ROME — As the country approaches election day in two weeks, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia is encouraging Catholic voters to place their faith above their allegiance to political parties.
“I’m always encouraging our people minimally to vote, maximally to run for political office, and make sure that they’re Catholic prior to being Democrat or Republican and that they put that into practice politically,” he told Catholic News Agency in Rome on Oct. 22.
Archbishop Chaput echoed the calls of other American bishops to have their flocks consider their faith in the voting booth.
“We do believe in the separation of church and state, but we don’t believe in the separation of faith from our political life,” he said.
“It’s very important for Catholics to make distinctions when voting, that they never support intrinsic evils like abortion, which is evil in all circumstances. That’s a lot different from different economic policies” that people can reasonably disagree on, the archbishop explained.
His remarks come as an Oct. 22 Gallup poll shows the “economy in general” is the issue rated most important by Americans as the election nears.
“But people who are practicing Catholics cannot have alternate views on abortion,” he stated. “Such foundational issues have a huge impact, and it’s important that Catholics make those distinctions.”
“A person (candidate) might be right on a lot of secondary issues but wrong on the foundational issues. And if that’s the case, it would be very difficult for a Catholic to vote for someone who, for example, favors unlimited access to abortion … undermines the meaning of marriage or supports policies that really undermine the foundation of our culture.”
Archbishop Chaput sees Philadelphia as a great example of both Catholic and civic virtue. He noted that it produced two canonized saints, John Neumann and Katherine Drexel, and was the location of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the writing of the U.S. Constitution.
“I’m standing on the shoulders, both in terms of the Church and the civic community,” the archbishop pointed out. “We have to produce new saints and be really good citizens.”
He also connected patriotism with love of parents and family, saying that “loving our country is really participating in love of our families.”
And “the meaning of family,” he asserted, is “hugely important for the future health of our country.”
“Having mothers and fathers who love us and love one another provides security for the healthy growth of children. Confused family life leads to confused participation in the broader life of the community.”
The Catholic vote has tended to follow the rest of the electorate in recent years, but with the current campaign for president running neck-and-neck, Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are vying for every segment of voters they can.
The latest polling from Gallup suggests that Romney has 51% of the Catholic vote, while Obama has 49%.
In the 2008 election, 53% of Catholic voters supported Obama, and 47% supported GOP candidate John McCain.
Archbishop Chaput noted that “Catholics who go to church vote quite differently than Catholics as a group." He noted "that Catholics who take their faith seriously, for them, it’s much more than a cultural affiliation — it’s a very personal affiliation with Jesus Christ and his community.”