Guest Opinion: Guidance for the Informed Catholic Voter and A Look at the Party Platforms
Only if the voters are informed - and truly understand the gravity of their responsibility to participate in the direction that their country takes - can we become a responsible people and nation.
As the Bishops say, "Catholic teaching challenges voters and candidates, citizens and elected officials, to consider the moral and ethical dimensions of public policy issues." As Bishop Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, reminded us recently, "A Catholic conscience can never take exception to the prohibition of actions which are intrinsically evil." Never has the choice been clearer than in this election. Please consider the platforms prayerfully, and vote as your conscience, "the voice of God resounding in your heart", directs you.
RICHMOND, VA. (Catholic Online) - "The best defense of democracy is an informed electorate." "Voting is the least arduous of a citizen's duties. He has the prior and harder duty of making up his mind." These quotations, attributed to Thomas Jefferson and Ralph Barton Perry respectively, imply that if we are to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, then that people must do its share by becoming conversant with the issues, the candidates, and their platforms before every election. Only if the voters are informed - and truly understand the gravity of their responsibility to participate in the direction that their country takes - can we become a responsible people and nation.
In the 21st Century, like it or not, we face a government that now spends over 25% of our GDP, the highest at any time in history except for WWII. Additionally, Federal regulatory agencies are involved in all facets of life, so that you cannot even use a shower, the toilet, or now even a light bulb without feeling the weight of Federal control. When the government has become that pervasive, citizens must assume responsibility, while they still can, for its direction. Thus, it is imperative that voters understand what the candidates for office consider to be the role of government, and how they propose to bring that vision to reality.
During the 2008 Presidential election, we heard a lot about "change", but few understood what exactly was going to be changed, or how. We were asked, with the so-called "health care" legislation, to approve a huge document with ramifications for one sixth of our economy without reading it; in the infamous words of Nancy Pelosi, "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it - away from the fog of the controversy." This is hardly what Jefferson had in mind.
The Democratic Party Platform makes it very clear. "This election is not simply a choice between two candidates or two political parties, but between two fundamentally different paths for our country and our families." That is an understatement, and highlights why it is so critical that we pay especially close attention to the parties' platforms in this election.
There is no doubt that America has seen "change" over the past fifty years, particularly on the social front. "Conservatives", usually Republicans, seek to minimize these changes, and generally think that the traditional interpretation of the Constitution, what it says, it means, is correct. "Progressives", usually Democrats, believe in a "living Constitution" where what it says is up to a judge, a court, or even popular opinion to determine. These two groups have had increasingly divergent views on social issues, and the voter must decide on which side he or she resides, to stand up and be counted. This is not optional. Ayn Rand, though understandably controversial for many of her positions, correctly observed that man "has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice."
But how do we choose? Like the fruit in the Garden, so many things "seem" good. In what has been labeled the "culture war" the only guidance that matters comes from Christ's Church. We have all seen what happens when secular humanism and the hope of creating heaven on earth collide with the realities of Original Sin and disobedience to God's commands. The paramount rule for any citizen must be "Refuse the evil, and choose the good. [Isaiah 7:15]" No matter how appealing the proposal may be, the ends never justify the means. The most elementary form of this commandment regards the sanctity of life, without which nothing else we do can be sanctified. Again, God puts this very simply: "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: Therefore choose life. [Deuteronomy 30:19]"
The easiest way the prospective voter has to evaluate the plans of the two parties and their candidates is to examine the party platforms. Obviously each candidate is an individual in hisor her own right, and cannot expect to support the party platform at all times and in all ways, but the platforms are constructed so as to convey at least in generalities how the candidates will govern. Additionally, the candidates are constrained by existing law, so, for example a Republican candidate may not feel they can say say that heor she will immediately put an end to abortion because it is already enshrined in law by the Supreme Court.
He can, however, indicate whether or not he supports reduction or expansion of that law within his powers. Naturally, you cannot expect someone who intends to, say, deprive you of your civil liberties to tell you that is his intention. You must read the "code language" and consider his previous record, and realize that he may simply not mention it if he considers it too problematical for too many people. Better to let them find out after the election.
With that in mind, I would ...
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