In this month of October, the Church renews its defense of life, the human person, and its challenge to any efforts that would diminish the basic dignity and inherent sanctity of human life.  As I write this entry, I am mindful of the many voices I hear from concerned Catholics, indeed, concerned citizens of this great nation, as a very significant presidential election draws ever nearer. 

Some believe the Church and its bishops should disregard the IRS tax code that prohibits a non-profit organization such as the Church from advocating for or against any political candidate and speak directly about who Catholics should vote for.  Others wrongly interpret the separation of church and state and demand that there be no comments or prayers about the election during Mass.  Most, however, simply want some moral guidance to form their conscience before they cast their vote.

Morally, there is such a thing as a hierarchy of values to give proper weight to issues as they are placed in the scales of balance to make ones political choice.  The USCCB document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenshipstates:  “In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions.” (# 37)

As regards the role of the Church and bishops, we have a moral obligation to defend the faith.  We also have an obligation to do our best to lead all peoples to salvation.  The object of the Gospel is the human person, for it is God’s desire to lead all people to salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. 

As society is made up of human persons, it is therefore imperative that the Church speak about moral law and the underlying natural law that is written on every human heart.  When we as bishops teach in this realm, the teaching is not political, but moral, and directed towards the human person and society as a whole, which is made up of many groups and associations of people.

We believe that each human person is created by God.  We believe that God creates each person in His image and likeness.  Christ is the One who reveals God to every human person, and leads each person to a full and proper understanding of him/herself.  For each person and for society to reach their full potential, we can neither dismiss the natural law, nor the values of the Gospel in the formation of the human person and the development of a sound society.

All social life concerns the human person.  Every effort of society must be aimed towards the benefit of the human person.  Regardless of one’s political affiliation, I believe that we can all agree on this much.

In the hierarchy of values, human life is at the top of the list. The defense of the unborn child’s life is a moral obligation.  To take a human life, including that of an unborn child is morally wrong.  To take a life is not in the best interest of a human person and thus cannot be in the best interest of society as a whole.  It is not possible to support such a political agenda from a moral standpoint.  The USCCB document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship states: “Those who knowingly, willingly, and directly support public policies or legislation that undermine fundamental moral principles cooperate with evil.” (#31)

The origin of human life is the love of husband and wife.  Marriage between one man and one woman is a foundational relationship to society; a relationship which is given and defined by the Creator, God.  Any effort to diminish respect for the dignity and sanctity of this foundational relationship of human life and society is not in the best interest of the human person, nor of society as a whole. From a moral stance, defense of marriage in today’s society is another critical issue in the hierarchy of values that help to guide our choice in selection of candidates for office.

Religious freedom is also at the heart of the dignity of the human person.  This is another fundamental freedom, enshrined in our Constitution, as the first of all freedoms.  Religion and the freedom to live according to the values and priorities of one’s religious beliefs is another foundation stone to a fully developed person and society. 

Among the many issues before the electorate this season, these three issues (defense of human life, especially the unborn, marriage, and religious liberty) carry greater moral weight.

Economics, employment, the national debt and deficit spending, comprehensive and affordable health care, immigration, foreign policy, energy and the environment are also major concerns, and as important as they are, these issues carry less weight on the moral scale.  The reason being that the life issue, along with marriage as the source of human life, and religious liberty which sustains a person in the life-giving relationship with God are the foundations of the human person, upon which all other social concerns rest.  If we do not get these first principles right, all the other concerns, as important as they are, have no solid reference point.

It is important to approach our voting decisions as an act of faith.  It is important to evaluate each of the issues upon solid principles, rooted in Scripture and the Teaching of the Church, before God.  We wish to allow our faith to inform every aspect of our life, including the political and social segments. 

Another question to ask: “Does my vote advance the Kingdom of God?” 

Allow your vote to support human life.  Make your vote a choice for the ‘common good’ of society as a whole, and not just a choice for ‘self-interest.’  Cast your vote as a Catholic, and not as a member of any party.

Above all, it is important to pray for our nation and this political process.  In the month of October, a daily rosary seeking the intercession of our Blessed Mother is a good start. 

This is not just another ‘secular decision.’  We cannot afford to be apathetic.  We have a moral responsibility for a fully engaged participation, and each and every vote does count.  God has given us a great gift of human life, and the freedom to cooperate with his plan of salvation.  Let us go forward with hope and the conviction the Gospel and our faith in Jesus Christ affords us.