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Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
October 18, 2002 Issue

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

Stewardship: A Way of Life logo


Stewardship: A Way of Life is the diocesan thrust. It invites Catholics to acknowledge that all of life is a gift of God and to respond through prayer, service and sharing. This series will look at ways to do that.

Related articles ...

from the 10/18/2002 Compass:
Part six -- Criminal Justice and Corrections

from the 10/11/2002 Compass:
Part five -- Budget Shortfalls and Taxation

from the 10/04/2002 Compass:
Part four -- Health Care

from the 9/27/2002 Compass:
Part three -- Help for Families

from the 9/20/2002 Compass:
Part two -- Human Life and Dignity

from the 9/13/2002 Compass:
Part one -- Intro. and overview
Helping faithful Catholics decide

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 discussion.

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 and 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 influential ones.

(Huebscher is executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the civil arm of the state's five diocesan bishops. Its website is

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