Monday, November 5, 2012
Final Election Thoughts
A Roman coin showing the casting of a ballot. (C. Cassius Longinus [issuer]. 63 BC. AR Denarius [3.75 g, 4h]. )
With tomorrows general election in the United States, and most significantly, the day of the election of the members of the Electoral College, I thought I might offer some final considerations when preparing to vote. Of course, a blogger has little weight of authority in se, so I will also echo a few others far wiser than myself after my initial reflections.
My first consideration is this: the act of voting is, above all, a practical exercise. The voter is given the opportunity to either choose a candidate, or accept or reject a ballot proposal. In so doing, it is, of course, important the the voter know who are what he is voting for or against, and to prepare himself to cast his ballot by research and investigation. Know what will be on your ballot before you arrive to vote!
That having been said, it is then incumbent upon the voter, well grounded in sound political principles and keenly aware of the ideal, to cast his vote so as to bring about the greatest good practically possible. Choosing the lesser of evils is no way to operate -- we always vote for a candidate or a measure because of the good that we hope results, and any evil must merely be tolerated, not willed.
Hence, the voter should consider, in the case of candidates, their positions on a range of issues, but most especially those most fundamental to the common good (more on that in a minute). In addition, it is naive to approach an election supposing that an ideal candidate will present himself for selection. Not amongst fallen men, and not in a society so very confused on so many fundamental positions do we find "ideal" candidates. All will at least advocate the toleration of some grave moral evils. The circumstances of the vote must, as with any moral decision, be weighed, and the practical result of one's vote must be considered. What is the greatest good that can be, practically speaking, brought about? Remember, as Pope John Paul II noted in Evangelium Vitae, 73: "A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on....In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects."
My question then is this: in tomorrow's Presidential election, what is the greatest good that, practically speaking, the voter can hope to achieve? We are presented with an incumbent who is running on the aggressive promotion of a host of intrinsic evils, and even promises to violate the consciences of Catholics and coerce the Faithful in the new year with the HHS Mandate. His main challenger is a man, far from ideal, who promises to uphold the traditional family, end the mandate, and to be, in most cases, pro-life, though his track record is less than stellar. This challenger is on the razor's edge of defeating the incumbent. Finally, we have a pack of "third party" candidates that few have ever heard of, and fewer still will vote for. They, too, have their flaws.
So, this blogger will be voting for a man that, while certainly not ideal, is in serious contention for the office, and could very likely bring about the good of improving who holds the office of President, and ending the aggressive promotion of such evils as the HHS Mandate, Abortion, and Same-sex Marriage from the White House. Voting for the Republican challenger would put a man in office, that even by doing nothing, would accomplish greater good than the incumbent. This is a practically achievable and concrete good. That is why I encourage you to vote for Mitt Romney.
A third party vote seems, in my opinion, to achieve very little but make the voter feel good about himself and his own idealism. These candidates have no possibility of winning -- you have to have at least a majority of people even hear of you to have a chance -- and they, themselves, have flaws. Considering, as well, the specter of the re-election of an incumbent bent on promoting evil, now seems an imprudent moment to "protest" the weakness of the main challenger, especially in a "battleground" state. What good, practically speaking, is accomplished by giving a no-name a fraction of the vote and allow an evil incumbent to return to office?
I am sympathetic to those that wish we had better options in the major political parties. I have the same wish. But, it is imperative that, going forward, we support good candidates starting at the local level. Good federal candidates come from good local and state candidates. Better candidates can't come from thin air: folks need to get involved in supporting good people, and not "protest" when the natural results of the system play out without them doing anything before the last year of the election. A protest vote is easy, but accomplishes nothing, except, perhaps, to allow the worst option to win. Vote for the good you can actually achieve now, and work as though everything depended on you to build up better options in the future.
Enough from me, however. I wanted to share a couple of pastoral letters from American Bishops, a little more information about the HHS Mandate handed down by this administration, and, finally, a reminder from Pope Benedict XVI about certain fundamental principles regarding the family.
The County Election by George Caleb Bingham (1846AD).
First, from my own Bishop of Arlington, Virginia, his excellency, the Most. Rev. Paul S. Loverde, a pre-election letter. He reviews what issues that, for the Catholic and anyone of good will, are the most imperative and most fundamental to the common good: http://catholicherald.com/stories/Bishop-Loverdes-pre-election-letter,20703
Second, a pre-election letter from the Bishop of Peoria, Illinois, the Most Rev. Daniel Jenky, which is short and to-the-point: http://www.cdop.org/post/PostArticle.aspx?ID=2656
Third, from the Bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Most Rev. David Ricken: http://www.gbdioc.org/images/stories/Front_Page/An-Important-Moment-Article-from-Bishop-Ricken-10-24-2012.pdf
Fourth, this page from the USCCB presents a great deal of information and details about the HHS Mandate: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/
Fifth, this is the USCCB's page on the formation of political consciences: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/index.cfm
Sixth, from Pope Benedict XVI, a letter noting the great importance of protecting the traditional family: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2012/march/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20120309_us-bishops_en.html
He says, amongst other things, "In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage. The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons...Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike."
Finally, especially those in the states voting specifically on same-sex marriage measures, do recall this statement from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith's Consideration, approved by John Paul II in 2003:
"When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral."
The full text is here: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20030731_homosexual-unions_en.html
Let us all pray, and vote so as to accomplish the greatest good we can in protecting life, family, and conscience!