CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - On Tuesday, November 2, 2010, voters in the United States of America will go to polling places in every State in the Union where we have the privilege of exercising our constitutional right to vote. The pundits who filled our television and computer screens with endless predictions on who will win or whether this will be a "wave" election will finally stop talking, at least for a while. The voters will do the talking. Catholics in the United States have an obligation, both as citizens and as Catholics, to vote in a manner consistent with what is true and right, and good.
On April 18, 2005, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger offered a homily on the eve of the convocation which elected him Pope. Here is an excerpt: "How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14).
"Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas relativism - which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching" - looks like the only attitude which is acceptable in today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.
"However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an "Adult" means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth. We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - which creates unity and takes form in love."
As we exercise our civic duty on November 2, 2010, I share some principles on a Catholic vision of governance. Our identity as Catholics grounds us in a vision of the human person, human flourishing, marriage (and the family and society founded upon it), the Natural Law as the reference point for all positive law, authentic human freedom, and the existence of objective morality. This vision is not simply "religious". Rather it provides a framework for our work as citizens to serve the common good. It calls us to build what Pope Benedict XVI recently called a "culture of the person".
It begins by insisting that the civil government recognize the dignity of every human person from conception until natural death. This is the polestar for our political participation. Those who seek to marginalize us refer to this as being "single issue" politics. In fact, it is not about an "issue" at all. It provides what philosophers and theologians call a "hermeneutic", a lens, a framework through which every issue must be evaluated. Without the Right to Life there are no other rights. After all, human rights are goods of the person, given to us by the Creator. When there is no person there can be no rights to be received or exercised.
Think about it. Even economic issues begin with the recognition of the dignity of every human person. This election presents some very serious concerns regarding the state of the American economy. The reason we should want to see economic opportunity expand is because we want every person to be able to participate and be rewarded for initiative and hard work in order to flourish and be truly free. The reason we should be concerned about the poor is because we recognize their human dignity. The reason we should be worried about the expansion of the federal government is because collectivism, of any kind, is a threat to human dignity and human freedom and flourishing.
The American founders understood this kind of vision because they stood in the light of the Christian influence on western civilization. They insisted that human rights are endowed by a Creator, not given by a civil government. They memorialized the proper role of government to secure these rights in the Birth Certificate of the Nation, the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.