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Scott P. Richert

Election 2012: Voting Your Conscience

By November 6, 2012

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"Let your conscience be your guide," Jiminy Cricket told Pinocchio. Oddly, many Catholics have come to believe that these words are found in Scripture, or at least in the teachings of the Catholic Church. Even more oddly, not a few of them will cite the words of a cartoon cricket to justify entering a voting booth today and casting their ballot for candidates whose positions on such literally life-and-death issues as abortion and embryonic stem-cell research directly contradict Church teaching.

"In all he says and does," the Catechism of the Catholic Church declares, "man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right." That, in fact, is the operation of conscience. Conscience is not a feeling ("I like this candidate") nor a desire ("I want to vote for this candidate"), but the judgment by which "man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law."

That is why the Church insists that our consciences must be well formed. "The education of conscience," the Catechism says, "is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings."

If our conscience is poorly formed, we will make the wrong choices--and as Catholics, one way to tell if our conscience is poorly formed is to compare our choices to the teaching of the Church. "Freedom of conscience" does not mean that whatever choice we make is right; it means, as the Catechism notes, that we have the right "to make moral decisions."

When we make no effort to form our conscience properly and, as a result, make immoral decisions, we suffer the consequences of sin. It's something to keep in mind on Election Day, when it is so easy to convince ourselves that our choices have no bearing on our moral lives.

Catholic Resources for Election Day:

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Comments
November 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm
(1) Gary says:

Interesting comments however it is unfortunate that neither major party offers a choice for Catholics. On one hand you have President Obama who is a supporter of abortion rights, clearly in violation of Church teaching. His HHS mandate forcing employers to cover contraception is a violation of freedom of religion. Those issues are definitely worth considering. However Mr Romney and Mr Ryan support abortion in the case of “rape, incest or the life of the mother.” Mr Romney is also a strong advocate of the death penalty which is in violation of Church teaching as well. The Catholic Church has long held the sanctity of life in ALL stages from conception to NATURAL death. We in fact just ended the “Respect Life” month of October and the Church’s opposition to abortion, the death penalty as well as physician assisted suicide was widely proclaimed. Since neither candidate respects life in the way our Church dictates then each and every person must make their decision based on their own conscience. Add to the fact that Mr Romney is in complete opposition to Church teaching as regards immigration reform. His idea of reform is to make conditions so miserable for the undocumented that they will want to “self deport.” Doesn’t sound too charitable does it?

Yes we Catholics must vote our conscience but this year there is NOT a clear choice to vote and stay within Catholic teaching. I guess it is best to take ALL of the issues into consideration and then pick someone that is most in line with your way of thinking. May God bless our nation.

November 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm
(2) Lina says:

Excellent article! Greetings from italy!

November 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm
(3) akond says:

If you want to initiate real political change, you should not look at your vote for President once every 4 years as a way to do so. Real political change comes from supporting local and state politicians who share your values. Once a sufficient number of local and state political organizations are run by people with your values, change will reach the higher reaches of the political establishment. Itís what movement conservatives did. Here is a link that you guys may find interesting- http://www.worldtransformation.com/conscience/

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