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Fr. Frank Pavone Encourages the Faithful to Vote with a Clear Conscience
Please don’t forget to encourage your friends to vote. Do you know someone needing a ride?
The first step toward voting with a clear conscience is to make sure you actually vote. Federal elections in the United States are held on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November, in even-numbered years. That day should be clearly marked on your calendar. Jesus calls you to change the world, and you can’t do that if you just sit on the sidelines while somebody else chooses your leaders who will then write the laws you have to follow! The duty to vote comes from our duty to build a better society.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory … to exercise the right to vote” (2240).
Pope John Paul II issued his encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia in 2003. In that document he teaches about how our faith in the world to come impels us to improve this world: “Certainly the Christian vision leads to the expectation of “new heavens” and “a new earth” (Rev 21:1), but this increases, rather than lessens, our sense of responsibility for the world today. I wish to reaffirm this forcefully at the beginning of the new millennium, so that Christians will feel more obliged than ever not to neglect their duties as citizens in this world” (n.20).
In 1998, the United States Catholic Bishops issued Living the Gospel of Life, their most comprehensive statement on the political responsibility of Americans. In that document they made this plea: “We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to embrace their citizenship not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an opportunity meaningfully to participate in building the culture of life. Every voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts. Every act of responsible citizenship is an exercise of significant individual power” (n. 34).
To make sure you are on the road to fulfilling that duty, you need to keep a few things in mind:
a) Make sure you are properly registered to vote. At www.priestsforlife.org/states, we have a list of the states and the voter registration deadlines. If you have moved since the last election, you are probably in a different district. To be sure, contact your local Board of Elections. You certainly don’t want to arrive at the voting booth on Election Day only to find that you’re not registered!
b) Vote in the Primaries! Another step to voting with a clear conscience is to do everything in your power to get the right candidates on the ballot in the first place. While the General Election Day is the same nationwide, individual states have Primary Election Days on some earlier date. These are the elections in which we select the candidates who will be on the ballot in the general election. The Primary in your state may have already occurred for this year. Be sure you know when the Primaries are in your state (see www.priestsforlife.org/states) and vote in them. On Election Day, many people are not happy with any of the choices. Part of the problem is that not enough of them voted in the Primaries, where they had the chance to get the name of a better candidate onto the ballot!
c) Absentee Ballots. Think ahead, and if you are going to be out of town on Election Day because of work, vacation, family responsibilities, school, military service, or some other reason, get an absentee ballot well in advance and fill it out! Likewise, if you are homebound or in a nursing facility and will not be able to get to the polls, don’t let that make you lose your vote! Obtain an absentee ballot right away!
d) Early Voting. Some states allow early voting. (To see if yours is one of them, visit www.priestsforlife.org/states.) This means that even if you are going to be in town on Election Day, you can vote within a specific period of time before Election Day. If your state has early voting, then vote early! This will minimize the risk of unforeseen obstacles arising on Election Day, like illness, car trouble, bad weather, unexpected family or work obligations, or just forgetfulness.
e) Bring your voting decisions to prayer. Pray for wisdom and guidance, clarity and strength as you consider the candidates in the light of the principles explained here. Pray for the inner freedom to do the right thing in the voting booth.