With the November election fast approaching, I am writing on the importance of voting. Voting is not a casual activity. It carries with it serious responsibilities in conscience. In the document issued by the Catholic Bishops of the United States entitled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the Bishops make this salient point: “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. This obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do.” For my part, as a Bishop of the Catholic Church, I would be remiss in my obligation if I did not call your attention to your moral obligation. As St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “I am writing you this not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children” (I Corinthians 4:14). My purpose is not to instruct anyone on how or for whom to vote. My intent is to speak of solid moral principles which are consistent with Catholic teaching, both in Sacred Scriptures and Tradition, and the virtuous exercise of responsible citizenship.
Respect for human life is not one issue of many. It is basic, essential and non-negotiable. Blessed John Paul II in Evangelium vitae (1995, no. 101) articulated the teaching very well, when he wrote:
It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending
the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded
and from which they develop…. Only respect for life can be the foundation and
guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and
There is cause for grave concern, when, as Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York recently wrote, our society “has become increasingly callous about the radical abortion license, and a legal system … affords more protection to endangered species of plants and animals than to unborn babies; that considers pregnancy a disease; that interprets ‘comprehensive health care’ in such a way that it may be used to threaten the life of the baby in the womb.” We speak of a preferential option for the poor and rightly so. Should not helpless, unborn babies enjoy a compelling preferential option?
There is also the issue of religious liberty, “our first and most cherished liberty.” The practice of faith is being increasingly relegated to a “private matter,” as though religious practice were something restricted to attendance at church services. Yet, we know that our Catholic hospitals, schools, charities, and ministries exist precisely because we are Catholic Christians who serve not only those within our own Church but also the community at large. For any government to define what a church is (cf. Dept. of Health and Human Services 45 CFR Part 147, Federal Register, vol. 77, no. 31, Wed., February 15, 2012/Rules and Regulations) for the purpose of determining an exemption in conscience is deeply troubling and could have disastrous consequences in the future.
Finally, our conscience obligates us to have concerns about the poor, the underprivileged, the immigrant, the homeless, the unemployed, and the elderly. Regrettably, there are some who wrongfully ignore the less fortunate and prefer wasteful spending. There are many, on the other hand, who acknowledge these matters and know that we must engage in respectful and civil debate on how to address the needs of our society. Not everyone will agree on the solutions. But we simply cannot dismiss every attempt at fiscal responsibility and label as “bigots” those who seek to address a rampaging federal debt. Is it conscionable to hand on to our children and grandchildren a bill they cannot pay? If this occurs, the poor and the unemployed will be the first to suffer.
The disregard for the natural law and the embrace of intrinsic evil that we see in this country are deeply troubling. In many ways, we must all accept some responsibility, because our government is not imposed upon us from outside but elected from within. God has given us an intellect and a free will with which to discern and to act. God also calls us to conversion and a life of virtue. The conscientious voter brings all of these to the decision he or she makes.
We should also pray for God’s mercy and at the same time be confident that God will bring good out of this moral collapse. With God all things are possible.
With prayers for your intentions and our nation, I remain
Sincerely yours in our Lord,
+Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles