Voting for the common good

Our friends at Catholic Alliance for the Common
Good have just released a short but hugely significant guide for Catholics
struggling to decide how to bring their faith to bear on the decisions they
make in the voting booth.

Our friends at Catholics in Alliance for the Common
Good
have just released a short but hugely significant guide for Catholics
struggling to decide how to bring their faith to bear on the decisions they
make in the voting booth. The full guide
is available for download here,
but several points especially deserve our attention.

 

“…we need to
understand that our Church’s social teachings call us to consider a broad range
of important issues – on everything from poverty to war, human rights,
abortion, and the environment. There is no Catholic voting formula, and there
is rarely, if ever, a perfect candidate for Catholic voters. Deciding how to
vote can be difficult, but it is a task we all must take seriously and
prayerfully in order to be faithful citizens.”

 

The U.S. Bishops’ Conference document Faithful Citizenship
makes it clear that Catholics cannot rely on litmus tests on selected issues to
select the candidates most in tune with the whole range of the Church’s social
teachings. Those teachings touch not
only on the preservation and dignity of human life but also on the needs of the
poor and vulnerable, the dignity of work and the rights of workers, and the
care of God’s creation. What Catholics
can learn from their faith is an appreciation for and commitment to the common
good of all humanity.

 

“Listening to
one’s conscience is necessary to make any moral decision. Fidelity to
conscience joins all humankind in the search for truth, and conscience must be
developed by prayer, reflection, and dialogue with others. We must share the
truths we have discovered in order to assist one another in the quest for
truth, and to enable each other to act prudently in accord with the law written
in all our hearts.”

 

Among the most revolutionary teachings of
the Second
Vatican Council
was that Catholics have a duty to form their consciences
and then listen to them. The right to
freedom of conscience, on religious as well as other matters, is an intrinsic
human value. While many Catholics agree
with the church on the broad questions of morality, they can disagree in good
conscience on how to do the right thing in a practical situation.

 

“The common good
is not the same as charity. As St.
Augustine teaches, ‘charity is no substitute for
justice withheld.’ A common good culture protects the middle class, as well as
the rich and poor. At its core lies the Catholic belief that our lives are
interdependent. We look out for our neighbors not out of charity but out of
love, and the understanding that we are all safer, healthier, and freer in a
world where we take care of one another.”

 

What is most important is that Catholics
look at their participation in the political process as a way, even if
oftentimes a convoluted and frustrating way, to advance the cause of the Kingdom of God on earth. That means that our responsibility to seek
out and to support candidates dedicated to the common good is not just about
helping those who today are in need—it’s also about putting into practice the
timeless values that uphold the dignity of every member of society.


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