Monday, November 7, 2016

Election Day & Catholics

The County Election by George Caleb Bingham (1846AD).

Elections have long been a part of the American landscape -- long before the Revolution, actually.  Drawing upon the customs of England, with her House of Commons, many of the New World English colonies boasted elected assemblies.  The oldest, that of Virginia, dated to 1619AD, only a few years after the foundation of the colony in 1607.

Today, 8 November 2016, the voters of every state will will choose the electors who will vote for President in their state capitals on 19 December 2016.  You can read more about the Electoral College here: National Archives: Electoral College

Voters will also choose members of their delegation to the United State House of Representatives, those in a third of the states, U.S. Senators of the 3rd Class, in addition to a wide variety of local offices and ballot measures. In this blogger's own home State of Georgia, voters will choose local officials, from county commissioners, to sheriffs and district attorneys, along with all 236 members of the State General Assembly; that is not to mention a number of other items (including four Constitutional Amendments) and offices also on the ballot!

For those wishing to do a little research into past, early American, elections, you should note this splendid site that has copious records of such events: Tufts University: A New Nation Votes

An interesting point of trivia on the matter of American elections -- during the 1800AD Presidential Election, when the Federalist John Adams of Massachusetts ran against Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, "Turnout in Virginia, 25 percent of the eligible electorate, was the highest yet for a presidential or congressional election and was higher than it would be for another thirty years." (From Old Dominion, New Commonwealth, pg. 156)  That was in an era where ownership of property, and being a white male, was required to vote.  So, it seems that low voter turnout among the eligible electorate is a tradition in the American Republic!

For the voter who is interested in the Art of Dying Well, however, elections are serious exercises with grave moral obligations attached.  The Catechism reminds us: "2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country"

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 among 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?

Among the great variety of issues facing the politician, there are some that are matters of prudential judgment, but others are simply non-negotiable matters that, as such gross violations of the natural moral law, must be opposed by the faithful Catholic.  Catholics, who wish to be worthy of that name, should take care to shun those candidates that would promote or support abortion, euthanasia, same sex marriage, and violations of conscience and the freedom of the Church, in particular.

Recent popes have been quite clear on these particular issues:
In Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II reminds us:
"73. Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). In the Old Testament, precisely in regard to threats against life, we find a significant example of resistance to the unjust command of those in authority. After Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males, the Hebrew midwives refused. "They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live" (Ex 1:17). But the ultimate reason for their action should be noted: "the midwives feared God" (ibid.). It is precisely from obedience to God-to whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereignty-that the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for "the endurance and faith of the saints" (Rev 13:10).
In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to "take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it.""
[cf., Pope St. John Paul II: EVANGELIUM VITAE]

Pope Benedict XVI, in a letter noting the great importance of protecting the traditional family, reinforces some of the fundamental principles that have to be remembered by the voter:
"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."
[cf., Pope Benedict XVI: ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI, 9 March 2012]

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."


Finally, with the federal government, and some state governments seeking to coerce individuals in directly paying for intrinsically evil procedures or programs, we should recall the words of Pope Benedict XVI to the American bishops on that subject:
"In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience."


I can understand some voting for someone that might be better on particular issues, but who has practically no chance of success; I can also understand others voting for a more deeply flawed candidate who has some legitimate promise and can prevent someone profoundly wrong on key issues from taking office.  What is the greater good?  I tend toward the latter position.  Voting is a practical exercise.  At times we must tolerate lesser evils to prevent great ones; all the time willing the good.

Live, and vote, well!

1 comment:

  1. Vote your conscience - but form your conscience first.