How to Vote Catholic: A Brief Guide

Deal W. Hudson

• Catholics are obliged to participate in politics by voting.
• Legislators are elected to serve and protect the common good, human dignity, and rights of human persons.
• Voters should have a clear understanding of the principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.
• The life issues are dominant in the hierarchy of issues for the Catholic voter.

Prudential Judgment
• Prudential judgment is the application of principle to concrete situations.
• Catholic principles apply to all political issues but in many cases do not lead prudentially to one acceptable Catholic position.
• The bishops’ teachings on faith and morals are binding; their prudential judgments on policy guide us but do not bind us.
Public Witness
• The Christian Faith cannot be restricted to oneself and one’s family, making it impossible to “love one’s neighbor.”
• The principle of subsidiarity teaches that Catholics should first address social problems at the local level before asking the government to intervene.
• Politics and government need the public witness of what faith teaches about the common good, human rights, and human dignity.

• Abortion is the dominant political issue.
• Being pro-abortion disqualifies a candidate from a Catholic vote.
• Catholics can justly support politicians who advocate incremental means toward eliminating abortion.
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
• The ban against euthanasia and assisted suicide admits of no exception.
• Removing extraordinary means of supporting life is allowable as a prudential judgment.
• The growing acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide rests on the misguided assumption that pain detracts from the value of life.

• Since science serves human ends, not its own, scientific research must always respect the moral law.
• Science must respect the inherent dignity of the human person.
• Unused and unwanted embryos must be treated with the respect afforded to other human beings.
• Ending human life cannot be justified in the name of therapeutic (i.e., medical) benefits to other persons.

• Population policy must not include abortion and sterilization as methods of slowing population growth.
• The use of contraception in population policy undermines marriage and ignores the moral issues of promiscuity and disease.
• Catholic institutions should not be required to support contraception or abortion through mandated insurance coverage.
• The right to abortion should not be allowed to enter international law under the rubric of women’s “reproductive health” or fears of overpopulation.

The Death Penalty
• The Church teaches that the death penalty is acceptable in principle but should be avoided in practice.
• The responsibility of elected officials is to ensure that penal systems and sentencing policies do in fact protect society from known aggressors.
• The practical elimination of the death penalty is based upon the strength of the penal system and the commensurateness of the sentencing procedures.

• States have the right to engage in war in self-defense but should first exhaust all peaceful solutions.
• Just war is waged within defined moral boundaries in regard to its targets, goals, and outcomes.
• Political leadership must have both the inclination toward peace and the capacity for decisive action if war is just and necessary.

Defense and Terrorism
• Nations have a duty to protect their citizens from legitimate threats.
• Nations should build their capacity for defense in light of just-war theory.
• Terrorism—the injury and murder of innocent civilians—is never justified.
• Defending a nation combines the military, international diplomacy, and a compassionate foreign policy.

Judicial Issues
• Judges should be evaluated according to their judicial records and commitment to the limited judicial role, not attacked for their privately held religious views.
• Those who would nominate and confirm judicial activists disenfranchise the faithful Catholic voter.
• Catholic leaders have a duty to respect their constituents and their Church’s commitment to natural law tradition when considering judicial appointees.

Marriage and the Family
• Marriage was instituted prior to the state and should be recognized by the state as something inviolate and necessary to the common good.
• Prudential judgments about law and public policy should always seek to strengthen marriage and families.
• So-called same-sex marriages cannot be recognized by the Catholic Church, and civil unions are likely to undermine marriage and damage its foundational role in society.

• Parents—not the state—have the right to educate their children.
• Catholic parents have the right to have their children educated in a curriculum consonant with Catholic values.
• Governments should provide financial support to families for the education they desire for their children.

Economic Issues
• Work is a matter of human dignity and is necessary to the common good.
• Government should create the conditions that support business and industry development.
• Corporate responsibility is critical in helping to maintain economic success.

• Taxes should be fairly based upon one’s ability to pay.
• Tax policy should not penalize marriage or the raising of children.
• Corporate taxes should not threaten the capacity to create and sustain jobs.

• The preferential option for the poor requires that authorities first provide assistance to the poor and oppressed.
• The poor must have access to the education and job training necessary to compete in today’s job market.
• Strong families that remain intact keep their members from falling into poverty.

Health Care
• Health-care needs should be met by a combination of personal and corporate insurance, philanthropy, and government programs.
• Catholic health-care organizations must be free to perform their work with clear consciences.
• Abstinence and fidelity should be the foundation of sexually transmitted disease—education and prevention.

Religious Liberty
• Religious expression is a human right that should be recognized by the state.
• States that enforce secularism in social services and education are violating religious liberty.
• Political debate naturally involves religious concepts since law and public policy directly affect the common good.

• A nation should seek to accommodate the immigrant who, for just reasons, seeks greater access to the basic goods of life.
• Political leaders and citizens should recognize the reality of human interdependence that crosses all borders and all national identities.
• The immigrant is a person who deserves the same protection of law and social benefits afforded to citizens.

• From creation, human beings are given special responsibility as stewards of the earth.
• As part of its duty to the common good, the government should prevent unnecessary harm to natural resources.
• Government should also use creative and technological skill, in concert with global cooperation, to reverse existing environmental damage.

©Deal W. Hudson

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