Voting as a Catholic in a Challenging Election Cycle
COMMENTARY: A pastoral letter from Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
Dear Friends in Christ,
This has been one of the most challenging and drawn-out election cycles that I can ever remember. I know that I am not alone in this statement. Quite frankly, I am tired of the name-calling, backbiting, character assassinations and overall lack of substantive debate and depth of integrity that should be found in those who are running for the highest office of our land.
Many people have rightly recognized that both presidential candidates of the two major political parties are tremendously flawed. I understand that political candidates are imperfect. So am I. However, I feel compelled to say there is a widening gap between some aspects of the political platforms and our beliefs as faithful Catholics.
Our frustration with this sad reality does not exempt us from the responsibility of voting. And now more than ever, we are challenged to form our consciences before we pull the lever, or — as is allowed by law — write in the name of the best-qualified person for the job.
We believe that the most basic, fundamental right that must be upheld and protected is the right to life for all individuals. This begins at the moment of conception and continues through natural death.
This right to life is recognized by the founding documents of our nation as inalienable and given to us by our Creator. The right to life is the most important and fundamental right since life is necessary for any of the other rights to matter. Without this basic right to life, all other rights are impossible to exercise. Once the fundamental right to life is denied, all other rights begin to erode.
As faithful Catholics participating in our democracy, we are faced with an array of issues to consider while making an informed decision. In addition to protecting the unborn and never accepting the deliberate ending of life through physician-assisted suicide, we must protect our religious freedom so that the Church can continue to serve the common good. We must support policies that uphold traditional marriage and families; serve the poor and marginalized; work to fix broken immigration systems; address the worldwide refugee crisis; allow for good, affordable health care for everyone; preserve our natural resources; protect the environment; and strive for humane solutions to global conflict and terrorism.
These are just a few of the important causes we stand for, but the right to life itself is first and foremost.
This is why I urge you, when you go to vote — as is the duty of every capable citizen — to uphold the dignity of all human life when casting your ballot. Do not fall prey to the modern opinion that we can be faithful Catholics and purposefully and intentionally vote against the right to life. I understand that there is a rightful separation of church and state in our country, but there can be no separation of personal faith (informed by Church teaching) from the decisions that we make in the voting booth.
In the voting process, Catholics also should be mindful of the critical role that federal judges and Supreme Court justices play in deciding on social issues such as abortion, same-sex “marriage,” gender identification and religious freedom. And down the ballot, I encourage you to make your voice heard for the people best suited for national, state and local offices. These people also must work to allow us to exercise our faith — not work against it. We are voting for more than a president this year.
While we are imperfect people, it is extremely important for all of us to understand that the Church’s fundamental practice of pastorally caring for every person should not be confused with political advocacy. We advocate within the political area to support and uphold the tenets of our faith, which we believe strengthen our society as a whole. That is why we offer compassionate care and support to people who are struggling from the effects of abortion while at the same time politically advocating for the dignity of all human life. It is why we journey with the parents who are struggling with a child’s same-sex “marriage” while defending the truths of traditional marriage, which uphold our belief in the sacrament of holy matrimony. It is also why we embrace people who are struggling with gender-identity issues and defend the unique, God-given dignity of every individual formed in God’s image and likeness.
This is why the environment to exercise religious freedom, which is a founding principle of our country’s identity and the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights, must be preserved, so that we can exercise our faith and pastorally care for all of our nation’s citizens, not just those within the confines of our Church.
In a campaign where we are inundated with many mixed messages and loud voices, it can be extremely difficult to discern what is right. We must spend time in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts and grant us wisdom and courage to do what is right.
I urge everyone to vote what we believe as a Church, with individually formed consciences and with God alone as your judge.
God bless you as you make these important political decisions at a critical time in our nation’s history.
God bless our country and keep it free from harm.
Bishop Edward Malesic is the bishop of the
Diocese of Greensburg; Pennsylvania.
This letter is republished with permission from the
Nov. 3 issue of The Catholic Accent,
newspaper of the Diocese of Greensburg.
Minor copyedits have been
made to conform with Register style.