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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Voting Catholic?

I've heard many Catholics around me who say, "I'm not voting this year, there are no good candidates to choose from," or, "There is no point to voting," or similar statements. Those were the things that I said not so long ago too. But did you know that we Catholics have a moral obligation to vote? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says so! I didn't know that, until I told my grandfather-in-law that I was going to vote for someone not running for president. Because I was fed up with the people who looked like they were going to be running. But my wise grandfather told me that I have an obligation to vote. He told me even if both candidates have morally unacceptable positions, I must vote in a way that would limit the harm that will be done. Another way of saying choose the lesser of two evils, though he didn't want to say that any candidate is evil and neither do I. What he didn't tell me is that the Catechism says the same thing about the moral obligation, and the voters guide for serious Catholics that I have since read says the same thing about voting even if both sides have negative positions. What I learned from my wise grandfather I can share with you through links and the wonderful internet.

So now I realize I need to vote, but how to decide? So much political lying and hard to understand legal verbiage. I started with the voters guide that I linked in the above paragraph, because it has an awesome title that sounds like what I needed and because it was produced by Catholic Answers, an apostolate that I love for their clear and correct answers to everything Catholic. The guide lists five non-negotiable issues. These seem obvious to me, yet people very close to me have said, after voting for a candidate in support of abortion, "Well they're for unions, and I'm in a union," in more or less those words. But step back and look at the value judgement here. By voting for a candidate who supports both abortion and unions, and attempting to get the good for unions, the person has voted for someone who will work hard to make sure that every day babies loose their lives, and are torn from the one place in the world that should be safest for them, their mother's womb. Without assurance of the right to be born, what are workers rights next to that fundamental right to life? Saint Pope John Paul II stated this idea wonderfully in  Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici section 38:
 Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.
This is not saying it is a poor choice to vote for unions, or whatever issue is important to an individual. It just means that first and for most the non-negotiable issues must voted against. Someone who's already been born, and is in a union, might think it is better to vote for the union regardless of any non-negotiable issues, because it's going to have a more immediate impact on their life, and the bad won't harm them. This is not a good Catholic line of thinking! Even though I understand this, each time I vote I will need to watch out for any selfish reasons that I'm voting that might ignore the common good.

To make it easier, I thought of a situation where there are three candidates. Candidate one is against unions and against abortion both. Candidate two is for unions a bit, and against abortion. Candidate three is the hero of unions and for abortion. Of course in real life there are so many other issues to factor in, but in this simple solution my informed conscience would have to vote for either Candidate one or Candidate two, even if I really love what Candidate three has to say about unions. If I am a union lover I will vote for Candidate two with that information. So I don't have to forget about the issues that I feel are important just because of the non-negotiable issues, even if it feels that way in some situations.

Voting is so complicated, maybe I'll just vote for president and call it good. Nope, that's not a good attitude to have either, though again it's one that I did have not so long ago. The voters guide makes a great point, most people get to a higher position politically after first having held a lower position such as local and state positions. So by voting with a well formed conscience for those at a local level, there will be a better selection of candidates who promote morally sound issues in the coming years. Not voting should only be a course of action if all candidates are not morally ideal and refraining from voting is foreseen to limit the evil. Not voting should not be a result of not thinking certain positions are important enough. In most cases, one candidate will be less likely to vote for immoral legislation, and in this way voting for that candidate will lessen the evil to come.

But what about parties? Catholics are Republican right? Wrong; there is no Catholic party. It is necessary to vote for individual candidates who are the most likely to legislate in a moral way, and this can mean voting for candidates in any party, and voting for more than one party. Even a candidate claiming to be Catholic may not agree with all the teachings of the church, so it is important to look at what issues they support, and what their voting history has been, rather than the party and religious labels they place upon themselves. This doesn't mean that someone can do all the homework for me and just point me who to vote Catholic for either. Unfortunately, since that appeals to me in my confusion and reluctance to do my homework. There are many issues that are up to each person to decide on, because the church allows voting either way on many issues. There are also issues, such as helping the poor, that a well formed conscience will support, and yet there are many ways to go about doing so, and each candidate's plan to help is a legitimate point to vote for.

So now I know a general rule to apply to my voting. I understand why it is important to always vote in almost every situation, and why it is important to vote informed. I'm still very confused on the types of elections, how to find out when minor voting happens, and all the legal language. I still don't know the specific candidates and need to learn their positions. But with this voters guide as a solid background to aid me in my moral obligation to vote, I should do just fine as I further my research.

Note: I was not asked to write about the voter's guide and receive no compensation of any sort for doing so. Everything written here is my honest opinion and written strictly because I felt after reading it that the voter's guide should be shared, so I try to do my part now.