Voting with the mind of Christ - II

Friday, 04 November 2016

In my last column, I reflected on our civic responsibility to vote and how we, as Catholics, are called to be informed by our faith and values. We are called to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ and “to have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16) as we approach the ballot Nov. 8. 

I addressed what it meant to have the “mind of Christ” regarding two major issues—the dignity of human life and marriage and the family. In this column, I want to pursue this theme with regard to some other major issues that are addressed in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. These issues and principles demand our attention, for they assist in establishing a just society and the common good.

Religious Liberty. Religious liberty is our first liberty. Ultimately, religious liberty is rooted in our fundamental search for truth. It protects us, most of all, in our pursuit to know and understand truths which are most supreme, those pertaining to God and religion. Religious liberty allows us to pursue these truths not only in the context of our worship, but also in the work of evangelization. It also protects us from unjust interferences by political authorities.

Preferential Option for the Poor. While it can sometimes be difficult to craft the “right” or “best” policy that assists the poor, the Church holds a particular place in her heart for the poor. This is in imitation of Christ Himself. It is our Savior who demands our love for the poor which will be a basis upon which our Lord judges our work on earth (see Matthew 25:31-46).

Welfare policy should, as Faithful Citizenship states, “reduce poverty and dependency, strengthen family life, and help families leave poverty through work, training, and assistance with child care, health care, housing, and transportation.” As well, faith-based groups should be recognized as “responsive, effective partners” in this charitable work for the poor. To this degree, the Church should be free to serve the “least among us” without having to compromise her sincerely held religious beliefs, for it is those very same beliefs that impel her to service.

Healthcare. This is yet another area of complexity that can often be difficult to craft the right solution, but, again, the mind of Christ provides us with the proper principles and foundations. As Faithful Citizenship states: “The nation’s health care system needs to be rooted in values that respect human dignity, protect human life, respect the principle of subsidiarity, and meet the needs of the poor and uninsured, especially born and unborn children, pregnant women, immigrants, and other vulnerable population.”

Additionally, those intimately involved in the medical field (e.g., doctors, nurses, pharmacists) should have the ability to provide healthcare without violating their moral and religious convictions. As well, people should have the ability to purchase healthcare in accord with their faith.

Education. The mind of Christ and the Church recognizes all persons have a “right to receive a quality education” (Faithful Citizenship). As well, parents—who are the first and most important educators—have a “fundamental right to choose the education best suited to their needs of their children, including public, private, and religious schools” (Faithful Citizenship). These concerns are fundamental matters of justice for parents and students.

Immigration. The Church has been a robust voice for comprehensive immigration reform. Nations certainly have a “right and responsibility… to control their borders and to maintain the rule of law” so long as it is in a just and humane manner. At the same time, Catholics have a unique role to play to “welcome the stranger” with the love of Christ.

Our tradition of Catholic social teaching is rich with wisdom and it certainly has many more insights to offer on these issues, in addition to many other issues. Yet, I hope these two columns begin to inform us, at a basic level, what it means to approach Election Day with the mind of Christ. These principles provide criteria by which we can make judgments of political candidates, parties, and issues. These principles bear witness to the love of Christ.