Voting Well: A Moral Obligation

Another presidential election season is upon us. This may fill you with dread, hope or anticipation, depending on your interest in politics and this year’s candidates. For myself, it is easy to experience election fatigue, wherein I tire of the endless parodies, smear campaigns and the ubiquitous political platitudes found on social media. Regardless of our personal feelings—be they positive or negative—we have a responsibility not only to vote, but to vote with knowledge and discernment.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops state that “Responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship). But, what does that mean for each one of us, during this year’s primaries and a general election?

CRUCIFIX-FLAGLet’s start with Responsible Citizenship doesn’t mean. On the one hand, it doesn’t mean picking the issue or issues that are most important to you personally and voting solely because of candidates’ stance on them. On the other hand, there is no “Church candidate” who the Catholic Church is backing and asking you to vote for. In fact, there is—of course—no Catholic political party, much as it would be easy for us to just consistently vote along party lines.

Rather, we have the privilege and the responsibility to participate in the political process by casting our vote for the leader who will best further the common good—a good that we understand through the lens of our Catholic faith. This understanding and ability to discern comes from our own natural gifts as well as a proper formation in conscience. An essential part of this formation is an understanding of principles, which we can then apply to particular circumstances and political issues as we strive to make the best decision about for whom to vote. The USCCB reminds us that “Foremost amongst those teachings are the four basic principles of Catholic social doctrine: the dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity” (Ibid).

So that we may more deeply enter into formation of our consciences on these issues, the Forum will be running a series in the coming week or so on major principles about which we should be informed. A variety of contributors will be examining the topics of Solidarity and Subsidiarity; Marriage and Family; Abortion and Life issues; The Free Market, Labor and Regulation; Environmental Stewardship; Human Rights; and the Promotion of Peace. Each writer will examine these issues not in terms of individual candidates, but by explicating what the Church teaches.

We hope that these articles are useful to you as you prepare to vote in the coming year. Together, we have an opportunity to be measured and ethical voices to promote the protection of the vulnerable and the flourishing of a just society. As we move forward through this year, we can recall the words of Pope Francis:

An authentic faith . . . always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, it hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. The earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters. If indeed “the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics,” the Church, “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 183)

Please consider not only following along with this series, but commenting, dialoguing and sharing about these important topics.

cbootsmasCaitlin Bootsma is the editor of Human Life International's Truth and Charity Forum. Mrs. Bootsma received a Licentiate in Catholic Social Communications at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome as well as a Master's of Systematic Theology from Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and two sons.
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  • Dr. Robert Schwartz

    Dr. Robert Schwartz • an hour ago

    Let all Catholics spread the word, i.e., the truth on the issue of what standard should lead us to choose or reject one candidate over another. All Catholics should know that morality is first and foremost a divinely guided directive of human nature itself. This casts morality as the foremost law in determining and choosing whatever is offered as an alternative to its immutable standard.

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  • DLink

    Dr. Schwartz is quite right and I would add that injecting morality into the voting process just might have a salutary effect on a few politicians.

  • Dan Ruf in indiana

    Even if the Church would outright endorse someone, sadly, most people would still deceive themselves and vote for whomever adheres to their own personal agenda. Case in point, union people pays dues to support an organization, democrats/socialists, that basically promote abortion, ssa, etc, etc. all in the Marxist name of ‘social welfare’. All Lies.

  • Michel_Thibodeau

    Well said…but now that the courts are concerned about cleanliness in operating rooms…I wonder where our “Catholic” pragmatism will lead!