These days, striving to be a faithful Catholic while at the same time being engaged in politics is complicated. I suppose my own political views would be hard to pin down. I’m against abortion and the re-definition of marriage... sounds Republican. I’m also in favor of eliminating the death penalty in our country and working to end poverty… sounds Democrat. I’m against assisted suicide and forcing businesses and charitable organizations to cover contraceptives in their health insurance plans… sounds Republican. I also think we should be more open to welcoming immigrants… sounds Democrat.
My views are not rooted in party platforms and are certainly not confined to party lines. I’m simply trying to be faithful to the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church as articulated in the Scriptures and in the Catechism. Based on that, it would be pretty tough for any Catholic religious leader to publicly endorse a political party or candidate, even if they could. As you may know, the Johnson Amendment, which was named after Lyndon B. Johnson in 1954, prohibits tax-exempt organizations (which include churches) from endorsing or opposing political candidates. However, the amendment does permit “voter education or registration activities.” Interestingly, Republican candidate Donald Trump has expressed intentions to have this amendment repealed. Regardless of whether or not such an amendment is repealed in the future, it remains my duty as a pastor to provide counsel about the moral and social matters at stake in this and upcoming elections.
I think one of the difficulties Catholic voters face, especially today, is when both candidates have political views that run contrary to different Catholic teachings, and perhaps neither of the two candidates seem particularly desirable. With this being the case, I’d like to offer a couple things to consider. The first is a suggestion to compare the party platforms. While it is true, especially in this election, that a particular candidate may not adhere perfectly to their party’s platform, the party platforms at least provide us with a foundation of principles that will influence a president’s administration. In this weekend’s bulletin I have included an insert that compares each party’s platform on several different issues that are especially relevant to our Catholic faith.
Another matter to consider is that we must always reject and oppose intrinsically evil actions. While there are many issues today that deal with serious social ills (e.g., healthcare, immigration, racial injustice, jobs and the economy, etc.), the issues that deal with respect for and the preservation of human life from its natural beginning to its natural end are the most fundamental. For example, abortion is the direct destruction of human life and is an intrinsic evil. It is a greater disorder and weighs more heavily than some other political issues or stances that might less directly offend human dignity. When sorting through all the issues, we must make a distinction between what is an intrinsic evil and what is merely a social ill. We as Catholics may disagree about issues of prudential judgment like what to do about immigration, healthcare, and the economy, but we may never support or enable intrinsic evils – things, for example that directly destroy human life.
There is an awful lot at stake in this election. Because this election’s candidates are unsatisfactory to many people, there is a greater temptation not to go out and vote. Please resist that temptation. Educate yourself on the Church’s teaching and the candidates’ and parties’ stances. Pray, and go out to vote.