In a matter of days, the United States of America will experience history. Our nation’s presidency will again be determined for four years. Seats in the Senate and House of Representatives will be set. And state and local governments across our great nation will be filled with office holders, old and new. Whether we are prepared for this moment, whether we desire it, whether we’ve participated in its activities, it is upon us. Though many have already participated in early voting and mail-in voting, there are a few things to say to those who are yet to vote or who are still considering whether to vote.
Prioritizing the Issues. Catholics have a serious obligation to form their consciences according to the Truth. Ultimately, Truth is most fully revealed to us through faith and reason. We access the truths of faith through Jesus Christ and the Church He has given us, which provides us with the Sacred Deposit of Faith—Scripture and Tradition. We access the truths of reasons by exercising our intellect in the various sciences, openly and honestly seeking to know how God has revealed Himself through the natural world. Through these avenues to the Truth, we can understand how the world works and how it ought to work. This revelation of Truth instructs us how to order ourselves, our families, our communities, our society, our nation—indeed, all of culture.
We must bring this understanding of Truth to the ballot box and apply it the political candidates and ballot issues that stand before us. This honors God and gives Him glory.
As we undertake this task, we must ask ourselves: What is fundamental to the good ordering of society? How can I seek, as a Catholic, to incorporate these fundamental values and priorities into political society through voting? These questions are good and important and there is most certainly an answer.
The best way I can answer these questions is by a challenge: read the U.S. Bishops’ document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. This document is an excellent summary of how Catholics can bring their values to the ballot box in a way that is consistent with the love of Jesus Christ. This document can be rather lengthy for some folks— it is 50 pages—but I do promise it is very readable. For those who might be overwhelmed by such a page length, you can find additional, shorter summary documents at the Nebraska Catholic Conference’s website (www.necatholic.org).
I propose this challenge because it would literally be impossible for me to lay out all the key themes, such as the fact that abortion remains the “preeminent issue” and attack on human dignity in our modern world or how Catholics can assess candidates when they both stand in favor of any variety of intrinsic evils.
So, in short, do Jesus a favor, do me a favor, do yourself a favor: take time to read this important document or other summaries.
Ballot Initiatives. As I discussed in previous columns, the Bishops, through the Nebraska Catholic Conference, have taken a position on two sets of ballot initiatives.
First, they are urging Catholics to vote FOR Initiative 428 which would put an interest rate cap on payday loans. These loans can currently have interest rates over 400% and too often exploit the poor and working-class families. Initiative 428 would cap the rates at 36%, making them more manageable and moral.
Second, they are urging Catholics to vote AGAINST Initiatives 429, 430, and 431 which would expand gambling across the state of Nebraska. These initiatives would allow for virtually unfettered gambling at current and future operated racetracks. The research on gambling is clear: it has an adverse effect on the poor and other vulnerable populations and creates devastating problems for families.
Pray. The call to act is obviously important during this time of year. But the stakes are always too high during an election season to not be praying. We must be on our knees in front of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, in our homes, and anywhere else it is good to pray. Let us take time to pray for peace in our nation and that the common good will be fulfilled. And let us pray, also, that we will take responsibility for our political life not just during this election cycle but in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.