Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“Do not be afraid,” Jesus told his disciples. In this election year, as we prepare to vote for candidates who will make important decisions for our country and our state, I would add: “Do not be discouraged!”
We modern-day disciples face many challenges when it comes to voting and living out our civic responsibilities. We live in a political environment often marked by strident partisanship, negative campaigning and simplistic sound bites. We may feel politically homeless because candidates and political parties fail to embrace a vision of society consistent with the Gospel — a vision that respects everyone’s God-given human dignity and helps build a world in which every person can reach their full potential.
So, being a responsible voter and good citizen isn’t easy. But it is essential — and a requirement of our faith. As Pope Francis said in his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” “An authentic faith … always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.”
Our Catholic voices are needed more than ever this election year. When we bring civility, Christian charity and a consistent moral framework to public policy debates, we are helping to make our state, our country and our world better places to live.
And there are many issues that need thoughtful consideration as we discern whom to vote for on Election Day, Nov. 8. We aren’t just voting for the next president, as important as that is. This year, every seat in our Minnesota
Legislature is up for election. The women and men we send to St. Paul will have a big impact on our state’s policies over the next few years. We will also vote for our U.S. representative and a slate of state judges.
First and foremost among the issues we must consider is how to best protect the sacredness of human life and human dignity. Direct attacks on innocent human life are never permissible. This includes actions such as abortion and physician-assisted suicide. A proposal to legalize assisted suicide received some support during the last state legislative session and may resurface next year.
It also is imperative to promote policies that strengthen families and traditional marriage, defend the church’s right to have a voice in the public square and assist the poor and vulnerable, including immigrants and migrants who are seeking to keep their families together as they begin their new lives. As Catholics, it is important to support civic leaders who seek to foster peace, unity and dialogue among all of our cultural and religious groups. This has been one of my own priorities since coming to our diocese three years ago.
There are a number of other important issues to consider as we prepare to vote. Education, health care, global peace and care for creation are other policy areas in which we need to discern where the candidates stand.
How does one begin to decide how to cast his or her votes next month? The first step is working to properly form our consciences so we can make prudent decisions when we arrive in the voting booth. This begins with studying what the Scriptures and church teach, examining where the candidates stand on issues, and then spending time in prayerful reflection so we can make good decisions based on sound moral principles and the common good, not blind partisanship or selfish interests.
The church, including our diocese, has many resources available to help you become “faithful citizens,” not only on Election Day but throughout the coming months and years. I encourage you to visit a specially designated election-year page on our diocesan website: http://stcdio.org/faithful-citizenship-2016.
On the site you will find:
- a video message from the Minnesota bishops;
- a link to the U.S. bishops’ “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” document;
- bulletin inserts;
- news stories about where the presidential candidates stand on important issues; and
- “questions of the week” addressing election-related topics.
You also will find a video about how to form your conscience that features Father Tom Knoblach, a pastor of our diocese who also serves as the diocese’s consultant for health care ethics.
The page includes an election-year novena from the Minnesota Catholic Conference that I encourage you to pray during the nine days before Election Day. This novena will be printed in the Oct. 21 issue of The Visitor.
Please also register for the Minnesota Catholic Conference’s “Catholic Advocacy Network” on Life and Dignity Sunday, Oct. 22-23. You will be hearing more about this initiative in your parishes on that weekend. The network is a good way to stay informed about important legislative activity as well as other activities related to the church’s social ministry and policy advocacy.
Far from feeling discouraged this election year, we Catholics have a wonderful opportunity to be missionary disciples in making our communities better for all people for many years to come. Let’s not waste this opportunity.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Donald J. Kettler