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Forming consciences for faithful citizenship
Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv.
Bishop of the Diocese of Lexington
This is a column I didn’t want to write. As we approach the presidential elections, the nation is very divided over many issues; anything said tends to further divide. But it is not appropriate to remain silent either. Faced with choices that are far from ideal, what is a conscientious voter to do? If no candidate for the nation’s highest office represents a choice consistent with our beliefs as Catholics, how do we decide.
I cannot endorse a candidate; the church does not tell people for which person they should vote. We teach issues that are important not just to people who share our beliefs, but issues that promote the common good and take the most vulnerable into consideration. We try to apply the Gospel to civic life, and as participants in a democracy, we argue that our voice should be heard in the public square, not in favor or against a political party or a particular candidate. The U.S. bishops describe our role in the political sphere as one of “forming consciences for faithful citizenship.” But a month away from a major national election is too late to begin forming consciences; this has to be our ongoing work. Catholics are on both sides of the partisan divide and both sides of so many of the issues that divide us. What is a person of faith to do in this presidential election?
The church insists that participation in the democratic process is necessary and at the same time insists on being non-partisan. No matter which party is in power, the church must continue to present its values in the public realm and argue how these values promote the common good. There is not, nor has there ever been, a political party in the U.S. which represents Catholic teaching.
My mailbox has been flooded lately with very sincere, but often nasty, letters about the need for the church to be more vocal on pro-life issues in the election. The problem with the content of this mail is that it is more anti-abortion than it is pro-life. It does not see the preservation of the environment or the interrelationship of all life, as articulated so well in Laudato Si, as a value to be brought to the ballot box. It does not see that racism and discrimination against groups of people based on ethnicity or religion are not pro-life positions. Is it really pro-life to consider the Second Amendment as an absolute good, regardless of how many lives are tragically ended? Is it pro-life to promote policies that cut social services that assist families headed by the working poor, in order to make more wealth for the most wealthy? Is it pro-life to promote war as a solution and speak cavalierly about the use of nuclear weapons? Is it pro-life to speak of walls built to keep out human beings whose labor is needed and who need to provide for their families?
Sadly, the Democratic Party has gone further than ever in its insistence that abortion on demand is a right and even advocates the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the government from paying for most abortion procedures. The once small but vocal group of pro-life Democrats is all but silenced. We must denounce this callous disregard for the sanctity of unborn human life. There are also grave concerns about how a Democratic administration would further the enforcement of practices which do not respect the consciences of people for whom practices, e.g., paying for birth control, accommodating same-sex marriages, are a violation of their beliefs.
But it must also be said that while the Republican Party platform contains an anti-abortion plank, which we applaud, the current Republican presidential nominee has been a life-long abortion supporter and Planned Parenthood enthusiast. His remarks about people from Mexico, about Muslims, about women, and the incorporation of blatantly racist “alt-right” groups into his campaign should be serious causes for concern.
A Catholic cannot, in good conscience, vote for one of the candidates because of their stances on any of the above; and these are just a sample of the many issues of importance to us as people of faith. One either has to choose the candidate with a strong position that furthers the common good and promotes the dignity of human life, despite many flawed positions. Lamentably, for many, it will be a matter of voting against the candidate that one considers worse. Looking at the qualities of the candidate, their own moral conduct, their value systems as evidenced in their public and private lives, their role in public service or in society, can all help one make a choice. A choice not to vote at all may be the moral conclusion that a conscientious person may make. hopefully, as part of the responsibilities of a good citizen, a person who opts not to vote for any of the presidential candidates will still cast a ballot for other public offices with more hope of promoting the common good.
The time to form consciences for faithful citizenship begins again the day after the polls close: when we will still have to advocate for the poor, for the immigrant and stranger, for the unborn, for the worker’s fair wages, for the protection of the environment, for fair treatment of people of all races, ethnicities, religions and lifestyles, for making peace, for freedom of conscience, and for the values that we profess Sunday after Sunday. May God help us to be faithful citizens and promote his kingdom above all.
“We must create a “culture of encounter,” a culture of friendship,
a culture in which we find brothers and sisters,
in which we can also speak with those who think differently,
as well as those who hold other beliefs,
They all have something in common with us:
they are images of God; they are children of God.”
425 West Short Street
Historic St. Paul Church
Lexington, Kentucky 40507
Diocese of Lexington - http://www.cdlex.org/
Saturday Vigil: 4pm
Sunday: 8am, 10am
Misa en espanol: 12:45pm & 7pm
Mass Tuesday - Friday: 10am
First Friday Eucharistic Adoration
Begins after morning Mass
Vespers and Benediction at 5pm
First Monday of the month: 10am
Sacrament of Reconciliation
Wednesday: 5 - 6pm
Saturday: 3 - 3:45pm
Anytime by appointment
“May the Church
be a place of mercy and of hope in God,
where everyone can feel welcomed, loved,
forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.
And to feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, encouraged,
the Church’s doors must be open,
so that all may come
and that we can go out of those doors
and proclaim the Gospel!”
-- Pope Francis
Our historic church was built in 1865.
For 150 years,
we have welcomed people
of every race, language and way of life
into our diverse downtown community.
We celebrate and honor all abilities.