Put your political party, your conservative/liberal leanings, your wallet and your self-interest on the back burner. And instead, vote with a well-formed Catholic conscience – which requires moving to the front burner of your mind and heart the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Catholic social teaching!
In the Gospel our Lord is crystal clear that while he deeply desires what is best for each one of us, he especially teaches in his words and actions that the poor and vulnerable require his attention in a most special way – because their need is the greatest. And so likewise, our words and actions must imitate the Lord’s. We need to stand in solidarity with all those who suffer. In fact our very salvation hinges on this.
Near the end of Matthew’s account of the Gospel, Jesus proclaims with both hope and warning that he will judge each one of us according to how well we reached out, or failed to reach out, to those who were hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, imprisoned – essentially anyone and everyone who was in need (see: Matt. 25: 31-46).
Building on the rock-solid Gospel foundation of love for all people – even including enemies and especially the poor and vulnerable – a love for all of creation, and the call to be peacemakers, the Catholic Church in the last 125 years has developed a rich comprehensive body of in-depth teachings called Catholic social teaching which emphasizes care for creation, as well as the protection of all human life and the promotion of human dignity from womb to tomb. Here’s a link to an excellent and enjoyable introduction to Catholic social teaching https://www.crs.org/resource-center/CST-101.
So, what does all of this have to with the elections? A lot!
Most unfortunately, very few politicians are committed to consistently enacting legislation and public policy which is Gospel and Catholic social teaching based. So, our difficult job, if we are to be faithful Catholic voters, is to carefully prayerfully examine which candidates’ positions are closest overall to the Gospel and Catholic social teaching – and vote for them.
It would be morally and politically ideal if we had politicians who were committed to protecting the lives and dignity of all – from conception to natural death – as well as the planet we all share. But we don’t. So, we need to choose politicians who will overall do the most good and the least harm. This is messy business. However, at present this is the best moral approach we have.
The U.S. bishops in their voters’ guide document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” write, “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.”
Whether it’s abortion, war and peace, nuclear weapons, poverty, hunger, climate change, homelessness, immigration, unemployment, healthcare or COVID-19 the easy temptation is to pick candidates who line up with our one pet moral issue. But single issue voting is both simplistically harmful and unfaithful to Catholic teaching (see: https://bit.ly/3jjsrGL).
We absolutely need to do our best in caring for all. For as St. Pope John Paul II said so beautifully: “Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation.”
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.