It’s a good thing we have mail-in ballots here in Colorado, because it took me a good hour to vote. I would have held up a lot of people standing in a voting booth to make those choices.
I had my state and local information booklets handy to help me weigh the pros and cons of some 20 ballot initiatives. There, too, was the Colorado Catholic Voter Guide put out by our state Catholic conference. Printed up on a card, this consists of 10 values, listed in hierarchical order that should guide the choices of a Catholic voter.
In the introduction to this list of priorities, the bishops state: “It is the duty of each person’s conscience to adhere to objective truth, which is reflected in the below values to guide your vote.”
Objective truth is sine qua non, the bedrock, of any ballot choices we make. It’s too bad to have to say this at all, but we live in a time when some have given up on the possibility of either objectivity or truth, and Catholics are not exempt. We see Catholics in public life who seriously question the authority of the Pope; Catholic websites that contradict the bishops. So, is it any surprise that some also question the legitimacy of the election and impute evil intent in their lawmakers?
This makes our duty to “adhere to objective truth” in voting that much more challenging. But as Catholics, it is our duty to cast that vote as responsibly as we can.
Here are a few suggestions to help us find that objectivity:
· Make choices based on the core institutions of our church. No matter what some website may claim, the church’s authority rests in the Pope and bishops, and not in the opinion of an individual.
· Use Scripture as a guide. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace-makers.” A candidate who leans towards violence in the resolution of problems is not one Christ would endorse.
· Get your information from more than one source. With candidates, listen to at least one mainstream news source, and then look at information outside the mainstream. Some news sources make no pretense at objectivity, and are mainly commentary. Those sources should not be your main source of information.
· Don’t be a one-issue voter. Voting anti-abortion may do nothing to help the problem of inflation, and inflation may not be as simple as throwing out the people in office. Look carefully at the issues.
· Pray! Let God stand before your own feelings. Listen to what the Holy Spirit leads you to.
And now the Voter Guide (my comments in itaics):
1. Sanctity of Life:
Human life must be protected at all stages from conception to natural death.
In this election, five states have abortion on the ballot, three of them, amendments to enshrine reproductive freedom in their constitutions. One, Kentucky, has an amendment to ban abortion, and Montana has a proposal to declare a fetus a legal person , so that life-saving measures must be applied after a failed abortion.
2. Marriage and Family:
Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who together as husband and wife may become father and mother to any children they produce.
While this directive sees same-sex marriage as the problem, it would be wise to look at the example a candidate sets for hetero-sexual marriage as well. Same-sex marriage is not on the ballot at present.
3. Religious Liberty:
Religious liberty is rooted in the dignity of the human person, including freedom of conscience and expression, and is central to the U.S. Constitution. This liberty applies to all persons, including those of other faiths. The beliefs of one faith may not be imposed by law on another.
4. Economic Justice,
Poverty, & Welfare: Economic decisions should respect human dignity and express a preferential option for helping the poor and vulnerable through safety nets and opportunities for upward mobility.
On my ballot, that meant not prioritizing my tax burden over every other consideration on a proposition. I voted yes, for example, on a proposition to fund efforts to address the housing crisis in a city where the poor are increasingly being priced out of the housing market.
Healthcare should be patient-centered, respect human dignity, protect life, promote the principle of subsidiarity, be affordable, and assure conscience rights.
Affordability might be the issue to focus on in this election, as some states have not developed their Medicaid programs, leaving many people unable to afford care. When abortion is not an option, it is essential that women have adequate care to ensure a safe delivery for themselves and their infants.
6. Immigration and Promoting Foreign Peace:
Immigration policy should provide immigrants with basic human needs, including the ability to work, and should encourage pathways to citizenship. Promoting peace is essential in international relations.
Congress has failed to develop comprehensive immigration legislation, and building a wall does not help with the flow of immigrants seeking legal refugee status. Does the senator or representative running in your state have a plan for this? As for foreign peace, is your candidate champing at the bit to attack Iran or North Korea? Are they promoting dialogue as the first solution to differences?
Parents are the primary educators of their children; therefore, education policy should empower parents with education decision-making authority to choose best learning options for their children.
I might add that education choice should not be a partisan issue. While public schools need support, we should raise our voices even with Democratic candidates to vote for education vouchers. It’s just fair.
8. Restorative Justice:
Criminal justice reform should focus on preventing crime and caring for survivors of crime, while also offering those who commit a crime an opportunity to rehabilitate and effectively return to society.
How should this affect our vote? Consider that the U.S. leads the world in incarceration. Think about that: stands ahead of Communist China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia. Followers of Christ should recall that He promised to set captives free. But that was different…or was it?
9. Energy and Environment:
Care for the environment and responsible use of energy resources come from our duty to steward creation and provide for future generations.
This value may be second to last, but it is still important, and may well figure in your candidate’s platform. Is he or she in the pocket of big oil? Thinking of sustainability of our communities beyond the present generation? On our ballot was an initiative to provide recycling in apartment complexes; your ballot might include something similar. Most of us find it hard to move beyond our comfort zone. It can take an ordinance to provide the means to do what is best for the community.
Technology must respect human dignity and protect children.
Would this relate to online civility, truth in broadcasting? I’m not sure how it would affect your vote, but it is a principle to consider in this election.
These are the principles, but they don’t tell you what to do when choosing between your incumbent and Jill Wannabee, the challenger. Sometimes they intertwine. Healthcare, for example, ties in with human life. Economic justice and poverty can figure in to whether women can afford a pregnancy. Is your candidate knowledgeable about the issues implicated by these values?
Finally, and to me the most important, is your candidate honest? Is he or she acting according to principles of reason, or being swayed by partisan demands and special interests.
It’s not easy voting these days, but so important. May God guide your choices!