Over the past few months, I’ve participated in several events on the topics of religious freedom and faithful citizenship. Repeatedly, I’ve been asked what Catholics can do to promote conversations about voting in line with one’s professed Catholic faith. There’s a general sense out there that the laity can’t say or do much unless an effort is spearheaded by a pastor or a bishop. This is just another face of clericalism, but more on that another time.
It’s true that there are no specific action items from the USCCB or many individual bishops right now. That doesn’t mean that the laity can’t or shouldn’t get involved with local efforts, even within the parishes. And it’s certainly not right for us to sit back and wait for “someone else,” whether a cleric or not, to organize something.
Here are some quick ideas:
- Voter Registration. This should be done earlier than now, but there’s still time to register voters in some states. So long as you pastor agrees, this can be done at your parish. The Knights of Columbus have organized this in some parishes. Priests For Life also has some good resources for this. Statistically, people who attend religious services overwhelmingly vote pro-life, pro-family; sadly, many of these church goers are still unregistered to vote. [Update - You can also register to vote at CatholicVote.org. And they have a feature where you can consult a public database to see if your friends and family are registered. In other words, you don't even need a bunch of voter registration forms. Just set up your laptop or tablet (with a wi-fi connection of some sort), and you're set to go. You could even register yourself or someone from a smart phone!]
- Ask your pastor if the one-pager from the USCCB, “Current Threats To Religious Liberty,” can be used as a bulletin insert during the month of October. Better yet, see if he’s willing to preach on it or volunteer to organize several lay people who would read it at the end of Mass during the announcements. This is the same flyer from the Fortnight for Freedom, but it has been updated even though the top still reads “Summer 2012.” If your parish is cash strapped, offer to pay for the printing costs.
- Organize a discussion group at your parish or elsewhere in your community, even an informal potluck with friends, to discuss the upcoming elections and the importance of voting. Many states have critical issues on their local ballots. The redefinition of marriage is on the ballot in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington.
- Pray. I’ve seen a lot of informal prayer campaigns starting up around the country. Find one of those to participate in or start your own. Many parishes are organizing a day of Adoration and prayer for November 6. You can help to bring this about in your parish if it’s not already happening.
Catholic teaching is clear that we have an obligation to vote. (CCC 2240) I’ll be writing more about this obligation and the role of conscience in the next few days.
It’s important that we do everything we can to vote ourselves and to motivate others to vote as well. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section. By no means are the above suggestions the only viable ones.