“An authentic faith … always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it … . If indeed ‘the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics,’ the Church, ‘cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.’”
This May, citizens across the country will gather in schools, civic centres, and city halls to cast their votes. They will stand in line and slip into voting booths, where they will help choose our next line of leaders at the national and state levels.
For many trying to live out our Catholic faith, discerning for whom to vote can be challenging. To help Catholics better form their consciences during this election year, they should know what the Church teaches — and why — regarding our civic responsibility.
Why should I vote?
Voting: It is one of our most important responsibilities as citizens. Indeed, the Church teaches (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2240) that there are three primary responsibilities of all citizens:
–to pay taxes
–to defend their country
Each of these responsibilities asks us to put the good of society and our fellow citizens above our individual desires and needs. Thus, a primary question we must answer as Catholic voters is whether the needs of the weakest and most defenceless among us are being addressed. In the voting booth, we have a privileged opportunity to contribute to our nation and promote the common good by bringing the values and teachings of our faith to bear on the issues facing our society.
Does the Church tell me whom I should vote for?
No. The Church does not tell us whom to vote for when we enter the voting booth. It does not endorse an official list of candidates or tell us which party Catholics should join. Instead, Catholics are to use their judgment and follow their consciences as they apply the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and the core faith values to the choices they make in the voting booth.
As Catholics, following the challenging path of discipleship, we need to evaluate the issues and candidates in the light of our Catholic faith. Then, we are challenged to live out our faith by getting actively involved — by voting and engaging in other civic activities.
How does my Catholic faith help me to make these choices?
We are taught from an early age to form our consciences in the light of our Catholic teaching. “To follow one’s conscience” is often misunderstood as something that allows us to do whatever we want, following the “feeling” we have that something is right or wrong.
But our faith teaches us that “conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognises the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that the person perceives and recognises the prescriptions of the divine law’. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1178)
It is our responsibility as Catholics to form our consciences by developing the virtue of prudence to discern true good in circumstances and to choose the right means of achieving it by maintaining a willingness and openness to seek what is right through studying Scripture and Church teaching, using our reason to study key issues in light of this teaching, and by prayerfully seeking to understand the will of God.
What about the separation of Church and state? Can the Church ask me to vote according to my Catholic principles?
Four principles of Catholic social doctrine are key to making practical judgments to do good and avoid evil in voting:
1. Promoting and defending the dignity of the human person
2. Supporting the family and subsidiarity in local, state and national institutions
3. Working for the common good where human rights are protected and basic responsibilities are met
4. Acting in solidarity with concern for all as our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and most vulnerable (Faithful Citizenship, Nos. 40-52 and also EG).
If all of these are priorities, what is most important?
All of these issues are important, but they are not all morally or ethically equivalent. “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.” (CCC, No. 2258).
At the same time, issues such as war, the death penalty, racism and care for the poor and the immigrant are enormously important. “These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, No. 29).
The moral teaching of our Church is about more than prohibitions. We Catholics are encouraged to respond to the basic needs of human beings — food, shelter, healthcare, education and employment. We are called to welcome refugees and immigrants, defend religious freedom, support marriage and family and protect the environment.
Four steps before voting
— Inform yourself about the Church’s teachings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a great place to start.
— Inform yourself about the issues. Listen to the candidates. See where the candidates stand on critical moral and social issues.
— Seek input from Catholics you respect.
— Pray. Take your hopes, concerns and worries to the Lord and ask for his guidance.
This seems hard
In today’s political environment, voting as a Catholic is hard work. It takes serious reflection, knowledge of Church teaching and awareness of who the candidates are and where they stand on the issues.
The Church challenges us to vote for what is best for society and all of its members, particularly those least able to speak up for or defend themselves.
The great privilege of democracy is that we, as citizens and religious believers, can have a voice in the direction of our country by voting for the common good; this is both a right and a responsibility. The great privilege of being Catholic is that we have a community of faith and a body of teaching, going back to Christ himself, that can help us make good decisions in the voting booth.
Where can I find out more?
— Our bishops have issued a detailed reflection on Catholic teaching and political life, called Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: www.faithfulcitizenship.org.
— Catechism of the Catholic Church
— United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCB Publishing)
— Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
— Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, by Pope Francis
Check your voter polling station online now
PETALING JAYA: Malaysians eligible to vote can now find out where they can cast their ballots during GE14.
Information on voters’ polling stations and channels were placed online Monday (April 16). The information is available via the following channels:
the Election Commission website at www.spr.gov.my the MySPR Semak mobile app (available on the Apple App Store and Google Play) call 03-8892 7018 send an SMS to 15888.
The polling date for GE14 on is May 9, nomination date is on April 28, while early voting is on May 5.
May 9 has been declared a public holiday for the whole country in conjunction with polling day to enable Malaysians to exercise their right to vote. – The Star, Herald Malaysia