As we approach this Fall’s General Election, I know that many of you – like myself – are in the process of discerning the choices before us in the presidential race, as well as in many of the other races and issues that will be decided on November 8. I am writing to you today to put forward principles for your consideration in arriving at decisions that are consistent with Catholic teaching.
Every citizen who is eligible to vote must do so. It is a sacred trust, a grave responsibility. In casting a ballot, each person becomes a participant in our democratic process. Voting is a moral act, it expresses our values, our faith, and our hopes for our nation and world.
Be informed. Read and study the many issues and candidates that will appear on your ballot. There are no simple answers to the challenges that face our nation and our world. The United States is integrated into the society of nations and cannot act unilaterally. The good of the whole world and the welfare of people most at risk – the “common good” – must always be considered in the policies that govern the actions of our nation.
There are key moral and social issues that need to be considered in casting one’s vote. The teaching of Pope Francis is clear that there are a number of concerns that must be included in moral decision-making. Among these are abortion, poverty, capital punishment, care for the environment, assisted suicide, and immigration.
There is no “perfect” candidate. There is no “Catholic” candidate. No candidate’s position on the issues lines up consistently with the teaching of the Church. San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy notes the inherent complexity in casting a ballot: “Voting for candidates is a complex moral action in which the voter must confront an entire array of competing candidates’ positions in a single act of voting. It is crucial that in voting for a candidate who supports the advancement of an intrinsic evil, Catholic voters not have the intention of supporting that specific evil, since such an intention would involve them directly in the evil itself. But voters will often find themselves in situations where one candidate supports an intrinsically evil position, yet the alternative realistic candidates all support even graver evils in the totality of their positions.”
The Church may become directly involved in encouraging parishioners to vote one way or another on issues of moral import. This would include, for example, our support of Proposition 62, which would eliminate the death penalty, and our opposition to Proposition 66, which would expedite the implementation of the death penalty.
Every Catholic citizen has the responsibility to form their conscience by considering the complexity of the issues, the teaching of the Church, and their own relationship with the Lord. We are bound to vote according to our conscience. As Pope Francis stated in The Joy of Love, it is the role of the pastors to help form consciences, not to replace them.
In closing, I entrust you all to the Lord, that you may be enlightened by the indwelling Holy Spirit and that you may participate as responsible citizens in casting your ballot on November 8. As you do so, please know that you are all in my prayers.