By Bishop Richard J. Malone
I haven't met many people who are not by now exasperated, confounded
and dismayed by the ongoing presidential election campaign. Ordinarily
in an election year I would be looking forward to the day after the
election; at least the war of words would be (pretty much) behind us.
This time, however, I expect that I will feel no better about the
national situation then than I do right now, a few weeks away from Nov.
8. In fact, I may feel worse. I say that in a completely nonpartisan
spirit. As an FYI, I have been an independent (undeclared is the
official word, I guess) voter for over four decades. Over those many
years, I have sometimes voted for Democrats, sometimes for Republicans.
This year, as with just about every election, neither of the major
presidential candidates completely aligns with all of our key Catholic
The Church teaches that all citizens have three
obligations: to pay taxes, to defend their country, and to vote
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2240). When we vote, we exercise the
privilege of promoting the common good by bringing the truth of our
faith and moral convictions to bear upon the issues confronting our
society. After all, hopefully at least, all citizens cast their votes
on the basis of their most deeply held values. For Catholics, those
values are shaped by natural reason and by what God has revealed to us
in Scripture and Church doctrine.
The Church cannot and does
not tell anyone for whom to vote. It never endorses candidates or
political parties. It does, though, ask us to learn what the key issues
are, and to evaluate them through the lens of the gospel of Jesus
Christ and the teachings of our Church. This sacred duty requires us to
form our consciences. "Conscience is the voice of God resounding in
the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is
good while shunning what is evil" (USCCB, Forming Consciences for
Faithful Citizenship [FC], 17).
Sometimes our positions on
issues will be a matter of prudential judgment where people of good will
may well differ in opinion. At the same time, we must always reject
and oppose intrinsic evils, those actions that violate human dignity and
destroy life. Abortion, embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia
(physician-assisted suicide) are among the major intrinsic evils of our
time. Others include genocide, torture, targeting of noncombatants in
war, terrorism and racism. As important as all the issues are, they are
not morally equivalent. As the U.S. Bishops firmly declare, "The
direct and intentional destruction of human life from the moment of
conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue
among many. It must always be opposed" (FC, 28).
forming our consciences to vote, we should not confine our attention
only to evils to be avoided. We are also called to care for creation,
our common home, and to stand with immigrants and refugees as well as
reach out to victims of human trafficking. The preferential option for
the poor and economic justice are always touchstones of our Catholic
In the November issue of Western New York Catholic,
I will offer further reflections that I hope might help to guide us
(myself included) in what is for many of us a particularly challenging
Study the issues. Learn the candidates' positions. Look at it all in light of our Catholic moral principles. And pray.