This is truly the first election season that I voted Catholic. The result of this is that I voted against the sole Catholic candidate in my Congressional district, a person who I helped place in the seat representing me before the House.
I blame the Church for this shift. Better, I blame God – Jesus Christ Himself – for the outward change of my sociopolitical views and expression thereof. I have become too conservative for liberals and too liberal for conservatives while remaining too conservative for conservatives and too liberal for liberals. How is it that I blame my contradictory position in this secular world on the God of order and not “confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33)?
The answer is simple. I am in the ongoing process of placing complete trust and acceptance in the Divine Will of Our Blessed Lord whose Church is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). It is through her that we come to fully know and understand Jesus Christ as He left her the “Spirit of truth [who guides her] into all the truth” (John 16:13). And in this, she has spoken concerning my fidelity to God’s Word of moral truth in all that I do.
Like most persons, I struggle to maintain communion with God on a daily basis but in this election season, I would no longer choose as the world does but as a man of faith does. For my faith is in Christ Jesus and following His Will is never in vain. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks to our Duties as Citizens:
2238 Those subject to authority should regard those in authority as representatives of God, who has made them stewards of his gifts:(43) “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…. Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God.“(44) Their loyal collaboration includes the right, and at times the duty, to voice their just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community.
2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country: Pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.(45) (Christians) reside in their own nations, but as resident aliens. They participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners…. They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws…. So noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it.(46) The Apostle exhorts us to offer prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who exercise authority, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.”(47)
2242 The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”(48) “We must obey God rather than men”:(49)When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.(50)
As is plainly stated, the Church reminds us as Christians that we have an obligation to our neighbors and to God to be subject to the authority of those whom He has allowed to serve over us. However, because our primary fidelity is to Him alone, we are in turn obligated to cease compliance to the laws and regulations of these secular authorities if and when these very directives run contrary to our conscience – a conscience that is formed by our faith in God and through His Church.
Many well-intentioned Christians make the error of misunderstanding the moral conscience of their baptized souls and project their own concerns, fears and desires in the name of God rather than following the Divine Authority and mouthpiece of God that is the Holy Catholic Church. This is the same Church that, like the Blessed Lord, has not changed her position on what she identifies as “nonnegotiable” issues, the five most prominent today are our position in opposition to:
- Embryonic or Fetal Stem Cell Research
- Human Cloning
- Homosexual Marriage
Allow me a moment to clarify one thing concerning the Christian and his conformity to the Will of God; a Christian always retains the freedom of will to conform their’s to that of God’s. This means that while the Church, who speaks for the Lord, can state and even bind Catholics to certain positions such as those above or a particular theological doctrine, etc., our greatest asset – the ability to freely express our love via our actions – is never hindered nor can it ever be. So the person who acts, in this case, votes against the interests of the Church (and consequentially of God) does so at their own peril as, like Saint Paul who states:
“I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:4-5)
In this instant, we do right by following the Church who speaks with the authority of Christ in the matters of Faith and Morals as doing so keeps our faith and works in accord with Our Blessed Lord’s words
in Luke 10:16, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
So as this election season draws to a close, heed the following words from Holy Mother Church concerning The Political Community and the Church:
2244 Every institution is inspired, at least implicitly, by a vision of man and his destiny, from which it derives the point of reference for its judgment, its hierarchy of values, its line of conduct. Most societies have formed their institutions in the recognition of a certain preeminence of man over things. Only the divinely revealed religion has clearly recognized man’s origin and destiny in God, the Creator and Redeemer. The Church invites political authorities to measure their judgments and decisions against this inspired truth about God and man: Societies not recognizing this vision or rejecting it in the name of their independence from God are brought to seek their criteria and goal in themselves or to borrow them from some ideology. Since they do not admit that one can defend an objective criterion of good and evil, they arrogate to themselves an explicit or implicit totalitarian power over man and his destiny, as history shows.(51)
2245 The Church, because of her commission and competence, is not to be confused in any way with the political community. She is both the sign and the safeguard of the transcendent character of the human person. “The Church respects and encourages the political freedom and responsibility of the citizen.”(52)
2246 It is a part of the Church’s mission “to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it. The means, the only means, she may use are those which are in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all men according to the diversity of times and circumstances.“(53) (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
It is this mode of thought that sets the faithful Christian, particularly the Catholic, apart from the rest of the world:
“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.
But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me.
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.”
— Jesus speaking to His disciples, John 15:20-22