With 2006 being a mid-term election year, the time is ripe for Catholics in the United States to sharpen their moral and dogmatic minds.

Why? To knowledgeably carry the teachings of Christ — Truth himself — into the voting booth.

Having received the sacrament of baptism and further strengthened by the sacrament of confirmation (which, I’m reminded of from the eighth grade, makes one an ever more committed “soldier of Christ”) Catholics are duty-bound to defend the truth that Truth itself is One. And this Truth is a Person: the God-Man Jesus Christ.

And this God-Man, while remaining a Divine Person, assumed a human nature like our own in every way but sin.

Therefore, to stand for Christ’s principles in the voting booth is to stand for humanity’s principles, to uphold and defend what is most important for the dignity of human nature.

What most elevates man and helps him to attain his ultimate end — the beatific vision — must be defended and promulgated in every aspect of human life, including within the civic responsibility of voting.

For example, how to vote on state ballot initiatives involving such issues as same-sex “marriage” and parental notification by minors seeking an abortion should be clear in the Catholic Christian mind that is ever in pursuit of Truth, both for self and neighbor. It’s not about being liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican; it’s about Truth.

Under a section titled “To Bear Witness to the Truth,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that.

“Before Pilate, Christ proclaims that he ‘has come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.’ The Christian is not to ‘be ashamed then of testifying to Our Lord.’ In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation, after the example of St. Paul before his judges. We must keep ‘a clear conscience toward God and toward men’” (No. 2471).

Voting for ballot initiatives (and persons) that stand closely with Gospel principles is not an option but an obligation on the part of a rightly-informed Catholic conscience.

In my missionary preaching, I often remind my listeners that it seems as though everyone (both Catholics and non-Catholics) can tell you “what” the Church teaches, but very few can articulate “why” she teaches it. And because they can’t articulate the “why” they’re ready to argue against the “what” — and this in the name of personal conscience.

But one’s personal conscience is not to be the final arbiter of a personal decision.

Rather, one’s rightly informed conscience is; otherwise, one runs the risk of operating his life with an erroneous conscience that is not properly informed. And who in their right mind would want to follow an erroneous conscience?

So, how does one properly inform his or her conscience? By looking to the divinely revealed teachings of Jesus Christ as safeguarded by his bride, the Church.

These are the same teachings that are discovered, upheld and defended by way of sacred Scripture, sacred Tradition and the magisterium — what I like to refer to as the Church’s “three-legged stool.”

And the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a solid compendium of all three. So why not commit oneself to reading five paragraphs a day?

Once, while giving a retreat, I asked the group of attendees what shape do the legs of a three-legged stool form. One man immediately answered, “A triangle.” Correct. When I next asked the group what would happen to the three-legged stool should any of those legs be taken away, a woman shouted back, “I would fall!” Correct again.

This woman’s answer was very telling, because whereas I asked about the stool’s fate, she answered about her own.

Her answer holds an important truth for all of us: We don’t want to fall.

As Catholics striving to live fully our baptism and confirmation in the midst of the modern world, we must never separate ourselves from either sacred Scripture, sacred Tradition or the magisterium. If we do, we risk falling. This truth brings to mind a marquee sign I once saw outside a small Protestant church in the South. It read: “Welcome to eternity. Would you care for smoking or non-smoking?”

As baptized Christians, we do right to think and care about our eternity.

We also do right to remind ourselves of the four last things: death, judgment, heaven, hell. And so we must love and defend Christ and his Church. We do so by giving obedience of faith and religious assent to her extraordinary and ordinary magisterial teachings, respectively.

Unfortunately, however, this seems to be a little-known doctrine of our faith (Catechism, Nos. 891-892)

These honorable tasks are fully carried out when we incorporate these same truths into every aspect of our daily lives — including the civic responsibility of voting.

In defense of Holy Mother Church, her teachings and each one’s salvation, these are truths worth meditating upon — and living.

Father of Mercy Wade L.J. Menezes is based in Auburn, Kentucky.