Last week we posted online, the Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Many of our parishioners read it and have made positive comments but also asked many questions. It is not a voter’s guide. It very clearly does not attempt to distill the candidate’s ideas on important issues and then compare them. Several Dioceses have created voter’s guides for their residents, but our Bishop has not. Also, many organizations that call themselves Catholic have issued them, but none are official. Indeed a few of these groups have only tenuous connections with the Church.
The document reflects the Catholic tradition that we are to follow our conscience in making all major decisions including exercising our vote.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church quoting from the Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes) states:
Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment.… For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God.… His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.
Conscience does not function automatically, it needs to be formed. The Bishops cannot tell us for whom to vote but must help us to form our consciences. Therefore, their web site provides significant materials to aid us. Different people will in good faith come to different conclusions and vote for different candidates. As no candidate perfectly expresses Catholic Social teaching and indeed all are seriously deficient this is inevitable. The process should be difficult, and some will find it quite unpleasant.
Yet I urge you to make the effort. As we are told in the Catechism: “When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking” 1777
A serious attempt at conscience formation will not only reveal what we really hold most dear but will deepen our relationship with Jesus. Forming our consciences will not guarantee a candidate worthy of our vote but it will allow us to better hear the voice of the Lord.
I particularly suggest reading the bulletin inserts that due to the pandemic we were not able to provide on paper in Church.
Videos and other materials are also available at https://www.usccb.org/offices/justice-peace-human-development/forming-consciences-faithful-citizenship.