Preparing for Election Day

By Patricia Kasten | The Compass | October 22, 2014

Consider advice from Pope Francis

With Election Day less than two weeks off, are you ready to vote?

Or are you still wondering about issues and exploring the candidates? Perhaps you’re even like some people I have spoken with, feeling that voting isn’t worth it. As one said, “I don’t like or agree with any of the candidates.”

Trust in politicians is admittedly low. A December 2013 Gallup poll of honesty and ethics in professions found state officeholders and members of Congress at the bottom, right along with car salespeople. Only 8 percent of respondents thought members of Congress had “very high honesty and ethical standards.” State and local office holders were even lower (at 2 percent and 4 percent respectively.)

Add to that the political ads on radio and TV, and it’s almost enough to agree with Catholic moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre’s 2004 assessment: “The way to vote against the system is not to vote.” (He made the statement after describing a U.S. economic system where “the costs of economic growth are generally borne by those least able to afford them and that the majority of the benefits of economic growth go to those who need them least.”)

If the system isn’t helping those who need it most, and we don’t trust our politicians, why indeed should we vote?

Because we Catholics are here to make things better; we’re here to make the Kingdom of God visible. We owe it to the poor, the weak and those without voices. And we owe it to our future, to our children and their children.

As Pope Francis said in a Sept. 16 homily, we cannot be indifferent to politics.

“None of us can say, ‘I have nothing to do with this, they govern,’” the pope said. “No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they can govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability. Politics, according to the social doctrine of the church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands, eh?”

All right. But how does the pope suggest we participate?

First, he said, we have to pray for our leaders — and that would include praying for candidates.

Second, he said, we have to look for leaders who are humble and who “love people in order to serve them better.”

As we prepare to vote Nov. 4, the Catholic Church — in documents such as “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” — reminds us to vote according to the principles of Catholic social teaching: the dignity of human life; care for family, community and participation; rights and responsibility; an option for the poor; rights of workers and the dignity of work; solidary; and the care of creation.

None of this is easy, but it’s a challenge we’re up to and ready to undertake. A recent Pew Research Center survey, quoted by Wisconsin Catholic Conference’s executive director John Huebscher on Sept. 29, noted that 79 percent of U.S. Catholics intend to vote this year. In other words, most of us haven’t given up.

So this Election Day, go to the polls. Exercise your constitutional right to vote. And, as you do so, ask yourself two final questions, based on Pope Francis’ advice:

Is this candidate offering to give the best of him/herself?

Does he or she truly love people and want to serve them?

Finally, pray for the persons for whom you vote. To lovingly place anyone in God’s presence through prayer offers them the very best that we can give. And it makes God’s kingdom just a bit more visible on earth.

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