For God's Sake, Vote!
October 31, 2008
Let me make this clear right up front: I'm not going to tell you in this column who to vote for in the presidential election. I'm not going to tell you who to vote for in the congressional election, or any local election.
Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Barbra Streisand are telling you to vote for Barack Obama. Celebrities like Jon Voight and Kelsey Grammer are telling you to vote for John McCain. But non-celebrity Bishop David Zubik is not going to tell you for whom you should vote.
Other religious denominations — that seem to get a free pass from the IRS — might allow a candidate they support to speak right from their pulpits on Sunday. But you haven’t heard a candidate advance their cause for office from a pulpit in the Catholic Church in this diocese.
No, it is not my intention — not the church’s intention — to tell you for whom to vote in the upcoming elections.
But I do have an intention here. I do have a very strong and clear message for you: For God’s sake, vote!
Ever since 1960, when I was an 11-year-old sixth-grader, I have been an avid follower of political campaigns in local, state and national elections. Never in the course of those 48 years have I seen a campaign as heated and as historic as the current one.
Which is all the more reason for me to tell you: For God’s sake, vote!
Faith is meant to be lived
In this reflection, as your bishop, entrusted with passing on the faith as did the first apostles, I draw your attention to the issues of faith — our Catholic faith — and the importance of taking our faith with us as we vote, just as it is important for us to bring our faith to all that we do.
Many issues have dominated the newsprint and airwaves during the campaign season. One that has received considerable attention is that of the candidates’ faith — what their faith means to them, and how that faith impacts on their public lives. It is a legitimate question that tells us a great deal about a candidate.
That issue, however, should be turned on each voter as well. How much will our faith — our Catholic faith — come alive in how we vote? It is vitally important that we take our faith with us in every aspect of our lives. That certainly includes the critical issue of what we do when we stand in front of a ballot to make choices that will have an extraordinary impact on our country for years to come.
Some political figures in this election have asserted that there is a natural divide between their religious beliefs and their political views. Moreover, they have suggested that such a position is one that is appropriate for the electorate as well. They suggest that a person has to separate political beliefs from religious beliefs when entering the voting booth.
Both positions are patently false and directly contradict what it means to be a person of faith. Faith is meant to be lived. Faith integrates our life with God. Genuine faith must be evident in all aspects of life — in our work, in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our relationships, in our public and private lives, in our politics and in the voting booth.
At our November 2007 meeting, the bishops of the United States issued the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States.” We wanted to encourage the faithful — each and all of you — to bring the faith to your vote.
In this statement, we emphasized the following:
“Our nation’s tradition of pluralism is enhanced, not threatened, when religious groups and people of faith bring their convictions and concerns into public life. Indeed, our church’s teaching is in accord with the foundational values that have shaped our nation’s history: ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’”
In the current campaign, there are any number of issues being debated that call into question essential teachings of the Catholic Church. These issues involve prejudice and bigotry; human life and human dignity; marriage and family; war and peace; the needs of the poor and the demands of justice.
Among all these important issues there is one that occupies center stage. It occupies center stage not only in this political campaign, but in our culture and society. That is the issue of life itself — how we honor and respect, defend and protect every individual person, every individual life.
Life is the foundation
From the very beginning of creation, God himself declared life sacred. However, since 1973 we citizens of the United States have been given the false illusion that because a court in our land said so, life is a matter of choice. Because a court in our land said so, abortion is a practice licensed on demand.
The Catholic Church, teaching on God’s declaration that life is sacred, re-emphasizes again and again, over and over again, that all life is sacred.
The panorama of life issues includes world poverty, warfare, capital punishment, cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, torture, human trafficking and the very institution of marriage among others.
But pre-eminent among the life issues are abortion and euthanasia. We as Catholics hold the belief that the killing of an unborn child by abortion or the killing of a vulnerable individual by euthanasia is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified — not by a Supreme Court, or by an act of Congress, nor by the president. We have taught this and believed this from the very dawn of our Christian faith. The right to life is the most basic of all rights of nature and cannot in justice be obliterated by any human law.
Faithful Catholics are called to weigh issues in light of their moral gravity. It is clear that no one party or candidate in this election adequately represents Catholic social and moral principles. You and I are compelled to make a voting decision that balances divergent issues. Yet, we must proclaim that moral issues involving the sanctity of human life command pre-eminent consideration. It is our Catholic vocation in this political season to represent a prophetic voice, adamantly reminding our nation that the fundamental Right to Life is the foundation of our democracy. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness depend on it. Some may believe that the legal battle for life is in straits, but we must stand firm in the moral battle to witness to the truth. Elections come and go. Truth stands.
As you will note in my letter included in this issue of the Pittsburgh Catholic, I have asked every pastor to provide some parish prayer time, maybe even all-night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, on Monday, Nov. 3, the day before elections, for the intention that we may vote with our faith.
When you go to your local polls, don’t leave God outside. Take with you the belief that God is the Creator of all life.
When you go to your local polls, don’t leave God outside. Know what our beliefs as Catholics are and vote with an educated conscience.
As you and I make our way toward Election Day, Nov. 4, I urge you: For God’s sake, vote!