The Catholic Church teaches that Catholics are to form their consciences based on the Gospel, and guided by Church teaching and tradition. Our well-formed conscience is our guide when we vote.
Catholics are called to participate in promoting the common good and, as far as possible, to take an active part in public life. Indeed, “by fulfilling their civic duties, guided by a Christian conscience, in conformity with its values, the lay faithful exercise their proper task of infusing the temporal order with Christian values” (“Gaudium et Spes,” #36).
The Gospel is our guiding force throughout life, including in our responsibility as citizens. We need to shape political choices in the coming election in light of Catholic teaching. How refreshing it would be, too, if those of us who are shaped by the Gospel bring it to life by seeking elected office.
In the 2016 document, “Viewing election issues through a lens of faith,” Archbishop Robert J. Carlson warned against spending more time listening to political ads than God, encouraged resisting the temptation to disengage on voting issues, and emphasized the importance of listening to one another. Most of all, we need to turn to prayer, he wrote, especially when weighing the issues and for good political candidates.
“We should pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our discernment. We should pray that the candidates (and their parties) will be open to the grace of conversion — even if only one step at a time. We should pray that God will raise up better candidates. …
“Whether it’s reading the Bible, praying the Rosary, sitting before the Blessed Sacrament, praying quietly as you drive or something else, make listening to God a priority. Be the change you wish to see.”
In “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. bishops call people to political responsibility:
“The political realities of our nation present us with opportunities and challenges. We are a nation founded on ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ but the right to life itself is not fully protected, especially for unborn children, the terminally ill, and the elderly, the most vulnerable members of the American family. We are called to be peacemakers in a nation at war. We are a country pledged to pursue ‘liberty and justice for all,’ but we are too often divided across lines of race, ethnicity, and economic inequality. We are a nation of immigrants, struggling to address the challenges of many new immigrants in our midst. We are a society built on the strength of our families, called to defend marriage and offer moral and economic supports for family life.
“We are a powerful nation in a violent world, confronting terror and trying to build a safer, more just, more peaceful world. We are an affluent society where too many live in poverty and lack health care and other necessities of life. We are part of a global community charged with being good stewards of the earth’s environment, what Pope Francis calls ‘our common home,’ which is being threatened. These challenges are at the heart of public life and at the center of the pursuit of the common good. They are intertwined and inseparable.”
In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and faithful participation in civic life is a moral obligation.
Vote with a formed conscience.