Wisconsin Catholic Conference provides resources for voters
Questionnaire serves as a pre-election information resource
By John Huebscher
Another election season is under way and with it another voter education effort by the Wisconsin Catholic Conference.
For the WCC staff, voter education is just that. No one is being told how to vote. Rather, our efforts are directed to help people prepare to vote by informing themselves.
As Pope Benedict XVI put it so well in his encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," Catholic social doctrine has no intention of giving the church power over the state. Nor is it an attempt to
impose our faith on others. Rather, it is to help people use their reason in ways that further the effort to attain a just society.
WCC voter education resources are such an attempt to help Catholics to approach the task of being "faithful citizens."
One tool in this effort is the candidate questionnaire. Though directed at candidates, the questionnaire is a tool for Catholics as well.
The questions are intended to help voters, as well as those who run for office, to have a better grasp of how broad is the range of issues of interest to Catholics.
Staff consult widely in framing the questions. First, we identified a preliminary set of questions based on the WCC's policy priorities. We then asked diocesan offices to review the lists and offer suggestions. Staff also consulted with our Policy Advisory Group before submitting them to the bishops for final approval.
As in past years, the WCC has developed two questionnaires. One focuses on state issues and asks 18 questions of candidates for Governor and the legislature. The other looks at federal and international issues and poses 20 questions to candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Both questionnaires group the questions into four categories. These categories - Protecting Human Life, Promoting Community and Family Life, Practicing Social Justice, and Promoting Global Solidarity - mirror the four "Moral Priorities for Public Life" identified by the Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in their most recent statement on Faithful Citizenship. By organizing the questions this way, WCC hopes to reinforce the central themes of Catholic policy advocacy.
Every candidate certified for the ballot by the Elections Board will receive a questionnaire. All responses will be posted on the WCC website and shared with the diocesan newspapers. But the WCC will not endorse or oppose any candidate. Nor will it identify any answer as a "right" or "wrong" response.
The questionnaires are a tool, not a list of specifications. While Catholics are encouraged to ask these questions when they meet candidates on "the campaign trail," they are also urged to ask questions of their own. We also hope the questionnaires will help candidates grasp the fullness of how Catholics in Wisconsin define the common good that should be the goal of all policies and politicians.
The questionnaire is not perfect and cannot capture every issue of interest to every citizen. But it offers anyone interested in the vocation of a "faithful citizen" a good place to start.
(Huebscher is executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the civil arm of the state's five diocesan bishops.)