Wednesday January 18, 2006

Pre-Election Catholic Homily – How to vote responsibly according to the teachings of the Church

Given by Father Louis Di Rocco
Jan. 15, 2006, Marmora, Ontario

As you know, we are going to be voting in an election soon and we have to take our responsibility to vote seriously. It’s not just a right, but it’s a duty to be involved in selecting our representatives in politics because they make decisions that affect our entire lives, our very lives. They affect the common good.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says: “Service of the common good requires citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community.” This obviously includes voting, but voting is not a blind activity; it requires an informed conscience, a conscience formed according to the teachings of the Church. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has published a document called: “Doctrinal notes on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life.” And in this document it says: “A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law that contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals.” In other words, these are programs or laws that are intrinsically evil. Things like abortion for example, and euthanasia. So we cannot vote for intrinsically evil political programs or individual laws; that applies to politicians who are going to put into action their programs and also vote for specific laws, and it applies to us who are voting for them, because they are going to make the laws.

So we have to become informed! First of all we have to know what the issues are; what are the important issues, and who are the candidates, what are their positions on these fundamental issues. What are their policies, their beliefs, their voting records, and you should compare them to the teachings of the Church. You should be prepared to reject a candidate who is anti-life or anti-family. The question of the right to life takes precedence over any other issue because if you don’t have the right to life, then you don’t exist to enjoy any other rights.

So things like the environment, helping the poor, the economy, the military, agriculture, unemployment, improving the health care system, all these things are very important, but if you’re not alive, how are you going to enjoy cleaner air? If you’ve been euthanized, given a lethal injection or starved to death by somebody, then how are you going to enjoy better health care? If you’re not alive, then you can’t even be poor!

The organization called COLF (Catholic Organization for Life and Family) which is run by the Bishops of Canada and the Knights of Columbus has published a document called: “What country for tomorrow?” very recently on the election, and it says: “As we prepare to elect a new government we must determine the position of candidates on the first of all human rights, the right to life. If this is not respected, should we be surprised that other rights will sooner or later be threatened”, and we know the answer to that question because we see the evidence all over the world. In other words, the document is saying that the right to life is absolutely paramount, it trumps all other issues, and it’s not the only non- negotiable issue.

By non- negotiable I mean that you cannot have two opinions about it. We can have various opinions about certain things, but not about fundamental things such as the right-to-life. The Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops has also published a document called : “Life issues: Election 2006” dated December the 4th 2005 and it lists some of the key issues, most of which are life issues, and it mentions abortion for example. It’s always morally wrong. Marriage is mentioned, it has to be between a man and a woman. By the way, I have included this information which I am referring to now in your bulletin today; so please take one and read it carefully.

Artificial reproductive technologies, all these techniques which create human embryos, including in-vitro-fertilization, are morally wrong because they separate the pro-creative and unitive dimensions of marriage, and of course in some of these techniques the embryos themselves are in great danger and are even destroyed. Embryonic stem cell research is wrong for the same reason, it separates the creation of a human being from the unitive dimension of marriage, and obviously because it kills a human being.

A tiny embryo is a human being, so if you remove the stem cells then you are killing the embryo. There are other ways, there are adult stem cells which are perfectly legitimate; they are encouraged and have been successful. Then there is human cloning which is of course wrong. It also destroys embryos, and of course also separates the creation of human life from the unitive aspect of marriage as well. And of course there’s euthanasia and assisted suicide which are killing. So they point all these things out, and there is more information which I have included.

I call the life issues and some of the other issues disqualifying or non-negotiable issues. You can have various opinions from good candidates, decent, honest candidates. They can differ on the best way to improve the health care system, the best way of governing our tax policy, the best economy we can have, how many soldiers should we have in the army. All these things can have various opinions to some extent, but even in these areas we must use common sense to work toward the common good. For example, you cannot have economic policies and put them into effect in such a way that they will oppress the poor. You have to consider the most vulnerable and needy in society first of all.

Let’s assume a candidate has terrific positions on all the issues except one. We rank him 10 out of 10 on all the issues, but he happens to think slavery is OK, we should legalize slavery. Let’s bring back the good ole days of slavery. Would you take such a candidate seriously? Would anybody vote for him? NO, I don’t think so! If a candidate said that the government could make a lot of money from the sex industry: let’s recruit prostitutes and tax them, then we’ll make lots of tax money. Do you think anyone would take them seriously? Well unfortunately there would be a few. But anyway, most people would be shocked, wouldn’t they?

What if somebody said well now, the soft-wood lumber issue has been dragging on and on; let’s play hardball with those Americans, let’s drop an atomic bomb on Washington and get their attention. Do you think anybody would really take such a candidate seriously? No, it would be unthinkable, it would be outrageous! Well, we should be just as outraged at politicians saying that it is OK to kill innocent human beings in the womb or the elderly or the disabled. Why are those things not as outrageous? We should be outraged!

In our society, “choice” is a much abused word. We have to admit that everything is a matter of choice, yes, but we have responsibilities and duties as well. Some choices are simply bad, they’re wrong, they’re immoral, they’re outrageous! We have not only the right , but the duty to tell these people that their choices are wrong. When it means that another human being has to die because of their choice, then that’s wrong. We have a duty to stop them, do something about it.

We have to make an informed decision. First thing we need to do is know who are the candidates obviously. There are five of them in Prince Edward- Hastings riding. You can read the newspapers, there’s sometimes very good information in the local papers. You can go to the internet and see if they have participated in any surveys. If they’ve already been in office, you can check their voting records. You can contact pro-life organizations and find out their views on the life questions, for example, you can look up on the internet You can contact them directly; that’s the best way, preferably in writing. When you contact them in writing then they have to write you an answer, then they sign it, and therefore you have a record of what they said.

Of course you also have to know how to ask the questions, and be persistent. For example, if you want to know their position on abortion, what do you do, you go up there and say: “Are you in favour of life?” No, you don’t ask that question; of course they ‘re going to be in favour of life.

You have to ask them a question like this: “Are there any circumstances in which a woman should have legal access to induced abortion?” That’s a very precise question, he can’t squirm out of that one because first of all “induced abortion” means that it’s deliberately going to cause the death of the unborn child, right? And “legal”, should it be legal?

The person has to answer that question yes or no, do you have exceptions? Of course we know that there are no exceptions, there are absolutely no justifiable reasons for an induced abortion because it is the direct killing of an innocent human being. You can never justify that!

We also have to consider other things, how NOT to vote. What do you base your vote on? Your political party affiliation? Well you might be of one party, but the best candidate in your particular riding might be from another party, and the candidate who’s in your party might be a rotten candidate, he might be the worst one. So you can’t necessarily vote according to your political party affiliation .

And what about the candidate’s affiliation? Should you vote that way? Well some people do, they vote blindly, “Oh, our family has always voted for that party”. Well that doesn’t make sense anymore; maybe in the past you could do that. You know, when all the candidates were pro-life and pro-family. You didn’t have to worry about these questions, you could decide on other issues. But now you have to know where they stand on the life and family issues because a lot of candidates endorse intrinsic evils. So you have to be careful there.

Should you vote based on your candidates’ appearance? Personality? How clever they are with the media? You can’t go by that either because some people are very clever and they can create a 10 second sound bite that sounds great on television, but they may represent the worst immoral things in the world. And the candidate who doesn’t look good on television might be the best candidate, the one with the best policies. So you can’t vote that way either.

What if the candidate is Catholic? Should you say “Oh well I can vote for that candidate”. Not necessarily, some of the worst candidates are Catholic, because they are bad Catholics, they don’t believe what the Church teaches, they give scandal. So if they don’t believe what the Church teaches, if they don’t practice it in their lives, if they are not willing to vote for it in Parliament, if they have voted against it in Parliament, if they are promoting immoral policies, then they’re bad Catholics. Don’t vote for them!

Should you base it on what’s good for me? Well to some extent, but we have to be more selfless than that, I mean we have to consider the common good. There are people with greater needs than others and we have to consider the crucial issues as well. So you can’t go by what’s in it for me.

There are candidates who are right, perfectly right, on lesser issues, but who are absolutely wrong on the key issues, the key moral issues, and that’s why I say these are disqualifying questions. If a candidate is wrong on one of these non-negotiable issues, then that’s enough to disqualify them. I’ve given you examples. If someone is in favor of slavery nobody would vote for them. You wouldn’t care what their other policies were, would you? Well then, it’s the same, it’s even worse for cases like abortion. Why would you even consider someone who is in favour of that?

Now, worst case scenario, what if there are no acceptable candidates, everyone of them is rotten . They all believe in something immoral. Well what do you do then? Well, you have to analyze the position of all the candidates and decide which one is going to cause the most harm and which one can cause the least harm by their positions. Which one is more likely or least likely to advance their policies, their immoral legislation. Sometimes you have to vote on that basis.

Let me give you an example or two. Let’s say there is a candidate who believes in abortion for rape and incest; a lot of politicians have that exception. Ok, it’s still wrong! But there is another candidate who says abortion should be “on demand”, it doesn’t matter, any reason at all, and I want it paid by the government as well, and goes around the country promoting abortion. So that candidate is obviously much worse; so the other candidate, even though he has exceptions, would be preferable.

Another scenario, let’s say there is a candidate who favours abortion on demand, but is completely against same-sex marriage. Alright, then there is another candidate who is completely against abortion but favours same-sex marriage, so which one should you vote for? Well its obvious, you vote for the candidate who’s willing to protect human life because that’s more important. If you don’t have the right-to-life , you’re dead, you can’t enjoy anything else, any other rights. Therefore, we have to vote for the candidate who has priorities. Same-sex marriage is not a good thing obviously, but the right-to-life is even more important than that.

Now, we have to take this business of voting seriously. It’s’s not just a right, it’s a duty. So we have to inform ourselves. I encourage you to contact the candidates, become informed, and cast a responsible vote according to the teachings of the church. If we all do this then, with time, we will change things. We will elect more and more people who lead their lives by principles, who are willing to put these things into operation in the government, people who have courage, people who will vote for the right thing, who will vote according to the laws of God. When you have done that you can sleep in peace because you have done the right thing.

We know that some politicians are dishonest, but I don’t think it’s the majority of them. I’ve talked to a lot of politicians, I even lobbied them in Ottawa, over the years, in another position. I consider most of them hard-working, decent people, but the problem is they may know what the right thing is but we have to put a little pressure on them to make sure they do the right thing, and they understand votes. You have to make it absolutely clear to them that if they support one of these non-negotiable issues, you’re not going to support them.

Let’s pray then; the ideal of course would be that one day we will be able to base our vote only on the negotiable issues, in other words, those issues which allow for legitimate differences of opinion, because all the candidates will be pro-life and pro-family, and in that case no candidate will disqualify himself because he is endorsing immoral laws or immoral principles, intrinsic evils. So that’s what we hope and pray for, that we will have that kind of situation. Wouldn’t it be wonderful? Then we can all base our vote on things like the economy, and similar things, right? That would be wonderful! So that’s what we should pray for. In the meantime we have to take our duty to inform ourselves and vote responsibly seriously. May the Holy Spirit guide you in this important decision.

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