You get what you pay for, right? Is it not also true to say, you get who you vote for?As a faith community, we do not determine right and wrong by popular vote, although we do influence society and our quality of life by making informed moral choices when we cast our votes in secular elections. We have a responsibility to hold candidates accountable for their positions on key issues like abortion and embryonic stem cell research; marriage and family social policies; the right to food, shelter, education and healthcare; the dignity of work and economic justice; the elimination of racism; promotion of human rights; careful stewardship of our environment; and others.
All of these issues are important, but we must consider that some moral “wrongs” pose a greater and more immediate threat to our society than others.
In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (2007), the U. S. Bishops remind us, “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.” (No. 34)
The upcoming primary election has the world focused on Pennsylvania and in particular, the “Catholic vote.” The presidential nomination is certainly newsworthy, but it is not the only important race on the ballot. Dozens of others are seeking seats in Congress or the Pennsylvania General Assembly. These individuals have far more influence on the everyday lives of Pennsylvanians. The Catholic vote matters in these elections, too.
If successful in November, these candidates will vote on a number of issues in the next legislative session that are of grave concern to Catholics. For example:
Pennsylvania Marriage Protection Amendment – If the marriage protection amendment passes now, it will have to pass again in the next legislative session before going on the ballot for voter referendum.
Umbilical Cord Blood Bank – Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of stem cells that may be beneficial for therapeutic treatments or research. Public cord blood banks could provide an important pro-life alternative to embryonic stem cell research.
Health Care Reform – This is one of the top concerns of many Pennsylvanians. Proposals will be evaluated on how well they take into account the sanctity and dignity of human life.
Catholic Education – Many issues ranging from funding to religious freedom affect Catholic schools such as the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program; funding for technology; religious day care centers and pre-kindergartens and more.
We need courageous public leaders to stand up for the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person. We need champions for the poor and vulnerable, and for justice. We need heroes to vote for what is right, even when it is politically difficult. As Catholics, we must vote for leaders who show the most promise for upholding this ideal.
The polls are open on Tuesday, April 22, 2008, from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm. Exercise your faithful citizenship – vote.
PCC Column April 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.