Brothers and sisters, one would have to be living on Mars not to be aware that we are in living in one of the most contentious of political times. Never in the course of my 71 years have I ever witnessed what could charitably be called, the most anomalous Presidency in history. It is no wonder then that I’m hearing from folk’s time and time again saying, “Msgr. Art, we really need to pray that all will be well with our country!” Indeed, prayer for our country is a hallmark of being a faithful citizen of this blessed land of freedom and opportunity. But not only is it a duty for us to pray for the common good of our country but, as we have heard in today’s second reading from Paul’s 1st letter to Timothy, we are called to pray “for all in authority.” In other words, it is not only good and virtuous to pray for all those who have been elected to insure the common good of our land, it is an obligation that is incumbent upon our role as faithful citizens.
However, at the very heart of being a faithful citizen is our solemn obligation to be engaged in helping to shape the common good of our land so that liberty and justice might be the gift and promise for all. More often than not, the simplest yet most profound way in which we do this is by casting our vote to elect our political leaders at the National, State and local levels as well as to make our voices heard on the other ballot issues that call forth our vote.
As it has been said time and time again, it is not the role of the Church or its leaders to tell us who to vote for. Rather, it is the role of the Church to assist the faithful in the formation of a right conscience that will assist us in discerning the values that should inform the decisions we make in the voting booth. As much as some might like a ‘black and white’ answer to these challenging questions that face the electorate today, proper formation of conscience is wisdom at work, discerning what might be the best individual or approach in achieving the common good. There is tremendous wisdom in the old adage that politics is not the art of the perfect but rather that which is possible within the diverse electorate that is ours in this country.
In recent years, the National Conference of Bishops in our land, has published a very thoughtful guide to assist Catholics in fulfilling their political obligations. That document is entitled: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. As the 2020 election season draws ever closer, it is not too soon to let the following insights from this important document begin to take root in our minds and hearts enabling us to gain the wisdom and discernment necessary for the choices that we will face in 2020:
34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.
35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may 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.
36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.
My friends, our Gospel today has spoken of the criteria for good stewardship. As faithful citizens we are called to be careful stewards of the values that have made our country a beacon of light and freedom to so many around the world. As 2020 draws near let us pray for the wisdom and grace to be wise stewards of this land of freedom and justice, from sea to shining sea.