Faithful Catholic citizens called to get involved in elections
There are many ways that even a small number of Catholics can have an effect
By John Huebscher
In a recent column, I suggested that materials prepared by the
Wisconsin Catholic Conference are intended to be but one resource
for lay Catholics as they prepare to exert leadership in the
political arena. With the elections now less than a month away it
is important to consider the many ways in which Catholics can
exercise such leadership.
As the bishops on the Administrative Board of the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in their 1999 statement,
Faithful Citizenship in a New Millennium, Catholics bring a variety
of "assets" to public policy debates.
One key asset is sheer numbers. Here in Wisconsin, Catholics
account for 30% of our state's population. That nearly one in three
voters is Catholic positions us to make a difference in any policy
But politics is a volunteer activity. No one is compelled to
participate. Thus the debates and the elections are decided by
those to take part in them. So it is incumbent on anyone determined
to be a "faithful citizen" to take advantage of the opportunity
presented by our form of democratic government.
Here are some suggestions for doing that:
Share your views with other voters. As I noted previously,
the WCC materials (they are being printed weekly in The
Compass and are posted at both www.gbdioc.org and www.wisconsincatholic.com) are intended as a resource, not the only word, on Catholic views of public policy. Each of Wisconsin's
1.6 million Catholics has his or her own way of articulating
principles and issue positions. Think how enriching the debate
would be if only one percent of us, or 16,000 people, sent a letter
to the editor or a "guest column" to a diocesan or secular
newspaper between now and Nov. 5.
Write to or talk with candidates. In the next month hundreds
of candidates will seek to shake any hand they see, to talk with
any voter who can't out run them on the sidewalk. Think of the
impact if only 5% of Catholics (that's 80,000 citizens) told
candidates that an issue was important to them not because of their
partisan affiliation, their income, or their occupation, but
because of their moral and religious convictions.
Organize candidate forums. There are nearly 1,000 parishes in
our state. If only one in three held forums to which candidates
were invited to give their views and dialogue with voters the
result would be three forums in every Assembly District.
Go door to door for a candidate. If only 5% of Wisconsin's
Catholics, or 80,000 people, each knocked on 25 doors that would
represent a personal contact with at least 2 million voters or more
votes than were cast for Governor in the last election.
And even small numbers matter. As one State Senator shared
during an interview some years ago, only a handful of bills
generate so much as 25 pieces of mail. Since every letter
represents many others who feel the same way, any politician who
gets 25 letters knows that he or she is facing an issue that many
people care about.
With less than a month to go until the election, Catholics have
a golden opportunity to be not only faithful citizens but also very
(Huebscher is executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic
Conference, the civil arm of the state's five diocesan bishops. Its
website is www.wisconsincatholic.com.)