How to Vote Catholic 2012
“How to Vote Catholic” was first published in 2004 by the Morley Publishing Group, Inc. Matt Smith and Deal Hudson decided it was a good idea to update and revise it for the 2012 election.
The revisions will address those issues that arose in the 2008 election and the 111th Congress, especially the debate among Catholics regarding health care.
Catholic Advocate will republish it chapter by chapter each week, both to make it easier for our community to digest and to invite your input for what will be the final version published later in the year.
How to Vote Catholic
By Deal W. Hudson
l. Voting Our Values
Catholics make up about 30 percent of voters in national elections. These 30 million Catholics have the power to make our country a better nation, more welcoming to life, more supportive of families, and more effective in its programs to help the poor and marginalized.
In recent years, Pope John Paul ll and the U. S. bishops have been calling Catholics to renew their participation in American political life. That participation means, above all, to take the moral principles of the Catholic Faith into the voting booth.
As Benedict XVI put it last May, our political action should be undertaken “in a manner coherent with the teaching of the Church.”
Catholic voters elect legislators whose job it is to make laws and policies that serve the common good. Thus, we expect our legislators to protect our basic human rights as stated in the Declaration of Independence— the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
These rights don’t mean just anything; they are grounded in an authentic understanding of human life.
Once the right to liberty became an excuse to deny the right to life for the most innocent and vulnerable in society, politics lost its grounding in the truth about human existence. Catholics must use their political participation to renew the political arena with the Church’s teaching to reconnect politics with the basic truths about the meaning of human life.
For example, when the Church uses the phrase “human dignity,” she is always referring to the relationship that human beings have with God due to their being created in his “human likeness” (Genesis l:26). To say there is human dignity is a reminder that the human person is from God and destined after this earthly life to live with God in eternity. That’s why an innocent life cannot be taken to make another life more comfortable or less complicated.
The notion of human rights follows from human dignity: Natural rights—the rights that precede any government or society—are the privileges or powers that we have the duty to respect so that all persons can seek genuine happiness in this world and the next (Catechism of the Catholic Church #l930). Politicians differ on whether or not these rights specify something that should be directly supplied by the government or something whose access by individuals or groups should be protected.
There is no Catholic vote in the sense of a bloc of voters who reliably support a specific set of policies. However, the record shows that Catholics who attend Mass regularly vote more often and express heightened concern for issues at the core of Catholic social teaching. The more politicians begin to notice that there are millions of religiously-active Catholics who vote their values, Catholics have an opportunity to influence their leaders.
1. Catholics who vote should not worry about the charge of “imposing” their values on others. Catholics do not seek laws requiring citizens to attend church or observe Lenten fasts. On the contrary, Catholics seek the protection to basic human rights through legislation and policy, such as the right to life and the right to educational freedom. Laws and policies embody the values we–as a nation–agree to live by.
2. Catholics know that the protection of the unborn is the “dominant issue” among all political issues–though some have criticized Catholics as being “single-issue” voters. The principle underlying the rejection of abortion extends to other issues, such as bioethics, population, euthanasia, and defense. The mandate to protect life in politics is unconditional and should be the dominant issue in the minds of Catholics as they cast their votes.
3. Not all the political positions taken by candidates are of equal importance to Catholics. As dominant issue voters, Catholics should learn to give various issues their proper priority, thus preserving the hierarchy of values at the core of Church teaching and, by the way, the Founding of America itself.
4. Catholics are often confused by the difference between principle and prudential argument. General principles are proposed in Church teaching. How they are implemented in a specific policy or piece of legislation is a matter of prudential judgment. It’s crucial for Catholic voters to understand the principles so they may best consider the judgments put forward by politicians, Church officials, and other leaders.
Most importantly, Catholics should know there is no need to leave any part of the Faith outside of the voting booth. The tradition of Catholic moral and social teaching can be seen as a practical voting guide second to none.
- Catholics are obliged to participate in politics by voting.
- Legislators are elected to serve and protect the common good, human dignity, and the rights of human persons.
- Voters should have a clear understanding of the principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.
- The life issues are dominant in the hierarchy of issues for the Catholic voter.