The election for President of the United States has begun a vibrant national debate concerning the direction of our country. An aspect of our faith includes being involved in the political process. The Bishops of the United States assist us in this process through publishing, every four years, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. This resource presents Catholic teaching concerning current political issues. The following article summarizes Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.
The laity is to build a just and faithful society through being active in the political process and bishops have the role of helping the laity form their consciences. Formation of one’s conscience means making reasoned judgments based on what one knows to be just and right. To form one’s conscience an individual studies the Scriptures and Church teaching and living this truth in love. The following are important principles for your formation of conscience.
THE RIGHT TO LIFE AND THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON
Human life is sacred. Direct attacks on all innocent persons are never morally acceptable. Human life is under direct threat from abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty. The taking of human life through abortion and euthanasia, human cloning and destructive research on human embryos must always be rejected. Threats to innocent life also include torture, the targeting of innocent civilians in war and the treating of workers as mere means to an end. While Catholics do not vote based on one issue, we are called to not vote for candidates who support an intrinsic moral evil such as abortion or racism. Catholics are not to merely support one area of Catholic teaching while disregarding other areas of teaching.
CALL TO FAMILY, COMMUNITY AND PARTICIPATION
The human person is not only sacred but also social. Full human development takes place in relationship with others. The family – based on marriage between a man and a woman – is the first and fundamental unit within society and is a sanctuary for the creation and nurturing of children. Respect for the family should be reflected in every policy and program. “Wages should allow workers to care for their families.” (#70) Every person and association have the right and duty to participate actively in shaping society.
RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Human dignity is respected and the common good is fostered only if human rights are protected and basic responsibilities are met. The common good is that which makes society thrive. Every human being has a right to those things required for living a decent human life, such as food, water, shelter, health care, housing, freedom of religion and family-life. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities – to one another, to our families, to our places of employment, to co-workers and to the larger society.
PREFERENTIAL OPTION FOR THE POOR AND VULNERABLE
While the common good embraces all, the Church has a preferential love for those who are weak, vulnerable, and most in need. A basic moral test for any society is how it treats those who are most vulnerable. “Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (Laudato Si, no. 139) This includes offering affordable and accessible health care.
DIGNITY OF WORK AND RIGHTS OR WORKERS
The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Employers contribute to the common good through the products or goods they provide and by creating jobs that uphold the dignity and rights of workers—to productive work, to decent and just wages, to adequate benefits and security in their old age and to the right to organize and join unions.
We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic and ideological differences. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions and requires us to eradicate racism and address the extreme poverty and disease plaguing so much of the world. A more just world will be a more peaceful world, a world less vulnerable to terrorism and other violence. The United States should welcome the stranger among us - including immigrants seeking work - by ensuring that they have opportunities for a safe home, education for their children and a decent life for their families. Catholics must work to avoid war and to promote peace throughout the world.
CARING FOR GOD’S CREATION
God has called us to be stewards of God’s creation. Care for the earth is a duty of our faith and a sign of our concern for all people. This is especially true since the degradation of the environment most often hurts those who are most poor. Extreme consumerism brings about this degradation. In his Encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis has recently lifted up pollution, climate change, lack of access to clean water and the loss of biodiversity as particular challenges.
I encourage you to form your conscience and vote in the upcoming election.