Election season is upon us. Campaign signs have sprouted up on our neighborhood lawns. T.V. campaign ads constantly air. Some of those ads are clever, some are maddening, but most offer a good excuse to go to the kitchen for a sandwich. Election time is not necessarily good for one's health!
And elections are good for the health of our state and our country only when we, the citizens, take the time to become informed about the issues and then to participate in the political process by voting. Grumble as we might about the tenor of political campaigns, advocate as we might for election reform, we are nonetheless blessed to be living in a free society where we can express our views and openly advocate for truths and values we believe important for the common good. It's not that way everywhere.
With every right comes a responsibility. Both as believers and as citizens, we have the right and the responsibility to seek not merely our own good but the common good of the society of which we are a part. When we do so, we are not imposing a particular religious teaching on our fellow citizens.
Rather, we are upholding the dignity of the human person and striving to create a society more worthy of the human person. Pope John Paul II has written: "In no way does the Church seek to replace those who are responsible for public affairs, but she hopes to take her place in these debates to enlighten consciences with the light of the full meaning of human nature."
Our faith helps us see more clearly the inalienable worth of the human person and to grasp more surely those values which must be at the core of any society that respects human dignity. And our democracy gives each of us the right to bring the truths and values that flow from our faith into the marketplace and into political life, both local and national.
We do not have to leave our faith behind when we participate in the political process. After all, the faith we profess is not our erstwhile hobby. Our faith is foundational to our identity.
So instead of watching too many televised campaign ads (or possibly eating too many sandwiches), we'd be better off finding out what various candidates stand for. I do not presume to tell you how to vote. But I would make bold to suggest some questions we should put to our candidates. These are issues that arise at the intersection of faith and culture - questions whose resolution will determine what kind of a society we shall become. Here's a sampling:
- Does the candidate fully understand and respect religious freedom? Is he or she prepared to defend it legislatively? Would the candidate ever single out any particular religious faith in crafting legislation?
- Does the candidate support laws that recognize the uniquely important role of marriage and family, or does the candidate support legalizing same-sex unions and thus weakening of the institution of marriage?
- Would the candidate support or reject legislation that forces Catholic healthcare providers to deliver services (like abortion and contraception) that are contrary to Church teaching?
- Would the candidate vote to interfere with how a sacrament (for example, the Sacrament of Penance) is celebrated? Such a provision almost passed the Legislature last May.
- Is the candidate prepared to argue for the right of an unborn baby to the full protection of the law?
- Where does the candidate stand on capital punishment? Would the candidate support the abolition of the death penalty?
- Would the candidate oppose research that uses embryonic human life for cloning and stem-cell research? Does he or she understand the ethical implications of such research?
- Does the candidate support the rights of parents to have freedom of choice in educating their children? Would the candidate consider providing assistance to private school parents for non-religious textbook, transportation, and special education? How about tax vouchers so that school choice becomes a realistic possibility for more than a relative few?
- Does the candidate support legislation that would provide the elderly with prescription drug coverage and adequate reimbursements for residential and home care?
- How does the candidate stand regarding Catholic Charities - the largest human services agency in Connecticut? Would the candidate protect the rights of Catholic Charities, including non-biased consideration when applying to deliver government funded services?
- Does the candidate support increased funding of programs that would help families transition from temporary assistance to work - programs such as job training, expanded eligibility for health insurance, and day care?
This is only a sampling. A much more complete list of questions is found on pages 4 and 5 of this edition of Fairfield County Catholic. These questions are meant to illustrate some of the ways in which the truths and values of faith and the Church's explicit teaching on social justice need to be engaged as we choose our representatives and leaders.
Catholics constitute more than 40% of the population of the State of Connecticut and almost 44% of the population of Fairfield County.
Yet our views are woefully under-represented and sometimes misrepresented in the halls of state government. We, the Catholic community, are like a sleeping giant. But we can no longer afford to slumber. It's time to wake up and be counted.
I ask your prayers for our country and its leaders, especially at this perilous time in history. May God give us the wisdom to find the path to peace with honor and justice.
This column is credited to Fairfield County Catholic monthly magazine.
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