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The current election cycle has been one of the most contentious and divisive in recent American history. The two major candidates present very distinct approaches towards the future of our nation. Yet, many Catholics feel disenfranchised because neither candidate presents a fully Catholic option. As faithful voters, informed by the teachings of the Church and direction of the Bishops, what should Catholics do on November 6th? Do they vote for one of the less-than-perfect candidates, or simply abstain from voting altogether?

The Bishops tell us that “this is not a time for retreat or discouragement; rather, it is a time for renewed engagement.” (“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” 16) Catholics must apply their faith to responsible citizenship and are morally obligated to participate in political life (13). This means taking an active role in the political process and bringing one’s faith into the public sphere. It means exercising our right to vote; the most fundamental way in which Americans can participate in the political process.

While the Bishops do not tell Catholics for whom they should vote, they do tell Catholics that they have a responsibility to stand up and defeat evil. Catholics have a “fundamental moral obligation to respect the dignity of every person as a child of God” in building a culture of life, which “begins with the preeminent obligation to protect innocent human life from direct attack and extends to defending life whenever it is threatened or diminished” (40).

Human life is under attack in America. In the last four years, we have seen the largest expansion of abortion rights since Roe v. Wade. The current administration rescinded the Mexico City Policy, sending American tax-dollars overseas to organizations that promote and perform abortions, nominated two radical pro-abortion Supreme Court justices, and increased funding to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion vendor, by at least 30%.

Faithful Catholics cannot sit idly by while this happens in our nation.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has consistently proclaimed that attacks on innocent human life are of the highest priority for Catholics to repel. In the 1998 statement Living the Gospel of Life, they wrote that “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human life and dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental good and the condition for all others” (5).

Without the right to life, all other rights are rendered meaningless.

As faithful citizens, Catholics must use their vote to stop these direct attacks on the dignity of human life.

Unfortunately, neither of the major presidential candidates’ positions on abortion fully align with Church teaching. However, Church leadership has given Catholics some guidance on what to do in such situations. In 2010, Raymond Cardinal Burke, then-Archbishop of the Diocese of St. Louis and now the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, said in an interview, “You may in some circumstances where you don’t have any candidate who is proposing to eliminate all abortion, choose the candidate who will most limit this grave evil in our country, but you could never justify voting for a candidate who not only does not want to limit abortion but believes that it should be available to everyone.”

And in “Faithful Citizenship,” the Bishops acknowledge that ending attacks on human dignity is a process and faithful Catholics ought to work towards legislation that will “improve protection for human life” even if they cannot achieve the “full restoration of justice” (32).

The choice is clear for American Catholics. They have an “essential obligation” to oppose evil and do good (24).

If they are to truly apply their faith to their citizenship, Catholics must vote for the candidate who will do the most to preserve and protect the fundamental right to life. To do otherwise, to knowingly and willfully help elect someone who actively works for the Culture of Death, is to “cooperate with evil” (31).

Yes, this election will not be the end of the struggle to bring the Culture of Life to fruition. The Bishops have recognized that “participation goes well beyond casting a vote in a particular election” (7). Catholics must continue to lead the way in promoting the dignity of all human life.

But this election presents an opportunity to move back in the right direction, towards a nation that views all life as sacred and treats every person as one created in the image and likeness of God.

I urge you to prayerfully reflect on your moral obligation as a faithful Catholic when casting your vote on November 6th (18). The moment is too big to let it pass us by. We are obligated by our faith to “participate in shaping the moral character of society” (9).

In this election and in every election until abortion ends, lives are at stake. What we do now will impact the very soul of our nation. What will you decide?