Catholic conference weighs in on looming election

TV screens are bombarded with messages from political candidates seeking voters’ support. Mailboxes are filled with pamphlets alerting voters of proposed ballot initiatives. Media professionals are capturing candidate stump speeches and publicity stunts. Sidewalk volunteers are urging residents to register to vote. It’s election season!

The Denver Catholic Register interviewed Colorado Catholic Conference executive director Jenny Kraska about its “Get out the Vote” initiative and Catholics’ participation in the Nov. 4 election.

Q: How is the Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC) involved in raising awareness about political issues this election season?
A: This year the CCC is making available, in hard copy and electronically, a Colorado Catholic Issue Guide and letter from all three Colorado bishops. For the first time ever the material is available in four languages—English, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese—and is also available on our mobile app. The CCC is encouraging parishes to get messages out to their parishioners about the importance of registering to vote and then voting. There are presentations happening statewide at parishes about the need to be active and participate in the public square.

Q: This November, Coloradans will cast their ballots to elect leaders to important political offices. Why is it important for Catholics to participate in this process? Will the Catholic vote really make a difference?
A: It is always important for all citizens to participate in the election process. The ability to vote is not only a duty but also a right, and as Catholics if we don’t exercise that right then there will be other people who do and those people might not always share our values and beliefs. I believe the Catholic vote always makes a difference. Whether we realize it or not, all elections have consequences—good and bad. As Catholics and Americans we have in the words of St. John Paul II “… a heightened responsibility to be, for the world, an example of a genuinely free, democratic, just and human society.” We take this heightened responsibility seriously when we engage the public square in a thoughtful manner.

Q: Not all candidates’ political platforms align with Church teaching on marriage, the sanctity of life, religious liberty and immigration. How can voters begin to evaluate candidates in light of the Gospel?
A: To be honest with you, I don’t know of any candidate currently running for office whose political platforms and views line-up with the whole of Church teaching. As the bishops in Colorado remind us in their letter, “The truth of our Catholic faith teaches that there is nothing more important than an unwavering commitment to defending human life—to protecting the most vulnerable, and to ensuring that life is respected in principle, policy, and most importantly in law.”

Q: Political ads and campaign messages can be deceptive and misleading for voters. Can you point out some political propaganda you anticipate to arise before Catholic voters?
A: I believe one of the biggest pieces of political propaganda that has arisen over the past couple of years is the notion that there is a “war on women” that solely centers around access to reproductive health care. As a woman, I find this concept to be offensive and untruthful—the real “war on women” should focus on the thousands of female babies aborted in this country every year, and the thousands of woman who are abused, beaten or sold into slavery via the sex trafficking trade.

Q: How can someone become more involved and assist with “getting out the vote” this November?
A: First and foremost, people need to make sure that they are registered to vote in the state of Colorado; if you need to register to vote you can do so online by visiting the Colorado Secretary of State’s webpage or you can call their office and request a paper registration form to be mailed to your home. Second, you need to vote. Finally, make sure your friends, family and fellow parishioners are registered to vote and voting. These all sound like simple things—but you would be surprised at the number of people who are not registered to vote or who just don’t vote.

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Election Resources
The Colorado Catholic Conference made available the following “Get Out the Vote” resources for parishes and voters on its website and on its smartphone app.

2014 Colorado Catholic Issues Guide
2014 Colorado Bishops’ Letter

Download: free “Colorado Catholic Conference” app on iPhone or Android smartphone
Register to vote:
Further reading: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.

Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash