You can’t drive through any part of America this month without seeing signs, banners, and bumper stickers supporting political candidates and certain issues. We are of course preparing for a presidential election in our country. Advertisements and commentaries fill our newspapers, radio waves, television programs, and Facebook feeds.
The Church plays a unique role in the political sphere. In many ways the Catholic Church is homeless in politics. There is no political party or candidate that we can completely support 100%. Over the centuries, we have tried to align with certain political rulers, and it rarely works out well for the Church. On the other hand, the Church cannot be completely absent from the political realm. It is an important aspect of life and the Church must support certain values, policies, and ideals.
The primary agents in political action are you, the lay faithful. You are the people the Church counts on to bring about political change and support certain causes and policies.
My role as a priest, teacher, and pastor is to help form consciences. There are certain issues that the Church focuses on. As Catholics these are the preeminent issues. These are the most important because we are followers of Jesus Christ. He reveals certain values that we carry forth into the world.
The first and most preeminent issue is the dignity of human life. The value of each and every human life is infinitely important. Consistently Jesus Christ shows the value of each and every human life. Our culture attacks life both at its beginning and at its end. Certain groups and individuals promote abortion which is an attack on human life at its most vulnerable stage. Also life is attacked when it seems no longer worth living. There is a growing movement in our world and country to support euthanasia. Cases and situations in which people can request euthanasia are growing by the year. Certain states in the United States allow this practice which is a sign of hopelessness and lacks the recognition of the value of suffering. The dignity of human life also includes the equality of each and every human life, regardless of race, gender, or background. On the issue of the dignity of human life, the Church is clear in her teaching that each and every life is valuable.
Another large issue that is extraordinarily important is marriage and family life. Since the Supreme Court legislated that same-sex couples could be civilly married, these issues have gotten bleaker in our country. However, we should still support the biblical and traditional understanding of marriage and family life. Children and society benefit from stable families. There are people, groups, and individuals who are actively working to undermine stable families. If these ideas and groups have their way, family life would look radically different.
A third issue that the Church supports is the promotion of peace. Peace should be promoted locally, nationally, and internationally. Violence and war are last resort options. We should look to candidates who promote policies that promote civility and dialogue, both nationally and internationally. Jesus taught that the way of nonviolence is the path that Christians should chose. We should support candidates that try every single peaceful option before turning to violence or war.
An ever-growing concern is the issue of religious liberty. On a national level, this involves the protection of conscience and the ability of the Church and other religions to practice their beliefs. There have been periods in history when employers and employees have been asked to violate their consciences, but they should be protected. For example, a doctor should be not have to perform abortions or transgender operations, if their conscience dictates this.
On an international level religious freedom is challenged all over the world. There are countries in which certain groups are persecuted for being Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Buddhist. Part of international policy should protect the religious freedom of every believer.
Finally the Church supports the care for the most vulnerable in our world, country, and communities. A healthy society is one that cares for the least among us. In Matthew 25, Jesus clearly says, “Whenever you did this for the least among us, you did it to me.” The phrase, “the least among us,” encapsulates a number of realities: the poor, the homeless, those without medical care, immigrants, elderly, jobless, and those suffering mental illnesses. The Church supports policies that care for all of these people and as voters, we should support candidates that enact policies that care for the most vulnerable.
These five issues are some of the most important issues for Catholics. This bulletin article can’t possibly encapsulate every issue and nuance, but it is a beginning. If you want more clarity, read the US Bishops document on Faithful Citizenship. While the Church isn’t a political entity, she has a role to form Jesus’ followers to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Sincerely in Jesus Christ,
Fr. Sean Wilson