I wanted to document my reflection from last week’s “Prayer Service For These Times: our civic responsibilities in the upcoming elections” and add references. As an experiment, I copied a transcript of the voice to text conversion YouTube did in creating subtitles for the prayer service video. The conversion did a pretty good job, but it was tedious to edit it into a final format for this blog post.
September 29 1981 is a very special day for me. It's the day I was sworn in as a naturalized citizen of the United States. At the ceremony, the judge gave an opportunity for people to speak and I got up and spoke. I told the people there that the thing I was most excited about in becoming a United States citizen was my ability to finally participate in the political process and to be able to vote in this country I was living in. I felt then and still feel that it is a great privilege, honor, and right that we have to vote. But it's also a responsibility that we need to vote at every opportunity and guide our political process.
We as Catholics are encouraged to be involved in the political process of our countries and especially in voting to make sure that our world is a fairer more just place that helps those that are poor, marginalized, and oppressed. Simply put, voting is a way that we can bring about the Kingdom of God in our world. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says “Responsible citizenship is a virtue and participation in political life is a moral obligation.” You could flip that around and say it's actually sinful not to vote and be involved in the political process.
I don't know if you're like me but I am saddened lately by what I’ve seen and heard in news coverage and articles lately about clergy; Bishops, and Priests, siding with one candidate or another. Endorsing one party over another going as far as saying that Catholics who vote one way or another are not really Catholics. Even going further and saying that these Catholics are condemned to hell.
Well, I'm here to tell you the Church does not condemn anybody, period. Never has and never will in its history. Also, the Church does not tell the people of God how and who to vote for! “we bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote.”
Pope Francis in his beautiful encyclical the Joy of Love said “we (the Church) have been called to form consciences not to replace them” The Church’s responsibility is to form people's conscience. This process of personal formation of conscience came about in Vatican II and is a big part of the Vatican II theology that Pope Francis has picked up. In a nutshell, this is simply a lifelong process of forming our conscience via scriptures, church teaching, the study of issues, and prayer. Through the continuous reading of scripture, studying scripture, reflecting on, and praying with scripture especially the Gospels of Jesus. We spend time reading and studying Church teachings but also reading other spiritual writers, Saints, and modern spiritual writers to help us understand these Gospel principles in light of modern situations and how to live our lives.
We also need to study the current events that we're making a decision about especially when we're voting. We study the candidate’s positions and what is their track record and so forth. We need to dive in and do some research. In these days of the internet, it's a great tool but it can be deceiving. My advice is to maybe do what I do. I'm very cynical about everything I read or see. I assume everything is false, and then I spend time researching it. Maybe it turns out it is true, but I'm not going to take something at face value I'm going to dive in and I think that's very important to do when we're doing this process.
Of all things, the most important is to let the Holy Spirit work and the best way to do that is to spend time in prayer. The formation of conscience is about absorbing all this in our life over and over again. It's a process of transforming our minds and heart into the mind and heart of Jesus. So that at some point it just becomes instinctive to know what to do in a situation like voting.
We do have to make a decision at some point! We have to look at all this, we have to pray about it, and we have to follow our conscience. What does our heart say to us? Deep in our hearts what do we believe, what do we think we need to do, what do we think God is calling us to, and we have to follow that in our lives.
What are some scriptures that are probably good for reflecting on for voting? Well, I think we read one already, The Beatitudes. I've heard it said many times that the Beatitudes are an encapsulation of the whole Gospel in a very short piece of scripture. I think it's good to take the Beatitudes scripture and then research how a candidate lines up with these behaviors that Christ tells us are part of being a disciple of Jesus. The other scripture that I read a lot about when I'm reading through all the documents on faithful citizenship and Pope Francis is Matthew 25. This should be no surprise, the last judgment. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and it gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Again we take those principles and apply them in comparing the candidates.
As far as learning the Church teachings on voting I think the U.S. Bishops have done a marvelous job over the years. They have this document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” and they update it every four years. They do a good job of adding new material and information from Pope Francis’ encyclicals and other relevant stuff. It's about 30 pages or so of material. I think it's well worth your time to read it and reflect on it. There's a lot of great information in the document, but it sort of comes down to this. They say we have to form our conscience and that's a big part of it, and then they also say “As Catholics we are not single-issue voters.”
In the document, they go through a lot of different issues and how they relate to our gospel life. Of course, they talk about opposing abortion, opposing euthanasia/assisted suicide, but they also talk about working to eliminate the death penalty. They also talk about ending poverty by helping lift people out of poverty, ending violence in our communities, and armed conflicts around the world. Trying to get rid of the scourge of racism in our society and any discrimination of any type. Allowing all people to have access to health care and education. There is a concern and care for our environment that Pope Francis is telling us so much about. Immigration reform and protecting religious freedoms for all. On a world scale, working for solidarity and peace among nations. There's a host of other issues covered and they acknowledge that voting is a very complex web of issues and things that we need to look at. But in the end, they are all related to upholding the dignity of life from conception to death all the way through life.
They also talk about how we have to look at the candidates themselves. We have to take into account the commitment, character, integrity, and their ability to influence a given issue. That has to be part of our process.
So there's a lot of stuff we have to mull around and then bring to prayer. If you don't want to read the full document, but I encourage you to do it, we do have a couple of two-sheet summaries  that the U.S. Bishops put together on this subject. I think they are really good to have with you when you're reviewing the candidates especially part two of two that has a bunch of the issues on it and discussion to go through. Maybe rate the candidates on all the issues and all these other things. It's an involved process.
If you've already voted, as I have, maybe it's a good exercise to go through that process anyway. Would it have changed your mind on the candidates you voted for? If nothing else it will still enlighten you about what the Church teaches and the complexity of voting and being involved in the political process as a person of faith.
We've been having great events like this here at St Pascal's. We had a zoom event about a month ago “We Were Made For These Times How do we Respond”. At this event, there was a lot of concern about what's going on and everybody agreed we need to be involved. But how do we do that? Well tonight we're talking about one thing we can all do and that's voting, we have to vote, we have to encourage others to vote to make sure their voice is also heard, and we need to remove any roadblocks for people to get to the polls. We need to be active in voting, but longer-term we need to be part of the political process.
Pope Francis says: “We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern."  The U.S. Bishops say: “participation goes well beyond casting a vote in a particular election” 
So how do we do that beyond the election and get involved in the process? Luckily it's very easy in our country. We can be writing to our elected officials, we can call them, or we can email them about different issues covered by legislation to express our views as followers of Jesus and how they should vote in those situations. We could even propose new legislation to them if we think it's valuable and maybe they'll pick up on it. Maybe they have a lot of other people contacting them. It's about numbers so being involved in contacting them is very very important. If you're so inclined; be a politician we need good politicians. Maybe work for a certain party or candidate that you feel strongly about.
All this work will help bring about the Kingdom of God and bring Gospel values into the world. Being involved in the political process for Gospel change is something that we can all do at any age. We just need to do it!
Now we're going to spend a little time in silent reflection. There are some passages for reflection in your worship aid (see the end of this blog post).
Also, I just thought I’d throw out a few questions to get your mind thinking.
How is your voting in alignment with the Gospel of Jesus?
What are the ways you can continue your formation of conscience, especially in relation to the political process?
What are the ways that you can be involved in our country's political process?
How should Saint Pascal's as a community be involved in the political process?
Take some time to think about those questions and look through the quotes and reflect on how you can be an agent of change through the political process.
 Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship 7
 Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship 7
 The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), Pope Francis 37
 Matthew 5:1-12a
 Matthew 25:35-36
 Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
 Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship 42
 Part I of II: Our Call as Catholic Citizens United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
 Part II of II: Making Moral Choices and Applying Our Principles United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
 POPE FRANCIS MORNING MEDITATION IN THE CHAPEL OF THE
DOMUS SANCTAE MARTHAE “Pray for politicians that they govern us well” Monday, 16 September 2013
 Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship 7
Passages for Reflection
Responsible citizenship is a virtue and participation in political life is a moral obligation… As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. - United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern. - Pope Francis
The people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government and to reform, alter, or totally change the same when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it. - Alexander Hamilton
Promoting active liberty does not mean allowing the majority to run roughshod over minorities. It calls for taking special care that all groups have a chance to fully participate in society and the political process. - Ruth Bader Ginsburg
No responsibility of government is more fundamental than the responsibility of maintaining the highest standard of ethical behavior for those who conduct the public business. - John F. Kennedy
Nearly all Americans have ancestors who braved the oceans - liberty loving risk takers in search of an ideal - the largest voluntary migrations in recorded history. Across the Pacific, across the Atlantic, they came from every point on the compass - many passing beneath the Statue of Liberty-with fear and vision, with sorrow and adventure, fleeing tyranny or terror, seeking haven, and all seeking hope...Immigration is not just a link to America's past; it's also a bridge to America's future. - George H.W. Bush
Peace, Love, and Blessings