Voting with the mind of Christ
As we approach Nov. 8, the societal and political fate of many issues will rest in the hands of voters. These issues rest in our hands on a daily basis through the ways we conduct ourselves. But, the issues take on a particularly solemn and moral character when we cast our votes.
To steal the words of St. Paul and apply them to our upcoming election, we want to "have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16) when we vote Nov. 8. This, however, begs the question: What does it mean to vote with the mind of Christ?
Guided by the wisdom of the church, I want to identify some of the key issues for Catholics as they approach the election.
Dignity of Human Life. The right to life is the "condition for all others" (Pope St. John Paul II). Human life is sacred and to be protected from the moment of conception until natural death.
Since Roe v. Wade (1973), the right to life has been severely jeopardized by abortion. As a country, we kill over a million unborn children a year by abortion. As St. Mother Teresa recognized, Roe "has deformed a great nation."
We also are witnessing a renewed push for the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia throughout the country, including attempts in Nebraska. These attacks at the end of life perpetuate a "throwaway culture" (Pope Francis) that devalues the lives of handicapped, sick, and dying persons.
In particular, this year, our Nebraska bishops are encouraging all Catholics to vote "Retain" on Ballot Referendum 426 to uphold the state Legislature’s repeal of the death penalty in 2015.
Marriage and Family Life. The elements of marriage can be categorized in four parts. Marriage is 1) a lifelong union between 2) and 3) one man and one woman for 4) the good of children. Recent trends have prompted the downfall of each of these elements.
Contraception and abortion have dismantled the good of children. No-fault divorce has undermined the lifelong union. Same-sex marriage has cast into the shadows the union of a man and a woman. On the rise, polyamory and polygamy demean the exclusivity of the one man and one woman.
Yet, marriage is not subject to our redefinition. As the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" teaches, "God himself is the author of marriage."
At the bedrock of society is the family, united through the bond of husband and wife by the grace of God.
Through the family, the world sees God. Through the union of husband and wife, children attain their human flourishing.
Religious Liberty. Religious liberty is our first liberty. Religious liberty is rooted in our fundamental search for truth, most especially, to understand the most supreme truths regarding God. Religious liberty allows us to pursue this search without unjust intrusion by political authorities.
Preferential Option for the Poor. While it can be difficult to craft the "best" policy to assist the poor, the church holds a particular place in her heart for the poor. After all, Christ demands our love for the poor and it will be a basis for our final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).
The preferential option for the poor calls us to concern regarding issues such as employment, just wages, rights of workers, economic freedom, right to private property, welfare policy, housing, agriculture and food security.
Health care. This is another area of complexity for which it can be difficult to craft the best policy. Nevertheless, the mind of Christ provides a sound foundation. As "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops states: "The nation’s health care system needs to be rooted in values that respect human dignity, protect human life, respect the principle of subsidiarity, and meet the needs of the poor and uninsured, especially born and unborn children, pregnant women, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations."
Employers and those in the medical field should be able to provide health care without violating their moral and religious convictions, and people should have the ability to purchase health care in accord with their faith.
Education. The mind of Christ and the Church recognize all persons have a "right to receive a quality education" ("Faithful Citizenship"). As well, "parents – the first and most important educators – have a fundamental right to choose the education best suited to the needs of their children, including public, private, and religious schools" ("Faithful Citizenship"). These are fundamental matters of justice for parents and students.
Immigration. The church has been a robust voice for comprehensive immigration reform. Nations certainly have a "right and responsibility … to control their borders and to maintain the rule of law" ("Faithful Citizenship") so long as it is in a just and humane manner. At the same time, Catholics have a unique role to play to "welcome the stranger" with the love of Christ.
As you approach the polls, I pray that, with an informed conscience, you will cast a ballot that aligns with the mind of Christ and instills in our culture goodness, truth and beauty.
Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with headquarters in Lincoln. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.