The 2016 election is right around the corner, and for many Catholics, there’s no telling how they feel about it.
With two controversial candidates going head-to-head, many Catholic voters are unsure of how our future potential president is going to support the values of the Church, leaving them in a difficult spot when it comes to casting their vote Nov. 8. Seasoned voters might be used to this, but even first-time voters aren’t sure what to think.
John Magee was born and raised in Ireland, but has lived in the U.S. since 1996. After a long process (20 years, to be exact), Magee was finally minted as a U.S. citizen Aug. 5, which means he will participate in the upcoming election as a first-time voter. As for how he’s approaching this presidential election, he refers to two quotes from Edmund Burke, a famous 17th century statesman from Magee’s home country of Ireland.
“We have to look at it through the eyes of faith. One has a civic duty to vote.”
“The first one is, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,’ and the second quote is, ‘Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do little.’ Those are two great quotes that talk about what’s at stake,” Magee said.
As a first-time voter, Magee is certainly troubled by the lack of candidates in this election. Despite this, however, he’s not letting it deter him from his right to vote, a right, he said, he’s waited long and many have worked hard for.
“When I took the oath, it’s a promise I made, to exercise my civic duty and to get involved with the political realms,” he told Denver Catholic. “It’s very exciting and as somebody who was born in Ireland but America has become my adoptive land, it’s something that’s very significant for me because I’ve waited to so long to be able to have this.”
Vote with the eyes of faith
Even so, as an outsider looking in, Magee sees the state of the election and why it seems so difficult to make an educated vote, especially as a Catholic. He said that voters would do well to look at the entire platform instead of just a single issue, but even then, it’s not always clear that’s the best way to cast your vote.
“As a Catholic, you have to look at the platforms and how the candidates are going to respond from a Catholic’s perspective; the issue of life, the issue of economy, the issue of immigration, the issue of justice. What are they going to do for the common good?” he said. “[However], that’s a slippery slope because on the one hand they may be pro-life, but on the other hand they may be pro-something that goes contrary to our belief. It’s very gray scale.”
Though voting in this election isn’t very black and white, Magee is going to allow his faith to inform the way he votes, and most importantly, he’s going to exercise his right to vote.
“We have to look at it through the eyes of faith. One has a civic duty to vote,” he said. “It might not be the ideal candidate and it might not be the ideal person, but I think you have to look at the whole platform of what they have to contribute to society, to our faith, to our children, to the causes we believe in, and is there one candidate over another that will be better to that.”
Vote with your conscience
Even for Catholic voters who’ve participated in past elections, the 2016 election isn’t making the process any easier. Father Sam Morehead, pastor of All Souls Parish in Englewood, fully admits that this particular election is rather complicated.
“There is a lack of clarity on how to go forward when seemingly no candidate robustly stands for all of the values of the Church or even the most significant ones of them, either at present or historically.” Father Morehead said. “And yet, we need to do our best to slog through the soot and shine the light of Christ into it.”
“The question for me as an individual voter is: how do I cast the vote God wants me to cast? It’s his world, his country…nothing is mine, all ultimately belongs to God.”
As a priest, Father Morehead said he’s more consecrated to the work of God and the Church, and thus he is removed in one sense from the political process as a citizen. However, he said this role gives him a greater responsibility of forming the consciences of his flock so that they may more effectively engage the political order as well-formed Catholics. This is not an easy task, he said, as he’s observed that many people tend to approach voting in an individualistic and selfish way.
“We don’t see that we are stewards of our citizenship, stewards of a vote that doesn’t belong to us but belongs to God first and foremost, and thus we have to return it back to God,” he said. “The question for me as an individual voter is: how do I cast the vote God wants me to cast? It’s his world, his country…nothing is mine, all ultimately belongs to God.”
In order for one to cast their vote for God, one must have a properly formed conscience, Father Morehead said, one formed by the Gospel and the authentic teachings of the Church.
Only through a formed conscience will Catholic voters be able to sift through the issues and determine how their vote can “help or hinder the kingdom of God and the fulfillment of his will which is authentically taught us by the Church alone through scripture and tradition.”
Vote with love
As far as the candidates are concerned, Father Morehead’s solution is simple: Catholics are to love them the same way they’re called to love everybody else.
“I may like the policies of none of them, but they are human persons. They’re made in the image and likeness of God, they have the divine spark in them” he said. “I may not like anything about them, but I have to see the person through generous eyes of faith.
“Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump – they’re human persons. They’re not all bad, they’re not all good, they need my love.”
Vote with urgency
Catholic voters also have a more pressing obligation to vote, Father Morehead said, because “to whom much is given, much is expected, and Catholics have been given much.”
“[Catholics] have the gift of faith, of grace, sacraments, the authentications of Christ through the Church, and all of that in addition to the gift in America of being citizens in this country, who are empowered to be a participant in this process,” Father Morehead explained. “With all of the gifts from God that he’s given us, there is this greater urgency and emphasis on making a meaningful contribution back.
“To not take a stand is to take a stand, which is not a good stand. God is calling us to act and to be unafraid. … We need to be countercultural by engaging this process with a great act of faith.”
“Furthermore, because there are such important things at stake that go the heart and core of our faith and morals, there’s an even greater urgency and insistence that comes from the Holy Spirit this year to say, ‘be a part of this process and help effect Christ’s presence and values to our state, to our nation, to our world.”
The worst thing a Catholic could do is not exercise their right to vote, and Father Morehead suggested that Catholic voters would do well to take the easy way out and resist the temptation not to take a stand.
“To not take a stand is to take a stand, which is not a good stand. God is calling us to act and to be unafraid,” he said. “Presidents, governors, kings and queens will all come and go, but the one thing that abides is God, and we must always keep our eyes turned on him, focused on him, and everything must be directed back to him.
“We as Christians have to have this commitment, interior and exteriorly, that our true citizenship lies in Heaven, and everything we do here on earth is oriented towards that. We need to be countercultural by engaging this process with a great act of faith.”