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On Super Tuesday, faithful muddle through presidential candidates’ political positions

By Paul Storer
February 5th, 2008
Catholic Explorer (www.catholicexplorer.com)

WOODRIDGE, Ill. (Catholic Explorer) - With the Feb 5 primary election in Illinois rapidly approaching, Henry Histic of St. Scholastica Parish in Woodridge said he will vote for the candidates who most correspond with his convictions and values. Party affiliation is “the least of my concerns,” he told the Catholic Explorer.

Histic and his wife, Marilyn, attended “Called to Faithful Citizenship” Jan. 24 at their suburban faith community.

Histic mentioned he and his wife have followed the debates and primaries. They have noticed the candidates have many different positions on the issues. “There is quite a bit to choose from,” he said.

Making a choice will be “difficult” for him, Histic admitted. “There are so many issues and they are all important,” he said. Before the beginning of the formal discussion, the parishioner mentioned he came to the parish event to learn more about “where the church stands” on voting for public officials.

Nonpartisan approach

Deacon Roger Schmith of St. Scholastica Parish led the program. The 67-year-old clergyman holds a master’s degree in religious studies from then-Mundelein College in Mundelein as well as certificates from the Joliet Diocese in liturgy and social justice. He works as the parish’s social justice coordinator.

At the start of his presentation, Deacon Schmith stressed he would not be mentioning or advocating for any particular party or candidate during his talk. “I’m going to be talking about the role of Catholics in the political arena,” he said.

Catholic voters should base their decisions on the way they feel candidates respond to issues associated with respecting human life and human dignity, said Deacon Schmith.

Throughout his presentation, the deacon referenced the U.S. bishops’ statement titled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The document, which was issued Nov. 14, 2007, includes rationale for the notion that Catholics are morally obliged to participate in the political process. It also delves into applying church teachings to public policy agendas.

Making community ‘a better place’

In the text of the statement, the church leaders have highlighted issues involving life, peace and justice, health care, housing, immigration and more.

A faithful citizen is called to protect others through participating in the political process, said Deacon Schmith. The goal is helping make one’s community “a better place,” he said. Advocating on behalf of others by making telephone calls, writing letters or countless other initiatives is also part of faithful citizenship. “Don’t ever be afraid” to take action when it comes to challenging injustices, he said.

Commenting further on the bishops’ document, Deacon Schmith said church leaders are charged with the responsibility of helping believers address social and political questions. They are expected to offer the spiritual tools and guidance to assist the faithful in developing a well-formed conscience, he said.

Nevertheless, Catholics should possess a sense of prudence. This means they realize “there is more than one way to get to the end result,” said the speaker. It means “killing one to save thousands is still wrong,” he explained.

Catholics are also called to do good and avoid evil and to make moral choices, he said. Catholics must weigh each of these concepts and come to a conclusion. “We cannot, as Catholics, be one-issue voters,” stressed Deacon Schmith. He added forming one’s conscious “is no easy task.”

Study the issues

In an interview with the Explorer, Deacon Schmith said Catholic voters should “look at every candidate and find out what they stand for.” They should vote for the person who they think will make the best overall impact on the country and the world, added the deacon, who worked for 15 years in various capacities for the Catholic Conference of Illinois, the public policy arm of the Catholic bishops in Illinois.

The Lord has given human beings the gift of free will, said the deacon, who was ordained in 1983. “We cannot trust someone to make the decision for us,” Deacon Schmith emphasized. “We’ve got to express our own voice.”

Only a handful of people attended the event in Woodridge, and Deacon Schmith admitted he was disappointed by the turnout. But, the former legislative advocacy coordinator for the Diocese of Joliet said he hopes the people at the event will share the ideas they learned with others afterward. “We plant the seeds and do what we can,” he said.

A resident of Bolingbrook and member of St. Scholastica Parish, Jo Jackson attended the meeting at her faith community. “It’s just a really important topic,” she said. “Our culture is going down the tubes,” she stressed. Catholics should look to the teachings of the church when deciding about political candidates, she added.

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