FAITHFUL, WATCHFUL CITIZENS: ‘Voting with an informed conscience’
November 3, 2022
Note: This column is the fourth of several columns that will run up through Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 8). No single column on the theme of voting as a faithful Catholic can cover every important point that is required for voting with an informed conscience. The hope of these columns is to hit on some major themes Catholics should consider during an election cycle. I highly encourage you to read Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. This relatively short, but incisive document covers significant ground on the theme of voting as a faithful Catholic, and it is well worth your time.
When this column hits your screen, there will be only days left before General Election Day on Nov. 8. While in-person voting at your local election commission or county clerk’s office will be available until Nov. 7, the last resort for voting will be showing up to the good ol’ fashioned ballot box.
If you are not a regular voter, please do take this election seriously. In fact, take every election seriously. Our moral act of voting is critical to our democratic republic form of government. Through voting, we divest our power to elected officials to make decisions that should represent our values. The actions of elected officials are the foundation for the laws and governance that guide our society.
In my previous columns I wrote about handling “imperfect candidates,” the right to life, and conscience and religious liberty. In this column, I want to tackle several different key issues (and a catch-all issue).
Education issues have been rising in prominence in the last several years. For example, there is significant consensus that the education issue was the issue for the Virginia governor’s race last year. That’s because education issues are pivotal. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes: “Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals.” As well, as Pope Francis has stated: “We [as a society] need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.”
As you consider the candidates, determine what their vision of education is for Nebraska children. Do your best to ask of the candidates what they see as the right “mature moral values” that children should receive? Do they support or oppose the right of parents to direct their child’s upbringing through education, particularly through programs like school choice? And make sure you get clear answers, not just broad statements or platitudes like “kids are our future.”
In my column on the right to life, I borrowed the U.S. Bishops’ analogy about the house’s foundation and its walls and cross beams. The U.S. Bishops urgently remind us that the right to life issue is the house’s foundation and is preeminent. And they also do not fail to underscore the high importance and value of what are typically known as the social justice issues. They state: “Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care.” As well, this includes care for the environment (“our common home,” as Pope Francis has called it) which as the U.S. Bishops note “is being threatened.”
It is important you discern how the candidates, if elected to office, will handle these issues and problems that have a deep impact on the day-to-day lives of so many, especially the vulnerable among us. As Catholics, we know the words of Matthew 25 (to feed the poor, visit the imprisoned, clothe the naked, etc.) are not only responsibilities the Lord places on our shoulders individually, but also responsibilities of the community, including our actions as a government. What is their vision and what will be their concrete actions for addressing the injustices faced by too many of our brothers and sisters?
While I did my best to cover some key issues we should consider prior to Election Day, by no means did we tackle them all, which is why I recommend the Forming Consciences document. There are also many other issues you may find important that your faith influences but aren’t as extensively discussed by the U.S. Bishops, such as issues like taxes, agriculture, business regulation, transportation and telecommunications, etc.
As you evaluate the candidates on the major moral and societal issues, don’t forget to determine where they stand on issues that matter to you or your community. The number of issues that make up the “common good” are practically endless, and I pray you will do your best to pray and act like a faithful citizen this Nov. 8!
Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.