LOS ANGELES — Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles has called on Catholics to achieve a “unity of life” and let their faith form their political decisions as they prepare to vote this November.
“We have important obligations as citizens. But we have to carry out those obligations always in light of our duty to God,” the archbishop wrote in his Sept. 21 column for The Tidings.
The column is the first in a series he will write on the principles that should guide Catholics in thinking about this year's elections.
Archbishop Gomez observed that Catholics have a dual temptation with regards to faith and politics. They can either separate their beliefs from how they vote, or they can use their religion to justify their political projects.
But these two options both fail to bring about a “unity of life” in which the faith shapes “how we live and act” and forms the “decisions we make in public life and who we vote for.”
Archbishop Gomez referred to Jesus' statement that one should “render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.”
Because Catholics live in the world, we are called to work for the common good of society, to obey just laws and to respect society and government — that is what we render unto Caesar, he said.
What we render unto God is faith, which means that “we can't forget about the Church's teachings and the demands of God's law when we are engaged in our public life.”
“The most important thing is to form our consciences. We have to make sure our participation and our contributions always reflect the moral and religious values that we find in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church,” Archbishop Gomez wrote.
When Catholics go to the voting booth, he said, there are non-negotiable aspects of Catholic social teaching that they should recall. Abortion and euthanasia and families based on a marriage between a man and a woman are among those non-negotiables. These issues cannot be disagreed about among Catholics who have formed their consciences with the Church, he said.
But many issues are debatable among Catholics who have well-formed consciences. Archbishop Gomez pointed to issues such as taxes, government spending, how to deal with immigration and helping the poor as examples of topics that are matters of prudential judgment.
In these areas, “sincere and faithful Catholics are always going to have legitimate differences of opinion over how best to apply the Church’s moral principles,” he wrote.
“What’s important is that we are always trying to think and act with the mind of Christ and the mind of the Church.”