In my conversations with family, friends and colleagues, I find that the vast majority of individuals are at a loss during this presidential campaign season. Many are also tired of the negative rhetoric, and because of it, have decided that they will just “choose the lesser of two evils.” Yet, as followers of Jesus devoted to building communities of discipleship, our faith calls us to more than just the “lesser of two evils.” Our faith calls us to build God’s kingdom of justice, love and peace here on earth, which sounds admirable, but how do we as Catholics do that with two imperfect candidates?
First and foremost, as disciples of Jesus, we must begin with prayer:
Gracious and loving God, let your Spirit be with me today. Hear my prayer, and increase in me the will to follow your Son Jesus. Help me to draw on the resources of my faith as I use the opportunities of our democracy to shape a society more respectful of the life, dignity, and rights of the human person, especially the poor and vulnerable. I ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
Second, remember that “… participation in political life is a moral obligation,” (FCFC 13), but that participation requires “a well-formed conscience,” (FCFC 17). Forming one’s conscience is not something that can be done overnight. It is an on-going lifelong process, and one that each Catholic voter should take seriously. It requires the following elements:
- a desire to embrace goodness and truth (because it is God’s voice revealing that truth) by studying sacred Scripture and the teaching of the church;
- an examination of facts, information and the choices surrounding them; and most importantly,
- prayerful reflection to discern the will of God.
Third, faithful citizenship, like conscience formation, is a year-round effort. This effort is even more important in the coming months ahead because both candidates have stances that are contrary to Catholic moral and social teaching. Therefore, regardless of who wins the election, Catholics will need to actively engage in public life after Nov. 8 in order to discuss our beliefs and values with a legislator who is not intimately familiar with them.
Finally, for more information, I would encourage you to read Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, which was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2015. Faithful Citizenship is not a voters’ guide or a scorecard of issues. It does not offer direction on how to vote, tell Catholics who to vote for, or offer guidance on which candidate or party best reflects the church’s moral framework. Instead, it:
- Affirms the positive role of the church and Catholics in political life.
- Shares church teaching as a moral framework to help assess issues, political platforms, and campaigns.
- Summarizes church teaching on some of the important issues that face our communities and world today.
Additionally, this edition of The Compass is featuring part two of a five-part series put together by the Wisconsin Catholic Conference that also contains more information about faithful citizenship.
We must always remember that as missionary disciples of Jesus, our faith calls us to action and should shape the world around us. The information provided in the document will be a helpful starting point during this discernment process.
May almighty God bless you during this conscience formation process!