Weekly Bulletin Column

From Fr. Michael Reding

August 2, 2020



Preparing for the Coming Elections

It was sixteen years ago, but I remember it like yesterday: a parishioner sat in my office with tears in her eyes: “This stuff is destroying relationships between my friends and me – even straining my relationship with my husband.”

In her hands, she was holding a leaflet that had been left on her car in our church parking lot. It purported to tell Catholics how they should vote in the upcoming election. It didn’t simply lay out moral principles and policy positions for Catholics; it endorsed specific candidates, and it suggested that if you did not vote for these candidates, then you are not a good Catholic.

I explained to her (and later to all our parishioners) that the message in that brochure had absolutely no authority in the Catholic Church. It was a plainly partisan message wrapped up in a thin Catholic veneer.

In the years since 2004, I thought we were seeing less of this kind of partisan coopting of the Catholic name. But then I opened my mailbox a few weeks ago and found an envelope filled with sixteen pages of partisan propaganda claiming to be “Catholic.” Because the senders claim to speak with a Catholic voice, I think it’s important to make a few things clear:

First, the organization sending this stuff did not get your name and address from Saint Thomas the Apostle. Just as those partisans back in 2004 were leafletting cars without permission, so here, this organization did not receive any assistance from our church.

Second, such an organization does not speak in the name of the Catholic Church. They have no official standing in the church. Their leaders are no more or less Catholic than Nancy Pelosi or Steve King.

Third, some of the information contained in the mailing I saw was a misrepresentation of the candidates and the official teaching of our Church. It was not an honest presentation of the facts.

Fourth, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops does publish a document to help Catholics reflect upon public policy in light of our faith in preparation for the elections; it is called Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

This statement does not endorse a particular party or candidate nor the agenda of any party. It considers a wide range of subjects that should be of concern for Catholic voters such as abortion, health care, immigration, care for the environment, discrimination, a preferential option for the poor, promoting peace, global solidarity, and religious liberty.

Fifth, any organization that claims to represent Catholic teaching with regard to the upcoming elections should use the complete Faithful Citizenship document. If a group is not using this document or is citing it selectively, then it seems to me that that’s a pretty clear sign that they don’t support the Church’s official teaching in its entirety.

As our nation prepares to vote in the coming weeks and months, there will be lots of voices clamoring for attention. Many of them, no doubt, have merit. But please know that, other than Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, none of these are authentic presentations of the official teaching of the Catholic Church