"Peace be with you," is a phrase often heard in Catholic churches. But it's election season, and not all Catholics are feeling at peace.
A New Times story about the conflict that anti-abortion, pro-immigration Catholics face when casting their vote for president ruffled the feathers of the faithful and faithless alike.
One blogger wrote that "there is no conundrum for the faithful Catholic ... if you want to be a Judas, vote for Obama." Another wrote that the issue was "about a religiously motivated group attempting to force their belief system upon everyone else..."
A Roman Catholic priest wanted to weigh in with words -- and valid church teaching -- to ease the minds of those conflicted by their faith and politics.
The anonymous Roman Catholic priest from Arizona wanted the message to speak for itself. He writes:
After reading the article online, I felt deeply for the two women, Cecilia Moreno and Edilia Gonzales, who are conflicted, do not participate fully in the Sunday Eucharist, i.e., do not go to Holy Communion, or do not go to Mass at all because of "their politics." Why should they have to "repent" because they may have decided to vote for President Obama? They have done nothing sinful.
I believe these women might have pangs of guilt, feel sinful, or want to exclude themselves from the church they love, not because they have misinformed consciences, but because a priest from either the pulpit or some other parish setting, or well-intentioned pious lay person, has misinformed their consciences and have unknowingly perpetrated against these women moral and spiritual violence.
To say that you can not vote for President Obama from the pulpit is indeed misleading as we form our consciences. President Obama is not an abortionist, nor does he, or other Democrats, belong to the "party of death."
The priest offers the following excepts from direction handed down from church leaders as evidence that Catholics can be both faithful and independent voters.
First, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) in its document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (2011) states, "As Catholics we are not single issue voters. A candidate's position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter's support (#42).
Secondly, this same point has been made by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI): "A political commitment to one aspect of the church's teaching does not exhaust a person's responsibility toward the common good" (Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, November 24, 2002. See No. 4.)
In light of the above statements from the USCCB and Pope Benedict XVI, these women, and other Catholics who are preparing to vote, need to ask the appropriate questions:
Is the person for whom we are going to vote standing in solidarity with and for the poor, defending the rights of the undocumented, supporting the DREAM Act, working to provide healthcare for all people, developing a national budget that will offer food stamps and housing assistance for the vulnerable?
If not, is this not an attack on human life? Not mentioned are issues of the environment, war, torture, capital punishment, etc. And so, voting is complex with many issues to think about.
Thirdly, the U.S. Bishops state that "A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter's intent is to support that position." (Forming Consciences, No. 34).
The last part of that statement is important. If the voter decides to support the candidate's position on abortion/euthanasia or racism then that cannot be tolerated. In such a case, a Catholic would be guilty of cooperating in that evil" (No. 34).
A well-informed Catholic, however, will not vote for a candidate for one reason only. It seems that Ms. Moreno and Ms. Gonzales do not support abortion, but they want to support a candidate who is working for the common good of all people on a wide range of issues. They want to support, not only the child in the womb, but the undocumented immigrants and the DREAMers whose rights are being abused.
As Cardinal Ratzinger stated when he was Perfect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith:
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"When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons" (See Memorandum from Cardinal Ratzinger to Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, D.C., July 2004).
Voting Catholic is not easy. Let us, clergy and laity, assist one another in this sacred duty as we approach November 6.
Here are some election resources for Roman Catholics to consider as we inform our consciences to vote:
USCCO, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (2011) Nicholas P. Cafardi (editor), Voting and Holiness: Catholic Perspectives on Political Participation (2012) Bernard F. Evans, Voting Catholic? Beyond the Political Din (2008)