Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
My earliest recollection of a presidential election is the second term for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. I can remember the campaign button of, “I Like Ike”. Throughout the presidential years of election, I came to see, hear, and learn about candidates through my parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends who would discuss, debate, and argue over their candidates. As I would hear about the accomplishments, non-accomplishments, and mudslinging of the candidates, one thing I have come to learn as a Catholic, is the need to develop a well-formed conscience.
The Catholic Bishops of the United States published “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility” at its General Meeting in November 2015 and provided an updated introductory letter in November 2019.
“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility” is a teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics, that provides guidance for those wanting to exercise their right and duty as citizens to vote. As faithful Catholic citizens, we are encouraged to embrace our citizenship with participating in building not only a life for ourselves and our families but also to assist and support all of God’s children. In doing so, we need to embrace our citizenship as an opportunity with building a culture that embraces the virtues and values as Catholics void of our political party. As such, our participation for those seeking public office should be influenced by our faith and not by the political party we belong.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states that it is the duty of citizens “ ..to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follows from the duty of gratitude and belongs to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles (with voting) in the life of the political community.” CCC 2239
The CCC also states that “Political authorities are obliged to respect the fundamental rights of the human person (born and unborn). They will dispense justice humanely by respecting the rights of everyone, especially of families and the disadvantaged.” CCC 2237
As with any election, we have the need to seek out, become informed and take part in the political process. We need to understand the public character of each candidate and where that public character aligns itself with our Catholic beliefs and faith. Again, our participation for those seeking public office should be influenced by our faith and not by the political party to which we belong.
As citizens and as Catholics we have significant individual power to support the values, principles, and virtues of our faith by becoming informed of those candidates that not only align but also support those values, principles, and virtues of our faith. Looking beyond campaign rhetoric along with our individual power, we can promote those candidates according to their principles and not party affiliation.
I encourage reading, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility” by the Catholic Bishops of the United States at www.usccb.org and the Missouri Catholic Conference at mocatholic.org, “Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”. Both are great readings with regards to moral principles, specific issues, and moral guides.
Blessings – Dcn Jim