Do I really have to vote in elections? I hate politics!”
I hear this question a lot — especially this year.
Catholics have a moral obligation to promote the common good through the exercise of their voting privileges (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2240). As Catholics, we have been taught from our youth that we must work and study in an effort to form our consciences well. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) provides resources to help us do this, including the 2015 document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” (FC) (https://www.usccb.org/resources/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship.pdf). According to this document, “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation” (FC, 13, emphasis added).
So, to answer the opening question, “Yes, we have a responsibility to vote.”
As we form our consciences, and decide who and what to support with our vote, there are several issues that must rise above others as we discern. We refer to these issues as the Five Non-Negotiables.
• Euthanasia (Assisted Suicide)
• Embryonic Stem Cell Research
• Human Cloning
• Homosexual “Marriage”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us that “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life”. (CCC, No. 2270) With this in mind, we must reject and oppose the taking of innocent life whether through direct abortion, euthanasia/assisted suicide or embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).
Aren’t all Catholic social justice issues equally important?
Actually, no — not according to the Church. The above five issues concern actions which are intrinsically evil and must never be promoted by law. In reference to the first four, the above-mentioned USCCB document is clear: “The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong as is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed” (FC, 29).
The Church opposes cloning not only because the process inevitably involves the creation and destruction of human embryos — each of which is an unrepeatable human life, — but also because God alone is to be in control of the creation of human life.
In his 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (The Gospel of Life), Pope St. John Paul II fully illuminated the problems with scientific experimentation with regard to cloning as well as in vitro fertilization:
“The various techniques of artificial reproduction, which would seem to be at the service of life and which are frequently used with this intention, actually open the door to new threats against life. Apart from the fact that they are morally unacceptable, since they separate procreation from the fully human context of the conjugal act, these techniques have a high rate of failure: not just failure in relation to fertilization but with regard to the subsequent development of the embryo, which is exposed to the risk of death, generally within a very short space of time. Furthermore, the number of embryos produced is often greater than that needed for implantation in the woman’s womb, and these so-called ‘spare embryos’ are then destroyed or used for research which, under the pretext of scientific or medical progress, in fact reduces human life to the level of simple ‘biological material’ to be freely disposed of.”
The Colorado Catholic Conference, the legislative arm of the bishops of Colorado, is preparing a voter’s guide ahead of the November election. More information on how to access the voter’s guide will appear in upcoming issues of the Herald.
(Julie Bailey is director of the Respect Life Apostolate of the Diocese of Colorado Springs.)