We live in a remarkable time. The amount of information at our fingertips about the upcoming election for president is amazing. Type “Barack Obama” or “John McCain” into your favorite internet search engine, you get at least 70 million hits each for candidate. Cable shows talk about the election around the clock. Network news has updates every morning and evening. Talk radio is never silent. Even several bestselling books are by or about the candidates.It is easy to get overwhelmed. Yet, as faithful citizens, we have a moral obligation to get involved in the political process. We have a responsibility to learn about our political options so our conscience is well informed before making a decision at the voting booth.
As a service to Catholic voters, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) sent a questionnaire to both candidates seeking their opinions on 16 specific questions. Neither campaign responded by the deadline. Therefore, in keeping with its mission to educate and inform Catholics about public policy, the PCC researched the candidates to ascertain their positions on the issues. PCC staff and a team of Catholic journalists and communications professionals from around the state gathered information from voting records, public statements, campaign materials and other public sources looking for illustrations of each candidate’s views on various issues.
The PCC published the data on its website (pacatholic.org), in its newsletter, and a two-page bulletin insert. All information cites the most original source possible. On the website, every statement is connected to a hyperlink that takes the viewer directly to the source so he or she can read the candidates’ comments or roll call vote directly.
Research on voting records was conducted using three sources: the independent govtrack.us website, the Library of Congress’ THOMAS website, and the website of the U.S. Senate itself. Most other statements were derived from the candidates’ own political websites or quotes at public appearances as reported in the media. The internet is a particularly valuable tool for informing the conscience about an election.
The PCC researched a wide range of topics about the right to life and the dignity of the human person, marriage and family, justice and peace, religious liberty, and others. The outcome of the November election will affect the future of many issues. The topics in the PCC materials are arranged alphabetically simply for convenience. The document is for information purposes only. The Conference neither supports nor opposes any candidate for public office.
The comments, votes and statements in the PCC materials are merely snapshots from each candidate’s public career and campaign for president. The candidates also represent the platforms of their political parties, which may offer a broader perspective of the issues. Voters should keep their eyes and ears open throughout the election season to continually enlighten their understanding of the candidates and their positions.
Whether he or she logs on, tunes in, reads up or listens attentively, ultimately, each voter must inform his or her own conscience and cast a vote accordingly before God. Each of us is responsible for our own free will choices inside and outside the voting booth.
PCC Column October 2008 by A.B. Hill, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.