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Voting One’s Conscience

Well, August is just about over, and we are heading full speed into the Election Season. Hard to believe that summer has gone by so fast. As Catholics, we hear over and over again, especially during an election year, that we have to “Vote Our Consicence.” Unfortunately, according to a new and extensive Pew Research survey, even Catholics who contend that they pray daily, attend Mass at least once a week, and do consult their conscienses, it really appears that they have no idea what “Voting One’s Conscience” really means or, for that matter, what conscience itself means.

Certainly, we have all been made well aware that this is a tremendously tumultuous election year with a great deal at stake. Core moral teachings concerning marriage, family and life issues have come increasingly under attack. And when you consider that we should always be following the proper process for forming our consciences (not just when elections roll around), the Pew survey results are quite chilling.

Pew obtained their results primarily from a survey of nearly 3,000 participants and found that practicing Catholics are not very likely to consult Church teaching or Scripture or turn to guidance from the Pope and other Church leaders when they are making important moral decisions. Yet, they still believe that they are “consulting their conscience” and express confidence in the way they make their decisions. Here are some samples from the survey—”Three-quarters of U.S. Catholics (73%) say they look to their own conscience a great deal for guidance on difficult moral questions. Far fewer Catholics say they rely a great deal on the Catholic Church’s teaching (21%), the Bible (15%) or the Pope (11%)…”

“Catholics who are highly religious are more likely than less religious Catholics to turn to church teachings, the Bible or the Pope for guidance on difficult moral questions. Still, far fewer highly religious Catholics say that they rely a great deal on any of these three sources for guidance on tough moral questions then say they rely on their own conscience,” the Pew Center researchers stated.

Wow! This report is telling us that so-called highly religious Catholics (defined as those who go to Mass every week and pray on a regular basis) feel they are informing themselves very well by simply talking to friends and family, reading a few articles, watching a few news programs…and then making up their minds on whichever moral dilemma they are facing. However, if they are not consulting Scripture and the Church, what on earth are they using for their moral compass? Certainly the Church encourages dialogue with others when it comes to forming our consciences, however it is also very clear that we should not stop there…this is according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Allow me to quote the Catechism, “In the formation of conscience, the Word of God is the light for our path, we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice…We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.” (CCC 1785). The Catholic Dictionary tells us what conscience really is and is not. We need to embrace the fact that conscience is an operation of the intellect, and not of the feelings, or even of the will. An action is right or wrong becuase of the objective principles to whcih the mind must subscribe…not because a person subjectively feels that way or because his or her will wants it that way. We must pay particular attention, more than ever before, to the intended, distinct lines between the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches that have become blurred, ignored and compromised.

And with that blurring, decisions have come down from all three sectors that are rapidly eroding our religious liberties, rights and our freedom of conscience. We are told in Scripture that Satan, the father of lies, will contrive to make evil good and good evil. And, lo and behold, we have had our Supreme Court define abortion as good and legal, and praying in public is illegal. Emboldened by that, one of the major politicial parties has embraced as a major plank in their platform, the killing of preborn infants, at any stage of their life, as a right and a blessing. The presidential candidate for that party arrogantly supports abortion as a blessing and a priceless gift for women. Her V.P. candidate masquerades as a Catholic, yet he adamantly supports abortion, so-called same-sex marriage and contraception, in direct defiance of Church teaching. Yes, they are in league with the devil, espousing that infanticide is good and protecting life and freedom of conscience as evil. The sad refrain these days is that there is no good presidential candidate, so I’m not going to vote. I believe we all have a Christian responsiblity to vote, to be, as Jesus said, salt and light to the world. Typical American voter turnout is approximately 49%—that number includes Catholics. No wonder evil has flourished. For 43 years, we have tolerated the Roe vs. Wade “Legal Baby Murder Decision.” If all Catholics voted with their conscience that evil law would have been rescinded years ago. We must become acutely aware now of the moral stance of the candidates and discern their stances on the intrinsic evils that abound. If one is for and one is against the intrinsic evil of legal abortion, a Catholic cannot, in good conscience, vote for the one that supports abortion. The lesser of two evils may well be, but we do have a duty to vote.

Yours in Christ Our Savior,

fr denis