Casting a ballot this election has to the power to alter society—that is, if it’s done well, according to local experts.
Regis University Professor Daniel Wessner, chair of the history and politics departments, said people should vote if they are capable of voting well. But harm could result if it’s not done with study, careful thought and robust discourse.
“Why should they exercise that duty or why would we consider it moral that they exercise that duty if they’re not going to do it well, if they’re not informed, or if they’re just doing it on the basis of television ads?” he said.
Voting, according to Catholic tradition, is a duty for every citizen.
Father Bill Carmody of St. Dominic Parish in Colorado Springs, also the respect life director, said voters must be well-informed and use their God-given intellect to make an informed choice.
“Catholics are the most well-educated socio-educated class in the country,” he said about statistics on faithful’s education level. Using this education means not only researching candidates, but also their voting record and informing themselves on Church teaching regarding nonnegotiable principles and tenets of the faith, such as the sanctity of human life.
The Colorado Catholic Conference, the local church’s public-policy arm, released two guides for voters: The 2014 Colorado Catholic Issue Guide and a letter from the state’s three bishops addressing the upcoming election.
According to faith leaders, voting may be done virtuously.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate that voting well means considering the common good of society—the Catholic perspective on the purpose of politics—as an exercise of charity.
“The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them,” the pope wrote in 2009. “Every Christian is called to practice this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the (city).”
When voting with charity, he notes how seeking the common good becomes more than a mere secular or political position.
“Like all commitment to justice, it has a place within the testimony of divine charity that paves the way for eternity through temporal action,” he wrote.
Catholics should not be afraid to vote in light of their faith even in the face of opposition, said Rich McLean, parishioner of St. Therese Parish in Aurora.
“We should not be afraid to express how the love of God and neighbor and the dignity of human life are fundamental to meaningful living and good law,” he said. “If we hide our faith and its moral compass in the public square, others will not know what it means to be Christian and we would neglect our responsibilities as disciples of Christ.”
McLean helped found the parish’s community building group called Aurora Health Access, which aids faithful in participating in society, including their government.
Even when choosing between imperfect candidates, a voter may choose the less-objectionable one based on their conscience and Church teaching.
“This election especially requires you to do your homework,” Father Carmody said. “Study it, pray on it and make up your mind.”
The key to voting well, Wessner argued, is not to simply participate in the function of voting, but to grow the “wellness of the activity.” He suggested by promoting democratic education, modeling political activity, participating in robust political discourse and exercising great leadership, among other ways.
The result could be powerful.
“We have no idea the power our voice can have. We can literally change our culture by the ballot,” Father Carmody said.
Online: Colorado Catholic Issue Guide and Colorado bishops’ letter at www.cocatholicconference.org
Encyclical: Caritas in Veritate by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 2009