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Catholics are called to consider their faith values when participating in the civic process, as did Father Brian Harrison, OS, who voted in the U.S. for the first time in 2016, months after he was naturalized as a citizen.
Catholics are called to consider their faith values when participating in the civic process, as did Father Brian Harrison, OS, who voted in the U.S. for the first time in 2016, months after he was naturalized as a citizen.

What’s a Catholic voter to do this election season?

Prayer, discernment are necessary before entering the voting booth

With the mid-term elections upon us on Tuesday, Nov. 6, it’s tempting to throw up our hands in frustration and sit this one out. Now, more than ever.

Candidates attack each other in TV/radio ads, deriding opponents and barely addressing their own attributes or stances on the issues. PACs (Political Action Committees) with unclear funding often don’t even bother touting a candidate, just disparaging the other.

Social media adds another layer of distrust in a divisive digital world, as Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos said Oct. 15 at Wired’s 25th anniversary conference.

“I think social media is increasing, unfortunately, identity politics, tribalism,” he said. “I think the internet, in its current incarnation, is a confirmation bias machine. If you have a going in point of view, and you go do some searches, you find confirmation of your point of view. If your news feed is showing you things, its showing you things that confirm your point of view, by and large.”

Worse, who even knows if an ad or post on any of the platforms even originated in the U.S, what with foreign meddling in the 2016 election.

So, what’s a Catholic voter to do?

Rather than succumb to temptation and walk away, Catholic voters need to prayerfully form their consciences and vote for candidates or issues that best conform to Catholic teaching.

Two years ago in “Viewing election issues through a lens of faith,” Archbishop Robert J. Carlson identified prayer before politics as essential.

“First, we should pray,” he wrote. “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.”

Likewise, the U.S. bishops have stressed the importance of prayer in their guide, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”

“(I)n addition to forming our consciences, we must fast and pray, asking our loving and gracious God to give us the ability to effectively proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through our daily witness to our faith and its teachings,” they wrote.

In addition to prayer, Archbishop Carlson advised listening “to each other with genuine interest when we disagree … not just waiting for the next chance to score points in a debate. Being genuinely interested in each other, listening to and loving each other even amidst our differences — if we don’t do that within our own Catholic family, what hope is there for the broader culture?”

Abortion, immigration and discrimination are among the important issues facing the U.S. today, plus terrorism, the environment, gun policy, drug addiction and old standbys such as the economy, health care, Social Security, Medicare and taxes, the federal budget deficit and trade policy.

The bishops also noted as among their chief concerns physician-assisted suicide, materialism, same-sex marriage, religious freedom both at home and abroad, the promotion of peace, marriage and family life, Catholic education, media issues, and global solidarity.

In “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the bishops noted the contradictions in American life.

“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,” they wrote. “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.”

Come Nov. 6, we need to overcome the temptation to disengage and abstain from voting, which Archbishop Carlson described as “a temptation to despair. We’re called to be a people of hope, and hope expresses itself in continued engagement.”

And when it’s all said and done, when the sun rises Wednesday, Nov. 7, “let’s remember that … Jesus will still be Lord,” he wrote. “People will still need to hear the Good News of His saving love. Each of us will be called to take up our cross and follow Him, serving others and suffering for our convictions. That’s how our faith has shaped culture in the past; that’s how our faith will shape the culture in the future. In that sense, our mandate won’t have changed, no matter who wins or loses.”

Amendment 3, Proposition B

The Missouri Catholic Bishops are opposing Amendment 3, which would amend the Missouri constitution to legalize medical marijuana and create a tax-funded stream of revenue for potentially unethical biomedical research.

“We are sympathetic to those who seek relief from debilitating illnesses and express no position on the propriety of medical marijuana as a means of relieving suffering,” the bishops wrote in a statement. “We oppose this initiative, however, because it contains no limitation on the types of research that could be funded by the taxes generated. The significant funding stream created by this initiative would not be subject to legislative appropriation or review and could be used for research involving the destruction and use of embryonic stem cells or aborted fetal remains.”

The bishops also issued a statement supporting the intent of Proposition B, the ballot initiative to increase the state minimum wage. “We have seen within our own parish communities the effect that unemployment, underemployment, and low wages have on our own parishioners and on society at large. Too many Missouri citizens live at or below the federal poverty level, including some who work more than one job to support themselves, and a significant percentage of children, who are often supported by the wages of just one parent or caregiver. Many others suffer from despair and hopelessness due to lack of opportunity for meaningful work,” the bishops stated.

Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the bishops said that “a just wage is the legitimate fruit of work.” Remuneration for work should guarantee workers “the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood” for their themselves and their families, “taking into account the role and productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.”

The bishops stated that they recognize that too high a minimum wage can have a chilling effect on hiring, especially in industries where profit margins are slim, and/or when teenage or entry level workers are sought.”People of good will may disagree on whether this proposal is appropriate for all sectors of Missouri’s economy, or as it would be applied to urban versus rural communities,” the bishops stated. “This proposal, however, seems reasonable to us as one means of ensuring that those working for minimum wage can make ends meet and provide for the needs of their families.”

>> Resources

The Faithful Citizenship page at the archdiocesan website includes several resources to help you form your conscience before voting:

• A downloadable pdf of the Lens of Faith, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson’s reflections on forming consciences before voting written in 2016

• Links to the USCCB’s Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship booklet

• Links to information from the USCCB and archdiocesan agencies on some topics of interest in elections

Find this and more at archstl.org/faithful-citizenship

To find your poling place and learn about the candidates and issues on the ballot, visit the Missouri Voter Outreach Center at www.bit.ly/2fg5NRR

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