|Nuns Preparing to Vote|
- Don't join a political party. Seriously, don't do it. If you're already a member, leave it. Neither major political party in America represents Catholic teaching in any kind of meaningful way. As Catholics, we need to get the candidates working for our votes, and the only way to do that is to let them know that they won't get our votes easily anymore. They can't count on them or take them for granted. Currently, the Democratic Party can boast of 44% of the Catholic vote, while the Republican Party can boast of 37%. That has GOT TO STOP. Catholics need to unregister from both political parties and don't join any small third-parties. Rather, Catholics need to let these parties and politicians know that we are part of the great block of INDEPENDENT voting Americans, and if they want our votes, they're going to have to work to get them.
- Know what the Catholic Church teaches about the issues. Here is what you've got to know as a Catholic. All political issues fall into one of two categories: essential and prudential.
- Essential issues are non-negotiable. They are areas that Catholics simply cannot compromise on, or else we risk falling into sin. A good example of this is the issue of abortion. Catholics cannot support any politician or ballot issue that supports abortion. The same can be said of euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, and same-sex "marriage." Catholics cannot support politicians or ballot issues that support these things. Likewise, Catholics cannot support politicians and ballot issues that attack such things as religious freedom, family rights, parental rights, freedom of conscience, educational choice, etc. In summary, anything that touches on basic human rights, Christianity or the family. It's up to Catholics to know exactly where the Church stands on these issues and vote accordingly.
- Prudential issues are more difficult. The Church may have specific teachings regarding general principles as to how a Catholic should think. However, the Church may not have the competence to demand an absolute course of action as to how these things should be implemented into public policy and law. Some good examples of this are immigration laws, monetary policy, trade policy, healthcare regulations, gun laws, etc. On such things, Catholics can hold good-faith positions on both sides of these issues
- Don't go to your local clergy for help on political matters. They're not trained to help you in this area, and they may not be competent either. Most of them would rather not give you voting advice anyway, except to say that you should just follow the teachings of the Church. If you want to know what those teachings are, an entire compendium has been published, touching on just about every issue imaginable. Simply go to the Vatican's Compendium on Catholic Social Doctrine.
Insofar as non-partisan forms of political associations, this may be acceptable, provided those non-partisan political associations are in line with the Church's social teachings. I am personally involved in The Counter-Revolution (TCR) which is one example. Another popular association is The American Society for the Protection of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP). This is just a small sampling. There are other associations, and my failure to mention them here should not necessarily be misconstrued as disapproval.
On the issue of American political parties, I would be negligent if I didn't add the following. In 2008, Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was at the time the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome (the equivalent of the Chief Justice on the Vatican Supreme Court), said that the Democratic Party "risks transforming itself definitively into a 'party of death.'" He said this in reference to the Democratic Party's persistent and militant lean toward abortion on demand, embryonic stem-cell research and euthanasia. He was derided in the American press as "the Vatican's arch-conservative." However, just ten years later, in 2018, Cardinal Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York said of the Democratic Party: "the party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us." Cardinal Dolan is no conservative. He is well known as a fairly liberal prelate in the US Catholic Church. Even he now agrees with Cardinal Burke that Catholics should not be Democrats anymore.
This is not to give the Republican Party an endorsement. Far from it actually, as the Republican Party is also well known for its many compromises that have alienated Catholics over the years. As I said above, Catholics should not be members of any political parties, but rather register as Independents, and make these Democrat and Republican politicians actually WORK to regain our uncommitted votes. How do they do that? We need to make it very simple for them. We need to let them know that all they need do is support Catholic Church on all the essential issues minimally and then work on trying to find the best solution to the prudential issues.
Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books and a columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com.' Your support is what makes essays like this possible. This essay and all of Shane's Internet resources come to you (ad-free) thanks to the generosity of benefactors. Please consider becoming a benefactor.
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