>(From The Georgia Bulletin, October 14, 2010).
As the midterm election approaches, many Catholics are trying to figure out how to reconcile their beliefs with the current political climate and candidates in Georgia and nationally. To do that, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops calls on Catholics to become familiar again with principles of Catholic social teaching as they prepare to cast ballots in less than a week.
In their 2007 guiding document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the U.S. bishops said,
“Responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. This obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do.”
The USCCB presents seven themes from Catholic teaching that are a framework and reference point when reviewing political candidates and legislation. These themes include:
- The right to life and the dignity of the human person;
- Call to family, community and participation;
- Rights and responsibilities, such as the right to life, right to food and shelter, and education;
- Option for the poor and vulnerable, which means that those who are weak, vulnerable and most in need deserve preferential concern;
- Dignity of work and the rights or workers;
- Solidarity with others, including eradicating racism and addressing extreme poverty;
- Caring for God’s creation.
According to the archdiocese communications office, “these seven key themes provide a moral framework for principled Catholic engagement in political life based on the sacredness of every human life. As Catholic voters, we should keep in mind the blessing that it is to live in a nation with religious freedom and political participation. We can enjoy these blessings and exercise our right to vote with a mind and heart educated and formed to know and practice the whole faith.”
The Catholic Church does not embrace a particular political party or endorse candidates, but calls upon members of the Church to vote with a properly formed conscience by studying and applying the principles of its social teaching. The basis for all of the themes is the first one, which recognizes and supports the right to life and the dignity of the human person.
“Catholic teaching about the dignity of life calls us to oppose torture, unjust war, and the use of the death penalty; to prevent genocide and attacks against noncombatants; to oppose racism; and to overcome poverty and suffering.”
Catholics are also called to recognize the importance of family and their local communities when getting involved with public policy. The way society is organized affects the common good and the capacity of individuals to develop their potential. Every person has a right and duty to participate in shaping society and promoting the common good, especially concern for the poor and vulnerable.
“Catholic voters should use the framework of Catholic teaching to examine candidates’ positions on issues affecting human life and dignity as well as issues of justice and peace, and they should consider candidates’ integrity, philosophy and performance.”
The immigration issue fits into several of these themes, most closely relating to the principles of human dignity and human solidarity. While immigration policy is largely determined at the federal level, Catholics need to evaluate legislation in light of its impact on human dignity.
“Everyone has the right to live a dignified life in their home country, but should be able to move if their home country does not offer that.”
Regarding health care policy, four principles should be incorporated into any health care measures: (1) universal access to health care, (2) no change in the ban on abortion-related funding in health care, (3) making health care coverage available to legal immigrants and (4) a fair sharing of health care costs in society.
An important point to consider is that there is usually not a candidate who will support every single view and teaching of the Catholic Church, which is why it is so vital for people to know the social teaching principles and to be engaged in the political process and well informed as citizens and as Catholics.
“The Church is principled but not ideological. We cannot compromise basic principles or moral teaching. We are committed to clarity about our moral teaching and to civility. In public life. It is important to practice the virtues of justice and charity that are at the core of our Tradition. We should work with others in a variety of ways to advance our moral principles.”
The document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” can be viewed or downloaded at www.faithfulcitizenship.org.