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Why Catholics Must Vote

Should the Catholic Church be involved in politics?  Isn’t it supposed to focus on God and getting to heaven?

The answer to the second question is yes, the Church is supposed to focus on God and getting to heaven.  The answer to the first question is yes, the Church should be involved in politics, because the Church is supposed to focus on God and getting to heaven.

This may seem confusing if we think that politics and the mission of the Church are two separate things.  But that is completely false.  Often when we hear the demand, “keep politics out of the Church,” what we are really hearing is “keep God out of politics.”

To be clear, the Church does not teach that it should be the political power that rules our country.  In fact, the Church does not allow clergy to run for political office.  Nor can clergy command people to vote for a particular candidate.

This is because it is not the role of the Catholic hierarchy to identify with politicians or with partisan interests.

At the same time, in the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput:

[The Church] has every right—in fact an obligation—to engage secular authority and to challenge those wielding it to live the demands of justice.  In this sense, the Catholic Church cannot stay, has never stayed, and never will stay “out of politics.”  Politics involves the exercise of power.  The use of power has moral content and human consequences.  And the well-being and destiny of the human person is very much the concern, and the special competence, of the Christian community (Render Unto Caesar, Chaput, pg. 218).

For this reason, the Catholic Church serves as a teacher and guide for the holy people of God.  She teaches nothing but the message of Jesus Christ, which belongs in every aspect of human life, including and especially politics.

Then the Catholic faithful, the laity worshiping at Mass, hear that message and prayerfully, courageously, and faithfully apply that message in public life, including the political process.

Jesus said in Mark 12:17, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  Jesus made clear that His people are citizens of heaven and of earth.

As we pass through this time on earth, we are on our way to heaven.  Our way to heaven is to help our brothers and sisters on earth.

And we Catholics help our brothers and sisters on earth by rendering unto our political process what belongs to it: our involvement, our influence, and our vote.  And we render unto God what belongs to Him when we vote in order to keep God in politics.

Do You Have the Right to Judge?

In my experience, when someone says to another that they did something morally wrong, the other sometimes responds, “who are you to judge?”  Indeed, who is anyone to judge?

I remember when I was at Texas A&M in College Station, I was part of a group of students who would work pro-actively for an increase in respect for all human life from conception to natural death.

Planned Parenthood imposed a powerful presence that stood against that respect because of the abortions that were performed at their facility in Bryan, Texas.  See the figure below if this is news to you.  Abortion kills a child and ruins the life of the woman as well as the family and friends involved.

Planned-ParenthoodOur pro-life group heard rumors that those in charge of Planned Parenthood were gathering for a meeting to discuss plans for expanding their operation.  We decided to act in defense of innocent children, who have no voice, by standing by the public roadway that led to the building in which they were meeting.

We did not yell.  We did not spit.  We did not cast slurs.  We prayed the rosary and held up signs that expressed clearly and charitably the beauty of life and the evil of abortion.

As we did this, a woman, ostensibly a member of the Planned Parenthood gathering, walked up to each one of us and handed us a sliver of paper.  On it I read the words: Judge not, that ye be not judged (Mat. 7).

I felt a bit angry.  First, I thought that she was judging me.  How would she know what I thought about her?  How could she interpret that I was judging her if she did not hear me say that she was going to hell?

Second, this was, and still is, a common response given by some defending abortion.  They say we should not judge, instead of really addressing the issue.  Isn’t abortion killing a child?  Doesn’t it really lead many women to depression, child abuse, and suicide?  Shouldn’t the life of the unborn child be protected under the law as it is for every other person.

Yet, I am happy that it was a good moment for me because I still did not yell or respond in kind, although I could have done so.  I believe God’s grace had taken over.

At that time I simply said, “we are not judging you.  We are simply telling you the truth.”

Who am I to judge the soul and the conscience of anyone?  I am not the one to judge.  In the words of St. Paul, I can’t even judge myself.

At the same time, the Just Judge commands us in Matthew 18: if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.

He even says that if one were not to listen to you, take him to another person and try to resolve it.  If that doesn’t work, bring him before the whole community.

This seems harsh and judgmental, doesn’t it?  Well, it certainly is not judgmental if we understand what it means to be judgmental: to presume to know the heart and thoughts of another person and judge them as worthy or unworthy of heaven.  That’s it.  We are obligated to judge in other ways.  To live a moral life we must judge between right and wrong, vice and virtue, sin and grace.

And Jesus makes us responsible to judge those same objects in the actions of others.  This is definitely one of the more uncomfortable teachings of Jesus.  At the same time, it can be the most beautiful.

How so?  If we are not judging the consciences of each other, than we are not condemning each other.  Instead, we are loving each other.  This love motivates us to want what us good for ourselves and the community.  It makes us willing to judge the actions of others and respond with loving correction.

In this context, correcting another person for their faults should be very unpleasant business.  It reminds me of when we see a friend walking down the hallway with their pants’ zipper open.  We are embarrassed to say something and when we say it, the other is embarrassed as well.  But in the end, everybody is better off and your friend would hopefully be grateful and not defensive.

No judgment.  No condemnation.  Just a simple statement of fact: your fly is open.

Correcting each other, if done with love, is a merciful act (it’s one of the spiritual works of mercy).  It involves an act of cleaning each other of the sin that sometimes we cannot see or want to see on ourselves.

In my experience, my closest friends are those who are willing to endure the awkwardness of correcting me.

Do you have the right to judge a person’s conscience?  No.  Do you have the right to correct your brother with love?  No, you have the duty.

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