Friday, March 4, 2016

Voters, lend me your ear.

It is a leap year. What makes a leap year special? It is the year in which Americans choose who will be their leader for the next four years. That’s right; it is election time once again. We will hear over and over that voting is a civic duty and that we must vote to be responsible citizens. That begs the question; how is a faithful Catholic to vote?

I will not tell anyone whom they should vote for. That is a decision each person has to make for them self. What determines who gets your vote varies greatly from one person to another. Some vote a straight party ticket. Some will never vote for anyone in a particular party no matter how much they agree with the person just because of the party affiliation. Some are single issue people who vote for candidates based upon their support or opposition of a particular issue.

Far too many Catholics compartmentalize their faith in order to vote for the candidate of their choice. There are certain issues that are central to our faith that should be non-negotiable to every Catholic. The big three that I will discuss are abortion/euthanasia, religious freedom, and defense of traditional marriage.

Catholics cannot support any candidate who has publically supported the murder of another, whether that is a baby in the womb, someone at the end of their life, or someone who wishes to end their life because they are suffering with a terminal illness. Many candidates try to sidestep this issue by claiming to be personally opposed to abortion and euthanasia while publically supporting it because it is the will of their constituency. This is not an acceptable compromise. We cannot judge a person’s heart. We can only judge their actions.

Catholics also cannot support any candidate who has publically supported restrictions on religious freedoms. Every politician supports an individual’s right to worship in their homes or houses of worship. Many do not want us to live our faith openly in the public square. There have been several laws enacted in recent years that attempt to force Catholics to do things against their conscience and the teachings of their faith, such as forcing Catholic employers to provide contraceptives and sterilization procedures to their employees.

The latest battlefield in this arena is the defense of traditional marriage. Every society has the right to define for itself what it considers marriage. What society does not have the right to do is to force that definition upon faith communities. For a Catholic, marriage was created and defined by God and reaffirmed by Jesus. We cannot choose to believe it to be something different and still call ourselves Catholic. If we do not stand in opposition of the State dictating to the Church how she must view marriages we will see the Church persecuted as never before. It will start with us being labeled as discriminatory because we will not marry same sex couples. We will lose our tax exempt status and associated faith organizations, like hospitals and schools, will be forced to close their doors.  Finally they will come for the Church proper and we will see our clergy jailed for refusal to comply.

We have already seen these activities begin. Catholic Relief Services in Illinois was forced to get out of the adoption business because they refused to allow same sex couples to adopt. LGBT groups saw this as a huge win for their civil rights movement while Catholics viewed it as an intrusion into their right to live their faith in the public square. Ultimately, it was the children who would have been adopted into a traditional family who have been harmed the most. We can only expect these types of infringements to grow if candidates who support traditional family values aren’t representing us. No Catholic, in good conscience, can support a candidate who is against traditional marriage and traditional family values.

So what is a Catholic voter to do? The first thing is to get informed. This is more important for the Catholic voter than any other. We need to be true to our faith and our entire way of life hangs in the balance. We need to know not only what the candidates say they believe but how they have voted on these issues in the public forum. Judge actions, not words. The ones who are pro-Catholic should get our full support. The ones who violate even one of the non-negotiables cannot get any of our support. I may like you as a person but if you openly support murdering children you will never get my vote.

What happens if both choices violate the non-negotiables? I have heard many solutions to this question –

1: Vote for the least evil. You are still supporting evil by your vote.

2: Vote for the person who will do the least amount of harm. They will still be doing harm.

3: Vote for the person who will do the most good. A thousand good acts do not justify a single evil act.

4: Don’t vote. You won’t be supporting any evil but you have no right to complain with what you get.

5: Write in a vote. Virtually the same thing as not voting at all.

I actually do not accept premise number 4. You don’t lose your right to complain just because you didn’t vote. Again, voting for an evil is still supporting an evil. If we only have two candidates and both publically support abortion, a Catholic nonnegotiable, you cannot vote for either.

This is where I think our Amish friends are on to something. They almost never vote in the big elections because they cannot support any of the candidates at that level and be true to their faith. Instead, they concentrate their efforts by only voting locally for those candidates who most closely reflect their values. In this way they are the more likely to have a reasonable government close to them. Sensible government percolates up, not trickles down.

So dear voter, educate yourself and decide wisely who will represent you. You way of life depends on it.

Here is a Presidential voter’s guide put together by the Illinois Family Institute for the Illinois Primary. It offers valuable information for voters in any state.

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