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Republican or Democrat? Vote Catholic first

AKRON, Ohio (Catholic Universe Bulletin) - Would it be indoor plumbing for people or race horses?

That was the question Joan Rosenhauer, director for education and outreach of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, discovered she faced back in the early 1990s.

Rosenhauer, then working with a faith-based group called Southern Maryland Self Help, found that the state of Maryland had a budget surplus. The humanitarian group wanted the state to allocate some of the funds to bring running water to thousands of poor southern Marylanders without indoor plumbing.

At the same time, Maryland’s large racehorse industry also heard about the excess funds and lobbied hard to put running water in horse stalls at racetracks.

Rosenhauer’s group prevailed and updated hundreds of homes throughout the state’s southern region. The group succeeded because they were aware of available funding, were connected to elected officials, and they acted quickly, Rosenhauer explained.

It’s just one example of the importance of people of faith being politically active, informed, connected, and standing up for what was right, Rosenhauer said when she spoke to the First Friday Club of Greater Akron on March 7 at the University of Akron.

“The importance of connecting religion and politics has been part of our (Catholic) teaching for a very long time,” Rosenhauer said. “It’s rooted in Scripture.”

She also pointed out that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved and issued their most recent quadrennial Faithful Citizenship guide for the 2008 election, which, she said, “Is not an attempt to tell Catholics how to vote.”

The guide, available through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Web site (, is designed to help Catholics make well-informed decisions with well-formed consciences before casting a ballot.

Church teachings should inform voter choices

It’s important to realize that different people will come to different conclusions, Rosenhauer said. At the same time, she added, It is most important to consider and reflect upon church teaching when making political decisions.

“We always need to be more ‘Catholic’ than we are Republicans or Democrats,” she said.

Rosenhauer encouraged Catholics to reflect upon and learn more about their faith as they study political issues and to discern which candidates and issues merit their vote. She stressed the importance of understanding Catholic social teaching in the formation of conscience.

She also impressed upon the audience the importance of becoming actively involved in public life. Saying public life is “not just voting,” Rosenhauer explained that it’s vital for Catholics to be aware of various policy issues and to take action on legislative issues — much like the Maryland group did on the water issue.

AIDS abstinence programs endangered

Rosenhauer spoke about current legislative priorities and pointed to a very tight federal budget. She asked Catholics to become familiar with budget priorities and spending.

Catholics must be a people who stand up for the poor and vulnerable, she said, as she focused her federal budget-related comments to the continued need for programs addressing services that respect life, serve the homeless, promote affordable housing, and make healthcare accessible.

On the international front, Rosenhauer pointed to a possible change in U.S. policy toward overseas HIV/AIDS funding that concerns Catholic leaders. Proposed changes would eliminate the abstinence-education funding requirement and would, instead, force service providers using U.S. federal funds to offer a full range of family planning information.

“The Catholic agencies around the world would not be able to provide these services,” she said.


This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of the Catholic Universe Bulletin (, official newspaper of the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio.



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