YOU MAY NOT BE AWARE, BUT THERE IS AN ELECTION THIS WEEK?!?: Obviously I am being very sarcastic. We have been bombarded for months with information about the election that is taking place this week. “Bombarded” is a weak word when we think about the zillion opinions, debates, perspectives, issues, scandals, etc., etc. that we have been barraged with on a daily basis over these past months. How do we decide? Pope Francis said “We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern.” I truly feel that I am in a quandary! I can’t decide who to vote for or what to vote for. I feel that in choosing the lesser of two evils, I am still choosing evil.
You may feel like me, so what do we do? As Catholics in the exercise of our rights and duties, need to be participants in our democracy. We need to form our consciences; and thus contribute to and shape political choices in the coming election.
There are many opposing issues and all are very important. The excessive consumption of material goods and the destruction of natural resources (harming both the environment ,the poor, and all humanity); deadly attacks on fellow Christians and religious minorities; the narrowing redefinition of religious freedom; Life issues; respect for women; marriage; economic policies that fail to prioritize the poor; healthcare; immigration and a worldwide refugee crisis; to name just a few.
As our Faith reminds us, no matter what we vote for, as long as we follow our well-formed conscience, we are good Catholics. In the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” (no. 17), the Catholic Bishops of the United States Conscience remind us:
“The Church equips its members to address political and social questions by helping them to develop a well-formed conscience. …Conscience is not something that allows us to justify doing whatever we want, nor is it a mere “feeling” about what we should or should not do. Rather, conscience is the voice of God resounding in the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good while shunning what is evil.”
Conscience is a judgment of practical reason that helps us to recognize and seek what is good, and to reject what is evil (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1778, 1796). As the bishops note, we need to form our consciences in an ongoing manner. How do we do this? We must:
1) When examining any issue or situation, begin by being open to the truth and what is right.
2) Study Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Church.
3) Examine the facts and background information about various choices.
4) Prayerfully reflect to discern the will of God (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, no. 18).
The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults adds:
5) The prudent advice and good example of others support and enlighten our conscience.
6) The authoritative teaching of the Church is an essential element.
7) The gifts of the Holy Spirit help us develop our conscience.
8) Regular examination of conscience is important as well (p. 314).
Clearly this is a lot of work, but we need to do it. It is a privilege to be members of this wonderful country and it is even more a privilege to know Christ as members of His Body. Let us pray for one another as we work to form our conscience, and as we exercise our right to vote.