As faithful Catholics, it is our duty and obligation to take part in shaping the moral character of our community, our state, and our country—especially in a time of so much civic unrest and the need to address injustices of the past and present. One important way to do this is through voting.
Catholic Moral and Social Teaching, drawn from human reason and illuminated by Scripture, offers a consistent moral framework to guide our actions in the voting booth and hold our leaders accountable, particularly government leaders who profess the Catholic faith. Our faith allows us to maintain a hierarchy of values when voting on candidates and issues during an election. All of the listed values in the hierarchy are important; however, some are more foundational and therefore require more priority.
For a more in-depth look at Federal and State issues and candidates, visit cocatholicconference.org/get-out-the-vote.
Hierarchy of Values to Guide Voting as a Catholic:
1. Sanctity of Life
Abortion, the deliberate killing of a human being before birth, is never morally acceptable and must always be opposed. Human reason based on the findings of science affirm, that human life begins at conception. Consistent with this teaching, contraception is a perversion of the intent of sex, which is the procreative act of love between a husband and wife in marriage.
Cloning and destruction of human embryos for research or even for potential cures are always wrong. Biotechnology and human experimentation should respect the inherent dignity of human life from its very beginning, regardless of the circumstances of its origin. Likewise, public policy should adopt alternative, ethical vaccines to replace vaccines that contain aborted fetal cells.
Death penalty is an unjustified taking of human life, as we have more reliable ways to protect society and address injustice. Society has a duty to defend life against violence and aid victims of crime, but not through the death penalty. Furthermore, it is our duty to help criminals seek penitence and redemption for their actions.
Physician Assisted Suicide
Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia is not an act of mercy, but an unjustifiable assault on human life. Allowing physician-suicide endangers the weak and vulnerable who may believe death is their only option, corrupts the medical practice and family commitments to each other, and betrays human dignity and equality before the law. The Catholic Church teaches that we should respond to suffering with love and compassion, and promote a dignified death of natural causes, not assisted killing.
2. Marriage and Family
Marriage is the cornerstone for society, and must be defined, recognized, and protected as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, and the source and protection of their children. Marriage is undermined by sexual orientation and gender identity ideologies that dismiss biological sexual differences and complementarity, and present “gender” as a social construct.
Children must be valued, protected, and nurtured in their home and in society. Adoptive and foster care children must likewise be placed in homes with a married man and woman, or if not possible, in environments that do not contradict the authentic meaning of marriage. Child welfare services have a right to place children in homes consistent with their religious beliefs.
3. Religious Liberty
Religious liberty is our first and most cherished freedom, rooted in the dignity of the human person across geographic boundaries, and central to the American constitution. It is also the most attacked freedom in America today. In recent years, the tax exemption status of the Church has been called into question by the government. It is important that the Catholics ensure that the religious liberty protections for individuals, Churches, and institutions are protected and strengthened.
4. Economic Justice, Poverty and Welfare
Economic decisions and institutions should be assessed according to whether they protect or undermine the dignity of the human person.
Welfare policy should reduce poverty and dependency, strengthen family life, and help families leave poverty through work, training, and assistance with childcare, health care, housing, and transportation. Given the link between family stability and economic success, welfare policy should address both the economic and cultural factors that contribute to family breakdown. It should also provide a safety net for those who cannot work.
Wages should allow workers to support their families, and public assistance should be available to help poor families to live in dignity. Such assistance should be provided in a manner that encourages human dignity in work and promote eventual financial autonomy.
Affordable housing requires a renewed commitment to increase the supply of quality housing and to preserve, maintain, and improve existing housing through public/private partnerships, especially with religious groups and community organizations.
5. Health Care
Health care needs to be rooted in values that respect human dignity, protect human life, respect the principle of subsidiarity, and meet the needs of the poor and uninsured, especially born and unborn children, pregnant women, and other vulnerable populations. Employers, including religious groups and family-owned businesses, should be able to provide health care without compromising their moral or religious convictions, and individuals should be able to purchase health care that accords with their faith.
Contraceptive mandates in healthcare are a violation of religious freedom. The Catholic Church opposes contraceptive and abortion mandates in public programs and health plans, which endanger rights of conscience and can interfere with parents’ right to guide the moral formation of their children.
6. Immigration and Promoting Foreign Peace
Immigration in America requires comprehensive reform, which should include a fair legalization program with a path to citizenship, a work program with worker protections, family reunification policies, and refuge for those fleeing persecution and violence. The right and responsibility of nations to control their borders and to maintain the rule of law should be pursued in a just and humane manner. The detention of immigrants should be used to protect public safety and not for purposes of deterrence or punishment, alternatives to detention, including community-based programs, should be emphasized.
Promoting peace is an essential Church teaching for international relations. Catholic tradition recognizes the legitimacy of just war teaching when defending the innocent in the face of grave evil, but we must never lose sight of the cost of war and its harm to human life. Nations should protect the dignity of the human person and the right to life by finding more effective ways to prevent conflicts, to resolve them by peaceful means, and to promote reconstruction and reconciliation in the wake of conflicts. Nations have a right and obligation to defend human life and the common good against terrorism, aggression, and similar threats, such as the targeting of persons for persecution because of their religion, including Christians.
Education policy for K-12 should recognize parents as the primary educators of their children, and parents should be able to send their children to schools that fit their conscience with government assistance, including public, private, religious, online, or blended schooling options. Public education money should ultimately follow the child to the school of their parents’ choice. The Catholic Church embraces school choice programs, like vouchers, tax credits, and education savings accounts, that allow parents to choose the best education opportunity for their children with a portion of public funding that was allocated for their children in public schools.
Likewise, in 2018 529 Savings Accounts were expanded to include K-12 expenses, if a state legislature approves it. Colorado has not yet approved this expansion, despite the demand for parents to use pre-tax funds for their children’s K-12 education.
Catholic schools educate roughly 40 percent of all private school students nationally and have a rich history of serving low-income communities. Catholic education is mostly privately funded, but they also rely on some government funding. This is why it is important that the religious integrity and autonomy of Catholic schools is protected in public policy.
Pre-K education programs should operate in a manner similar to K-12 school choice – the government money should follow the child to the school of their parents’ choice. A 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) reveals that Head Start failed to improve the cognitive abilities of children, their access to health care, and the parenting practices of participants. Head Start costs taxpayers about $8,000 per child annually. That money would be better spent following the child to a pre-K program that fits the parents’ conscience, including religious pre-K programs. This breaks the cycle of “cradle to career” secular education modeling, and places pre-K12 education back in the hands of parents.
Higher education continues to rise in cost and drop in quality due to federal accreditation being tied to federal financing. In recent years, some lawmakers singled out private universities (including many private Catholic colleges) for additional federal regulation. Lawmakers should uncouple federal financing from accreditation, which has largely caused the student loan bubble, and ease the federal regulatory burden on private universities. This is important for the Church as our universities are some of the best in the country, and student loan debt forces many new graduates into poverty and adds additional burden to the community with public pay-back programs.
8. Restorative Justice
Criminal Justice Reform
Criminal Justice reform should be focused on rehabilitating persons convicted of crime, while also emphasizing penitence and redemption. A humane and remedial rather than a strictly punitive approach to offenders should be developed. Such an approach includes supporting efforts that justly reduce the prison population, help people leaving prison to reintegrate into their communities, combat recidivism, promote just sentencing reform, and strengthen relationships between the police and the communities they serve.
Caring For Survivors of Crime
Caring for survivors must come for all areas of society, in the Church and state institutions. We stand in solidarity with crime survivors and encourage public policy to reflect with understanding, compassion, and healing.
Discrimination in society, whether based on race, religion, sex, ethnicity, disabling condition, or age, is a violation to human dignity. Where the effects of past discrimination persist, society has the obligation to take positive steps to overcome the legacy of injustice, including action to remove barriers to education, protect voting rights, and support good policing in our communities.
Human trafficking is twenty-first century slavery; it is a horrific crime against the dignity and rights of the human person. The Church, state, and community must work together to eliminate the root causes and markets that permit traffickers to flourish, to make whole the survivors of this crime, and to ensure that trafficking in human persons vanishes from the face of the earth. Saint Pope John Paul II wrote, “The trade in human persons constitutes a shocking offense against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights… Such situations are an affront to fundamental values which are shared by all cultures and peoples, values rooted in the very nature of the human person… The alarming increase in the trade in human beings is one of the pressing political, social and economic problems associated with the process of globalization; it presents a serious threat to the security of individual nations and a question of international justice which cannot be deferred” (2002).
9. Energy and Environment
Care for the environment and access to energy is a religious duty we share of stewardship and responsibility for future generations. Public policy should encourage energy conservation and the development of alternate, renewable, and clean-energy resources, without mandating alternatives and subsequently adding financial burden to citizens and costing jobs. The Catholic Church calls to address energy and environment issues focusing on the virtue of prudence, pursuit of the common good, and the impact on the poor, particularly on vulnerable workers and the poorest nations.
Technology should be embraced by the Church, while also protecting and promoting human dignity. Writing on the topic of technology, saint Pope John Paul II stated, “we are called to use science and technology in a full and constructive way, while recognizing that the findings of science always have to be evaluated in the light of the centrality of the human person, of the common good and of the inner purpose of creation.” The Church encourages parents to protect and nurture their children in a digital world that offers both benefits and dangers; the Church also supports legislation on technology that protects our children and promotes human dignity.
Issues on the Ballot
Vote YES on Proposition 115
Proposition 115 (formerly initiative 120) would prohibit abortions after 22-weeks of gestation. Colorado is one of eight states in America with no legal restrictions on the gestational age of a child for an abortion. This means that in Colorado preborn children can be killed at any moment up until birth. Most states in America have imposed restrictions on abortion at 20 weeks of gestation or at viability of life outside the womb. Colorado is far behind other states in protecting the lives of the preborn.
The Colorado bishops released a letter to Coloradans in support of the Initiative 115 Late Term Abortion Ban. They wrote, “Ending the legal protection for abortion is the most important political objective of Colorado Catholics because these children are deprived of their right to live. While the late-term abortion ban will not ban abortion entirely, it does protect children who are older than 22 weeks’ gestation. This is a positive change from the status quo and promotes a “culture of life” that values preborn children. It is a step in the right direction.”
Vote YES on Amendment 76
Amendment 76 would ensure only United States citizens in certain local communities (it does not include many of Colorado’s largest cities) can vote in local elections. America is a nation of immigrants and remains the most welcoming nation in the world. However, voting is a constitutional right given to its citizens. The Church maintains support for a fair legalization program and path to citizenship so more newly minted US citizens take part in the American political process at all levels of government.
Vote NO on Proposition 118
Proposition 118 would allow for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave funded through a payroll tax paid by employers and employees in a 50/50 split. While this is proposition is well intentioned, it actually adds a significant tax burden on Coloradans, including Coloradans working to support their children or family members in need. The issue of paid family and medical leave is important, but best decided between an employee and employer upon that employee’s hire. The Church does not support propositions that force low-income families into poverty, despite the well intentions of the law.
Vote YES on Proposition 116
Proposition 116 will lower our flat income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.55 percent. This flat rate income tax will encourage investment and employment in Colorado, ensuring that Coloradans are able to get back to work to provide for their families post-COVID-19. This is a true tax-cut for middle and low-income families. The Church supports tax policy that encourages work and prosperity for all.