Currents News Staff
How do we vote in good conscience? That’s the question many Catholics are asking themselves in the run up to this year’s election.
But just as many people are asking whether the same can be said for President Trump whose stance on issues like the death penalty and immigration has raised concerns.
Christopher Vogt from the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at St. John’s University says this is a moment “where we are called to discern carefully in conscience about what we should do.”
That dilemma has Catholics split down the middle politically. According to Pew Research Center, 48 percent of registered Catholics identify as Republicans, while 47 percent of registered Catholics identify themselves as Democrats. Their views are divided by race and ethnicity.
So what’s a conflicted Catholic voter to do? Experts like Chris think voting your conscience is key. Another, is examining what’s at the core of Catholic social teaching.
“Catholic social teaching comes from both scripture and from the use of reason,” Chris says. “It’s a set of principles and values and proposals really about how the world should be and are meant to engage all people of good will.”
Chris says Catholics also need to dig deep on the reasons why they might vote for a particular candidate because “intention” is essential to understanding the morality of an action. He explains it this way:
“If I’m voting for Joe Biden because he supports abortion rights, that would be wrong from a Catholic point of view. However, if my intention is to protect other very important moral goods that Vice President Biden supports, for example, around migration or around addressing race issues and things like that and I vote for him despite the fact that he is a very strong advocate for abortion rights, that’s a very different thing. Intention matters.”
A voter’s moral obligations can make the choice extremely difficult and although American bishops avoid telling Catholics how to vote, they do try to provide guidance.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in their document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship that “it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose policies promoting intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions.”
Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio also weighed in describing conscience in his Tablet Newspaper column as “the prudential judgements we make after we have assessed moral issues, trying to understand, especially in social context, regardless of political parties, what is right and what is wrong.”
Chris says Catholics face a dilemma.
“The dilemma for Catholics who really support all of the church’s social teachings and also support the church’s position on life issues is that we don’t really have a home in American political life,” he says.
It’s a reality that makes clear some of the tough choices ahead for conscientious Catholic voters come election day.