The election season is looming upon us. TV ads urge us to vote for their candidate. We come home from work and find our voice mail box blinking with messages of why so-and-so politician is the answer to the nations problems.
In no way is the election on November 4, 2014 a small deal. This midterm election year has all of the seats in the United House of Representatives open for election, as well as 1/3 of the United State Senate seats open. In terms of governor positions, 36 of the 50 states will be voting on who will lead them at the state level.
Despite the fact that the presidential ticket will not be on the poll, these house and senate elections play a large roll in the legislature that will be passed in the coming years.
So, this begs the question : How do we vote as Catholics?
This is an age old question. In fact, a question that even Catholics themselves do not know. In the 2012 election year, Barack Obama and Joe Biden gathered 47% of the Caucasian Catholic votes, and ultimately won the presidential election. However, to put this percentage in context, the Obama/Biden ticket only won 34% of the Caucasian Protestant vote.
Can Catholics vote Democrat? Should Catholics always vote Republican? Can someone be a fully faithful, practicing member of the Catholic Church and still with good conscience vote for the lesser of two evils in a political election race?
It is at this time that another question should be answered. Are we aligned to our political party first, Catholic second? Or Catholic first, political affiliation second?
Saint Thomas More, patron saint of Lawyers and Politicians, was born in London in the year 1478. He focused his primary studies on religion and the study of classic literature. He then attended Oxford, where he underwent legal studies. Upon the completion of these studies, his intelligence and quick wit landed him a job in Parliament. Before he was 40 years old, he had already written the famous book "Utopia." Eventually, King Henry VIII gave him the position of Lord Chancellor in the year 1529.
Thomas only held the job for three years before he resigned from the position because of a heated debate rising over the issues of King Henry's marriage and the Pope's position as head of the Church. Only two years later, Thomas refused to swear allegiance to King Henry, who now claimed possession to the title of "Head of the Church of England."
He was convicted of treason. He was told by the court that he would be put to death. These were no easy times, easy choices or a situation of comfort. But invasive Catholicism does not shirk from responsibility when the going gets tough. As Thomas stood and faced the people of England on July 6, 1535, he told those present that he was being killed as "the King's good servant but God's first."
"The King's good servant......but God' first."
Can this be applied to today's situation that voting Catholics find themselves in? I would have to say yes.
Is there a blanket answer to the political parties that are in power today? No. There are, however, major marking points to which candidates can be held up to for comparison purposes. The first of these is the undeniable right to life that should be respected in each person - from womb to tomb.
The first issue that comes to mind with the term "respect life" is that of abortion. Concerning the party of the Democrats, this issue is an interesting one, to say the least.
Michael Sean Winters is the author of Left at the Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics. In an article entitled "Dear Democratic Catholics," Winter pointed out the irony of the support of abortion coming from the Democratic party.
"Even though I know the history, it remains a mystery to me that a party committed to the downtrodden, to those who are voiceless, to protecting the weak, could have failed to recognize that their concern should be extended to the unborn. I can understand, and sympathize with, a woman who feels an abortion is a remedy to an unwanted pregnancy. I cannot understand, and have no sympathy, with the idea that this decision is right. Here we see again the evil consequences of replacing a substantive ethic of the good with a formal ethics of rights. The issue is, for me, and for all Catholics, first and foremost an issue of justice. This failure to protect the weak does not only run contrary to Catholic teaching, it runs counter to the entire humane impulses of the Democratic Party. And, the moral imperative to confront this failure finds ample warrant in our Scriptures. This past Sunday, we heard in the Letter of St. James that we Christians are called to special concern for the widow and the orphan. Who is more a widow than an unwed mother, abandoned by the man who got her pregnant? Who is more an orphan than the child who is unwelcomed even before her birth?"
When judging a candidate, one has to realize that no matter how much he/she supports job growth, clean streets, responsibly funded schools or a good environment, if they support abortion one cannot in good conscience vote for them. Who will good job positions be filled with if the future job earners are murdered in their mother's womb? Who will walk down clean streets in the future? Will the desks at these well funded schools be empty? A clean earth and no children's laughter?
Beautifully,though, unlike many unified groups, the Catholic Church is not founded on the terms and definitions of a political party, the color of one's skin, or heritage. What we do draw our sense of community from is the fact that each and every one of us, despite what party affiliation we favor, are formed, created and living as images of God, the creator and lover of our souls. We thus should be Catholics first, politically involved second. We are called to demand honesty, transparency and responsibility from all candidates. We are called to actively research and discern the weight of each vote in any type of election.
Because any election, rather at state level or national level, is ultimately selecting a person who represents you and what your values are. Our vote should support people who represent us and the values of Catholicism.
The answer then is to learn the sides and full stories of both candidates and then to compare them to the Catholic conscience. Parties aside, we must vote in order to protect the inherent rights to life,liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Rights given not by any legislature, presidential candidate or party. But rights given by a God who we are called to know, love and serve.
Vote. But vote wisely.