You are the only one who can determine how your vote counts
Our presidential, national and local elections are now only a couple of weeks away. In my position here at the diocese, I continue to receive quite a few calls and emails on the subject.
The wide range of comments, concerns and questions always amazes me. Some folks are angry, determined and rock-solid positive in their beliefs. Most others are simply confused, discouraged, and bewildered.
“What should I do,” they ask.
I can’t, nor would I, tell anyone for whom to vote. To be honest, I get annoyed when others try to tell me I should vote one way or the other. You are the only one who can determine how your vote will go. Neither will the Church tell you who to vote for. That issue, in fact, is part of the U.S. Tax Code under the section “The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c) (3) Tax-Exempt Organizations.” It is against the law for a tax-exempt organization to endorse or fund one candidate over another. I quote the law:
“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign, funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”
Sure, you might be saying (as others have, indeed, said to me), it’s all about money, isn’t it. Well yes, the financial implications are significant, not only for the Church, but also for other tax-exempt entities that work endlessly to help others in a myriad of ways in our communities. Should the Church in the U.S. lose its tax status, it would amount to millions of dollars going into government coffers rather than into the hundreds of vital ministries the Church generously provides throughout our country. So again, yes, the financial implications are significant.
What the Catholic Church can and does do is explain Church teaching as it relates to key issues before us as voters. Issues such as abortion, assisted-suicide, euthanasia, the death penalty, immigration, care for the poor, poverty, marriage, the morality of war… The list goes on. So what is our responsibility as voting Catholics? How do we make a decision?
Our Church tells us that all our decisions should start with a well-formed conscience. That means voting should not be a knee-jerk reaction in the heat of the moment. If we truly call ourselves Catholic, we will intelligently base our votes on a sound understanding of what our Church teaches; the reasons behind it and why. Easy to say, you might be thinking. However, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) publishes an updated version of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship every four years as a resource and guide for voters.
So what do we do when all candidates fall short of what we believe? Here’s an excerpt from Faithful Citizenship:
“There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position, even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act, may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.” (No. 35 – For an expanded version of this section, see page 9 of today’s NWIC.)
In conclusion, the bishops of this country tell us to “focus more on moral principles than on the latest polls; focus more on the needs of the weak than on benefits for the strong; focus more on the pursuit of the common good than on the demands of narrow interests.” (No. 61)
No one ever said it would be easy, so we need to take heed of a well-formed conscience and make our votes count this November.
To access Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, go to http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/. Versions of the document, as well as corresponding videos, are available in both English and Spanish.