AN EDITOR’S LIFE | We won't tell you how to vote -- use your conscience for that

Over the next few months, our emotions may be on edge. At least through the general election November 8, we'll be bombarded with political discourse that challenges our notion of good and tests our patience. We've come to understand this as a part of American politics, but it certainly feels like it gets worse every four years.

Perhaps it is worse. Or perhaps it feels more intense because it comes at us from many directions, seemingly all at once. Live streaming, live television, live tweeting and live radio amplify the rhetoric and vitriol. Imagine the retweets New York Tribune owner Horace Greeley would have amassed if he had tweeted about "that pot-bellied, mutton-headed, cucumber-soled (Lewis) Cass" in the 1848 presidential election. (Maybe Greeley's analog insult had teeth. Zachary Taylor, a Whig, defeated Cass, a Democrat, by 36 electoral votes, or 12.4 percent).

With just less than than four months until we head to the polls for the presidential election and just a few days before the Missouri primary Aug. 2, it may be time for a refresher on Catholic voting, and how this publication might help you prepare to cast your ballot.

First, a basic ground rule: We won't tell readers which party to support or for whom to vote, nor will we allow readers to tell each other through letters or comments. We don't accept political advertising. Not only would this be unethical, Internal Revenue Service rules forbid us from endorsing politicians and parties. One might argue that we're too cautious.

We frequently run stories that put into Catholic context the issues of our time. We write editorials that take positions on policies and encourage readers to take action. These issues are consistent with Church teaching and priorities of our bishops.

Even so, some readers will accuse us of favoring one party. But let's be honest, both party platforms have elements that clearly are not Catholic and some positions that are consistent with Catholic teaching. The same can be said for most candidates — finding one that is always consistent with Church teaching might prove difficult.

The decisions we make on our ballot should not be done on a whim, with ignorance or simply out of loyalty regardless of our conscience. We are called to promote the common good through civic participation, guided by our Christian conscience.

We form and follow our conscience with "the Word of God (as) the light for our path," the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains (1785). "...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."

So how might we move past the bitter partisanship toward a meaningful election?

Start with prayer for peace and unity. Enjoy the silence and listen to God.

Be informed. Active engagement with reliable sources, even those with which we might disagree, helps us more fully understand issues. This should be done with an open mind and open heart. This isn't the same as accepting what is wrong, but is about understanding the issues fully enough to properly exercise our free will.

Commit to ending the divide. We don't have to agree on every issue. Disagreement leads to solutions when people listen with a goal of understanding each other and working together toward solutions.

Voting and the democratic process is a right not protected in all nations. It would be a shame not to exercise the right, or to exercise it poorly.

Phillips is director of publications for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. 

Resources for Catholic voters:

Archdiocese of St. Louis Faithful Citizenship:

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Faithful Citizenship:

Other resourses

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