An Election Primer

10-28-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Well, here's a little Election Primer. Never let it be said I did not tell you how to vote!

First and foremost, citizens have not only a right to vote but also a moral duty to do so. Remember failure to exercise (our rights) causes them to atrophy. And as you exercise your right to vote please do so as an informed Catholic. Too often we are more interested in being a faithful Democrat or Republican or Independent than a faithful Catholic. Partisan labels are simply stupid for Catholics. The truth is that sometimes you may have to vote liberally and at others conservatively. Such is the nature of the Christian's participation in the maze of politics.

It is very important to remember that while some issues involve absolute principles others involve prudential decisions. Simply put our moral principles are a commitment to the common good and the dignity of each human person. So for instance voting against abortion or candidates who support it is in keeping with upholding the moral principle of human dignity. When it comes to upholding the common good say for instance as it is expressed in care for the poor, the "how to" will usually involve a prudential decision. That is while the principle that we should care for the poor is not up for grabs the strategy of how best to do that will be a point of disagreement even while upholding the general principle. So while two different courses of action may both be in keeping with and not violate the general moral principle you will have to make a prudential decision on which one to support.

Also it is important to avoid moral equivocation, that is giving every issue the same moral weight. For example abortion and war are not morally equivalent. While you may want to do away with both, given a choice abortion is the more serious violation against human dignity. The challenge is that it is rare to find a candidate who is anti-abortion and anti-war and anti-death penalty and anti-euthanasia and anti-embryo destructive research and anti-same-sex marriage all at the same time. So in these cases offenses against innocent human life (abortion) take precedence.

Each of us is called to follow our conscience but in order to do that we have to have a well formed conscience first. The way we get a well informed conscience is first to submit to God's will and one of the ways we find God's will is listening to and digesting the teachings of the His Church and trying to live accordingly. If we are always at odds with the moral teaching of the Church, we have to ask ourselves why the rebelliousness and usually we find the problem is more with us than with the teachings of the Church. We too often have an irrational loyalty to a political party and a laizze-faire attitude toward moral authority.

This year's ballot is rather lengthy and so you really must study the choices before you vote. In addition to the election of US President, we also have a US Senate seat up for grabs as well as US District and State Congressional seats. Locally there are also lots of Judges up for retention, Corporate Commissioners, County Attorney, Sheriff, School Boards, and other positions.

Also on the ballot are several Propositions. Personally I dislike most ballot propositions because they are basically a corruption of our representative democratic process. Ballot propositions are more suitable for a direct democracy say like Switzerland where the citizens vote on every law. Our system is set up so that we elect legislators who in turn create the laws. The problem with Ballot initiatives is that they tend to be confusing and worded in ways that often make you think you are voting for something but in reality are voting for the opposite. Additionally they often have unintended consequences that the legislature cannot fix because the State constitution does not permit legislators to override once passed ballot propositions. Whereas with a law that is legislated our congressional reps can amend them, repeal them or fix the loopholes if necessary. And here's the other problem: simply voting no on all of them is not a workable strategy since by voting no you could actually be saying yes without knowing it. My point here is that you need to study the propositions and understand the pros and cons so as not to get conned like many did on the medical marijuana proposition (which has huge unintended consequences) last election.

Here are a few websites that can help:

Remember that we are much better citizens when we are authentically Catholic. In fact it is when we are faithful Catholics that we contribute more to the moral and political life of our nation.

All the nastiness and ugliness that has surrounded this year's campaigns are indications that Satan is at work and sowing discord and division in our Country. As Christians we can serve our nation best at this moment by praying and fasting that God will heal our land.


Fr. John Bonavitacola