By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
WORCESTER – Bishop McManus said he’s recently received letters asking why he doesn’t make priests tell people who to vote for.
But that is not the bishop’s role. The responsibility of bishops and priests is to help people form their consciences so they can vote intelligently, he said.
However, when people say, “I have to vote my conscience,” they sometimes leave out the fact that their consciences must be well formed, he said. To have a well-formed conscience, a Catholic must understand Church teaching about faith and morals. But now there are at least two generations of Catholics who are under-catechized, he said.
Bishop McManus was speaking at Immaculate Conception Church Oct. 6. His talk, “The Catholic Voter: Called to Faithful Citizenship,” was the second in a pre-election forum sponsored by The Catholic Free Press and the diocesan Respect Life Office.
Last week Bishop McManus said many people, including some Catholics, think religion should be kept out of politics. The United States bishops say otherwise in their document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which they revise every four years.
Bishop McManus said the bishops picked up on an idea of Jesuit Father John Courtney Murray, who spoke of indirectly influencing public life in America through well-formed consciences.
The bishops’ document aims to form the consciences of Catholics and other people of good will, to contribute to civil dialog and shape the faithful’s choices in light of Catholic teaching, Bishop McManus said.
Religious liberty is under attack today, he said. But he noted that the First Amendment says that the federal government may not establish a national church and that people have freedom to exercise their faith. So they may bring their beliefs into the public square in hopes of influencing society.
Many people say Catholics believe things that no one else believes, but that’s not true, he said; natural law applies to and can be known by everyone.
Fundamental principles at the heart of Catholic moral and social teaching are the dignity of the human person and the inviolability of human life, he said. Civil laws must also respect those principles.
Another key principle is that intrinsically evil acts must be avoided. Things that make an act morally bad or good are the moral object (what the actor wants to accomplish), the actor’s intention and the circumstances surrounding the action.
But sometimes the moral object is so morally disordered – such as murder and racism – that neither a good intention nor the circumstances can make the act right, Bishop McManus explained.
When a society enshrines judicial decisions that attack fundamental principles of moral law, that has a detrimental effect, Bishop McManus said. People start thinking, “If it’s legal, it must be moral; my country’s a good country.”
Some politicians misuse the concept that all life issues are connected and pick just what they want, Bishop McManus said. But, he said, if life is not protected, none of the other human rights can be enjoyed.
It is intellectually and morally indefensible for a politician to say, “I’m personally opposed to abortion,” and then support it, the bishop maintained.
“If one of my seminarians presented that as a moral argument, I’d flunk him,” he said.
But, he said, Catholics repeatedly vote for such politicians.
He talked about the immorality of cooperating with evil and voting for someone specifically because he or she supports something evil. When all the candidates support something evil, one may vote for one of them for other reasons, but they must be great reasons, he said. One might also choose not to vote, he said.
He said he thought everyone would be wise to “pray to the Holy Spirit.”
He encouraged listeners to go to the polls even if they can’t vote for some candidates because there are important questions on the ballot, including one about legalizing recreational marijuana, which the bishops oppose.
The next segment of the forum is Oct. 20 at St. George Parish, 38 Brattle St. Boston Attorney Frances X. Hogan will speak about: “How and Why One’s Faith Should Impact One’s Vote in this Extraordinary Election Year.” The final session will be Wednesday, Oct. 26, at Immaculate Conception Parish, 353 Grove St., Worcester. Allison LeDoux, director of the Respect Life Office, will speak about “Life, Marriage and Religious Freedom: Pillars of a Nation’s Soul.” Each evening begins with a holy hour at 6:30 p.m. in the church, followed by the presentation at 7:30 p.m. in the parish hall.
Catholics have moral obligation to vote
By Tanya Connor | CFP
WORCESTER – Catholics have a moral obligation to vote – according to their consciences, consciences well-formed by Church teaching.
But none of the four major presidential candidates in this year’s presidential election have a very good scorecard when it comes to what the United States bishops have called the non-negotiable issues: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and same-sex marriage.
That’s what moral theologian Christopher Klofft told nearly 50 people at a pre-election forum at Immaculate Conception Church Sept. 29.
So what’s a Catholic to do?
Prof. Klofft offered answers to that question, carefully avoiding expressing favor for, or even naming, any candidates.
His talk, “Thinking Seriously About the Five Non-Negotiables,” was the first of four in a pre-election forums called “Conscience and the Catholic Voter” which The Catholic Free Press and the diocesan Respect Life Office are sponsoring. (A video of his presentation can be seen at https://vimeo.com/184951841)
He is assistant professor of theology at Assumption College and adjunct professor of moral theology at St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston. At Assumption he also teaches Scripture and theology of human sexuality.
The Church says it is morally permissible to vote for “the least bad candidate,” Prof. Klofft said. But he said one’s conscience might not allow one to do that.
Another option is writing in someone else’s name, he said.
Listeners asked if writing in another name is essentially not voting, because one knows that will not accomplish anything.
Prof. Klofft said it does produce something: the voter’s participation in the process. Pure pragmatism would say that is throwing away one’s vote, he said. But he said individuals have a responsibility to participate in the process, and they are doing what they can by voting according to their conscience. When they are not true to their conscience they are being less than they were made to be, he said.
“We are also participating in a spiritual reality,” Prof. Klofft said, noting that that day was the feast of the archangels. He said human work is part of the picture, but so is the work of the Spirit.
One of his students said that what is at stake when you vote your conscience is “your eternal soul,” he said.
Prof. Klofft said, “You are establishing who you are as a human being as part of this community in relation to your Creator.”
Prof. Klofft said he did not think refraining from voting (perhaps in protest) would allow one to be clear in conscience. Father Walter J. Riley, Immaculate Conception’s pastor, who asked a question about that, said he disagreed with that answer.
One might vote for a third party candidate because one wants to change things, but such candidates have never won in recent elections, Prof. Klofft said.
In response to another question, Prof. Klofft said it is rare that winners do what they have said they would do during their campaigns. He expressed hesitancy about putting too much stock into a candidate’s outreach to Catholic voters, but also said lip service to Catholic teaching is not without value. It shouldn’t be the final word, but must be one of the things a voter considers.
Asked about praying about who to vote for, Prof. Klofft said he thinks prayer for candidates and oneself is good.
“I trust the Spirit to move us,” he said. “Not that everything that happens is God’s will.” But God will take care of those who seek the truth.
He said people must maintain fidelity to the truth and remember that God is still in control and that dark times are not new.
Prof. Klofft said he’s seen statements that this election will change history, but that he doubts that. It is an important election, but history is bigger. Catholics have to build the Kingdom of God and wait in hope for its fulfillment, he said. He said the world will go on until God doesn’t want it to go on anymore.
He said Catholic voters must do their part and they will see results.
“We might in fact be surprised by grace,” he concluded. “Let’s pray we are surprised by grace.”
Biographies for other speakers
Bishop McManus’ video from the Oct. 6 session is available at vimeo.com/185898595.
Bishop Robert J. McManus is the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Worcester and a native of Providence. He earned licentiate and doctoral degrees in sacred theology from The Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
He was ordained for the Diocese of Providence by Bishop Kenneth A. Angell on May 27, 1978. He served as rector of Our Lady of Providence Seminary beginning in 1998 while continuing as diocesan Vicar for Education and Director of Ministerial Formation.
Bishop McManus was ordained as Titular Bishop of Allegheny and Auxiliary Bishop of Providence in 1999. In 2004, Pope John Paul II named him as the fifth Bishop of Worcester. His episcopal motto is “Christus Veritatis Splendor,” “Christ the Splendor of Truth.”
Currently, Bishop McManus is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Health Care for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as a member of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine and Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Frances X. Hogan, a graduate of Boston College Law School, is a partner at Lyne, Woodworth & Evarts LLP of Boston, where she represents major financial institutions in commercial and real estate-related transactions.
Ms. Hogan serves, or has served, on numerous organizations including the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, Caritas Christi Health Care System, Blessed John XXIII National Seminary, Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, and the Catholic Lawyers Guild.
Her interest in pro-life activities, especially in the public policy arena, has been nurtured through service on the Board of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference and by election to the National Advisory Council to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In 1996, Ms. Hogan was named by the Vatican to the Pontifical Academy for Life which serves as an advisory body to the Holy Father on developing bioethical issues ranging from stem cell research to end of life concerns.
Mrs. Allison LeDoux is the director of the Respect Life Office and the Office of Marriage and Family for the Diocese of Worcester.
She serves as coordinator for the New England region of Diocesan Pro-Life Directors and is a member of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference’s Pro-Life/Pro-Family and Health Care subcommittees.
Mrs. LeDoux received her certification in Catholic Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center in 2007. She is a long-time member of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and the Catholic Medical Association.
Mrs. LeDoux and her husband John, a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Worcester, are the parents of eight children.