Catholic Voting 101: A Guide for the Confused
Image Credit: Donkey Hotey

It’s come to my attention that many (maybe even most?) of my fellow Catholics are a bit confused on the issue of voting.  How do I know this?  Because FACEBOOK, mostly.  If any Catholic is on Facebook telling any other Catholic that he or she is in a state of mortal sin or hellbound for voting for Hillary Clinton (or Donald Trump, for that matter), that Catholic clearly needs a refresher course (maybe a first course?) on Catholic voting.

I can see why some of them would be confused, too, when you’ve got deacons preaching about whom to vote for and Bishops and priests making ill-advised and incorrect statements in the press and people putting unauthorized flyers in parish bulletins.  I’ve seen and read about all of this, and you probably have too, and I’m not going to link to these folks to give them any more undeserved attention and the opportunity to spread more misinformation. (By the way, here’s what our Bishops have to say about such activities.)

Some of you have probably also seen voting guides from Catholic Answers or EWTN, and have (understandably) assumed that you could trust such well-known sources.   But the ONLY authorized voting guide (and that includes this blog, which is why my advice to you is going to be backed up by authoritative links) is the Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, published in every election year by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  That’s the ONLY document with the authority of the Magisterium behind it.  If you haven’t read it yet, you haven’t done your homework and you shouldn’t cast a vote until you do.

You might also want to familiarize yourself with Catholic Social Teaching.  And you are certainly going to want to read the section of the Catechism which deals with the formation of conscience.  And it goes without saying that you should read about the candidates and their positions on issues of importance to Catholics, of course making sure to check your sources.

Frankly, I think the Church and its members would be in a lot better shape if we all spent more time reading the above documents and less on Breitbart News and Occupy Democrats.  Particularly in matters of faith I would suggest spending more time on the Vatican and USCCB sites and less on LifeSite News and HuffPo Religion.

Anyway, I’m going to paraphrase some of this,  but I am not a theologian and this is not an approved voting guide so you really ought to go to the links provided and read for yourself.

Short version:  You can vote for anyone you want to, but not for the wrong reasons.

What does this mean?  Here’s an example:  We all know that Hillary Clinton supports legalized abortion.  Abortion is an intrinsic evil that deserves the highest level of attention from Catholics.  So if you vote for Hillary Clinton BECAUSE she supports abortion, that’s wrong.  If you are a Catholic, you can’t do that.

Every candidate running this year has certain positions that run contrary to Church teachings.  YOU CAN STILL VOTE FOR ANY OF THEM, as long as you are voting for the DESPITE these positions AND in the presence of PROPORTIONATE REASONS.

Back when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict explained how this works.  He’s a scholar and used lots of big words, so here is the simplified version: Voting for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil (like abortion or racism) requires the presence of a proportionate reason.

In her wisdom, the Church so far has not defined what these proportionate reasons might be, although if you Google you will find plenty of Catholics expressing their opinions.  But they are only opinions, and everyone will reach his own conclusions about this, according to his conscience.

But Trump is just AWFUL, you say.  How could there be ANY reason proportionate enough to justify voting for him?   Well, maybe a Catholic voter is convinced that Mr. Trump really has had a conversion of heart and is truly pro-life.  Our next President will probably have the opportunity to appoint several Supreme Court justices.  Mr. Trump has said he will appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade.  Faced with the possibility of ending the evil of abortion, this person feels he cannot in good conscience fail to vote for a candidate who might achieve this.

Still can’t understand it? Guess what? You don’t have to! It’s not your business how your fellow Catholics vote.  It’s not their business how YOU vote! You don’t get to tell them they are going to hell and they don’t get to tell you that you are excommunicated.

One more quote from the Bishops: “We strongly urge all parishioners to register, to become informed on key issues, and to vote. The Church does not support or oppose any candidate, but seeks to focus attention on the moral and human dimensions of issues.”

And from our Holy Father, when directly asked what the American faithful should keep in mind while voting: “In electoral campaigns, I never say a word. The people are sovereign. I’ll just say a word: Study the proposals well, pray and choose in conscience.

Being accused of being more Catholic than the Pope is not a compliment, y’all.  Can we all take our cue from the Bishop of Rome and mind our own consciences–and our own business?

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Our First, Most Cherished Liberty

Yesterday, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) published an eloquent statement on what it means to be both Catholic and American, and the importance of religious freedom.  Since the Bishops don’t give me a personal call when they make statements, or send a copy to my inbox, I learned about this the same way many people have or will:  from a link to an article excerpting the statement on my Facebook wall, in my case from the Diocese of Knoxville website.
This short article gave the impression that the most important part of the statement was its call for Catholic Americans to resist unjust laws.  This was a bit alarming so I decided a look at the original source was in order.
The second place I heard about the statement was on Twitter, via a link to an an editorial on Commonweal.  Had I read only that (and judging from the comments thereafter, most readers did) I would have been left with an impression of the statement as a partisan diatribe against President Obama.
No doubt other people, seeing other links which present quotations from the statement with their own personal slant, will come away with other impressions–and they will be the impressions that the media want them to have.
I don’t want–or need–anyone telling me what I need to think about anything.  I can think for myself and you can too.  Didn’t I just write about the importance of seeking out original sources?
Here’s a link to the actual statement.  It’s a bit long but it’s well-written and interesting.  I read it aloud to my husband last night.  If you are Catholic, it’s your duty to read it.  If you are not, and you would like to understand why Catholics are making such a big deal over the HHS mandate, you should read it too.  Perhaps you will come away from it realizing that it really IS about religious freedom, not birth control, per se.
Besides the direct knowledge and understanding of the issue that I gained from reading the document in full, I received something more personal, my own mandate, if you will: 
Catechesis on religious liberty is not the work of priests alone. The Catholic Church in America is blessed with an immense number of writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers, and bloggers employing all the means of communications—both old and new media—to expound and teach the faith. They too have a critical role in this great struggle for religious liberty. We call upon them to use their skills and talents in defense of our first freedom.
Would you look at that?  Right there my church recognized the importance of blogging to catechesis today.  The Bishops recognized the talent of Catholic bloggers and called upon them to use it!  I got a little chill reading that, seriously, because one of my goals with this eclectic little blog, even with its minuscule reach, is to educate about the parts of my faith of which I have a good understanding.  Now that I feel that it’s not just my goal, but also a request from the Church, I will try even harder.