August 29, 2008


Go into the voting booth with a well-informed conscience

Have you finally exhaled from all the heart-stopping performances that the world witnessed firsthand thanks to Michael Phelps, Dara Torres, Usain Bolt and all the other athletes, and teams who brought us compelling story lines at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China? We thank all the athletes for the healthy dose of drama that helped make these Olympic Games one for the record books.

Now, the U.S. media stage has shifted to Denver, Colo., and St. Paul, Minn., for the Democratic and Republican national conventions being held in those cities this week and next week.

Like it or not, Americans will be inundated with media coverage leading up to the 2008 general election for the next two months.

As if that hasn’t been the case for the majority of 2008 thus far—and even back in 2007, you might ask? Trust us, the media coverage—and we mean all forms of media, from newspapers to television, from radio talk shows to the Internet—will only get more election-intensive between now and Nov. 4.

So what’s a Catholic to think when it comes to voting in 2008? And how’s a Catholic to feel when there is no perfect candidate who embraces all that the Church teaches when it comes to politics and policies that focus on moral principles, the defense of life, the needs of the weak, and the pursuit of the common good?

As a voter, the bigger question may be: Are there any helpful resources that can assist people of faith in their discernment as they prepare to cast their ballots in November?

On page 9 of this week’s issue of The Criterion, we begin a 10-part series based on the U.S. bishops’ 2007 document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility.”

The bishops have issued a “Faithful Citizenship” document every four years since 1976, and this election cycle is no different.

In our series featuring experts from various departments in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bishops’ statement is used as a blueprint on how Catholic social teaching should affect political participation by Catholics.

Bishops’ conference officials have drafted essays on several topics to guide voters in the decision-making process, including: voting by conscience, immigration, the environment, poverty, Iraq, stem cells, gay marriage, abortion, health care and economic policy. For more information or to read “Faithful “Citizenship” in its entirety, go to

Bishop Nicholas Dimarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., who headed the bishops’ committee that drafted the document, noted, “This document is a summary of Catholic teaching; it is not a voter guide.

“It calls us as bishops to help form consciences for political life, not tell people how to vote,” he added.

As a condition of our tax-exempt, non-profit status, we, too, are prohibited by law from endorsing or opposing candidates for political office.

But that won’t stop us from providing readers with analysis provided by our news partner, Catholic News Service, on the key issues in the 2008 general election between now and November.

There are, however, two pieces of election advice we will offer: We, like the U.S. bishops, encourage Catholics to pray a novena for life, justice and peace (see a related story, page 9).

The other piece of advice we offer is that you try and not get caught up in the sound bite game that has become commonplace in 30-second election advertisements in the 21st century. Prayerfully discern and study what the candidates say, and go into the voting booth with a well-informed conscience.

As the bishops’ document states, “In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in the political process is a moral obligation.”

We pray that all Catholics and people of faith take those words to heart as they prepare to cast their ballots on Nov. 4.

— Mike Krokos

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