of the children; for the good of the Church; indeed, even for the good of the world.

We also know that “there are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor.”[1] Such actions are intrinsically evil and must “always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned.”[2] Such actions can never be condoned by society because they – in and of themselves – are evil, wrong and immoral, always and everywhere.

When it comes to the voting booth it is the same: some issues carry greater weight than others and some can never be performed. As Catholics, we must bring our faith to the voting booth and we must vote in accord with the faith of Jesus Christ.

The first among these is the protection of human life, which includes the so-called issues of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, cloning and many others.
On October 3, 2010, I mentioned that this is what some refer to as "the hierarchy of values," as I also mentioned on August 31, 2008. If a person does not have the right to be born, neither the social well-being nor the peace of society can be fostered; if the right to life is not protected, the common good cannot be attained.

Another "issue" gaining ever greater importance in recent months is the question of religious liberty (which is quite distinct from the question of freedom of worship). In this regard, what I said on September 30, 2012 remains true:
Society today is telling us that the most important issues of the upcoming election are jobs and the economy; this is simply not true.  The most important issues of the upcoming election are the right to life and religious liberty.  Without life, no other right matters.  Without religious freedom, every other freedom will be taken away.  “What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society – or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty, 4-5).
As you prepare to cast your ballot in the general election tomorrow, ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern which candidates for political office will best work toward the authentic common good, and pray for your fellow voters, as well. And if you have not yet taken the time to read the U.S.Bishop's Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States with Introductory Note, please do so.

Together we can bring a Catholic conviction to the democratic process and help ensure that the United States of America will be a nation " with justice and liberty for all."

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