Bringing our faith to the public square is a fundamental expression of how we share God’s love for each other as we work toward building a virtuous civilization of love. In Deus Caritas Est, the first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, we are reminded of our responsibility to share with others the love God lavishes upon us. Pope Benedict reminded us, and Pope Francis reiterates, that if we truly believe “the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics,” the church “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice” (Deus Caritas Est, 28; Evangelii Gaudium, 183).
Considering the government has a responsibility to create a just society, we — as church — must also accept our responsibility to stimulate, advocate and serve as catalysts to compel the government to always advocate for what is right and just for the common good. As we approach the November elections, bombarded with extensive rhetoric about which candidates are worthiest of our votes, I recommend considering the following points as we form our consciences.
Society as a whole must respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person’s life (Evangelium Vitae, 81). Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin often reminds us that God has given each of us an inestimable dignity that can never be taken away. If we believe the Gospel of Life is the core of the church’s social teaching, then we must strive arduously not only to preserve and protect life after conception, but also to nurture and respect life from conception to natural death. This means that we need to express care and concern for every member of society.
Justice is inseparable from charity and intrinsic to it (Caritas in Veritate, 6). The state, together with economic institutions, has a responsibility to make the kinds of systemic changes needed to protect the vulnerable, the impoverished and various peoples suffering from discrimination and exclusion. In keeping with our promotion of the sanctity of life, we should keep before us that this ideal encompasses the serious concerns of extensive hunger, euthanasia, violence, capital punishment and the absence of adequate health care.
We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them (Evangelii Gaudium, 48). Pope Francis reminds us that our missionary impulse enables us to go forth to everyone without exception. Considering the inseparable bond between our faith and the poor, we should never forget that it was for our sake Christ became poor although he was rich — for it was by his poverty that we would become rich. Just as Christ loved us so much that he gave up his life to save us, we too should desire to follow Christ’s example expressing concern for the poor. Our advocacy on behalf of the poor expresses the authenticity of our love and concern for the inviolable dignity of every person without regard for distinction.
We must consider all the church’s teaching on human life, human rights, justice and peace as we discern for whom to vote in the upcoming elections. Considering the subjective media attention concerning the presidential elections, we must carefully take the time to form our consciences within the framework of the totality of the Gospel of Life. It is not the responsibility of bishops, priests and deacons to tell us for whom to vote. If anything, they are obliged to teach the truth to aid in the formation of our consciences through the assistance of the Holy Spirit and the authoritative teaching of the magisterium.
Finally, let us not fall into the temptation of broadly disparaging any political party or group because they disagree with our views. Let us not find ourselves misusing Scripture and church teaching to antagonize or demonize those whose political views differ from our own. Rather, let us share with those who disagree with us the love God has lavished on us as we endeavor to build a virtuous civilization of love. This is, in part, how we may fully promote the Gospel of Life in this contemporary age.