During a recent viewing of my “The Confession App” I noticed that under Commandment IV (four) that the Catholic Church teaches that Catholics are required to participate in the political process. After asking if the penitent has failed to participate in the political process, the app then asks if the penitent has failed to support policies that are in accordance to Catholic teaching. After scrolling through my confession app I thought, “Not voting is a sin? That can’t be right. That’s just one opinion.”
Well, that’s what I thought until I went to Divine Liturgy (Mass) at my church in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago. After worship I went downstairs for fellowship and the conversation amongst my older friends (the English congregation is primarily older and white) quickly turned to politics. One woman mentioned that she had attended a Roman Catholic Church where the priest said that if you vote for the party that supports abortion, you are committing the highest level of sin. I was then asked who I would vote for. Instantly I had three sets of eyes staring at me. I confidently stated that in good conscience I could not vote for Trump. Then the question came, “But how could you do that?” I once again confidently stated that I could not vote for a candidate who had managed to insult every single member of my family and very one of my friends.
I often wonder what went through the mind of the woman who asked me, “But how could you do that?” She might think I am not a good Christian because I failed to uphold a party that claims to champion Christian values. At the same time the people who solely vote Republican because the party opposes abortion are failing to realize that there are larger stakes in this election than an unborn child. I encourage people to look closely at all the issues at stake in this election such as foreign and domestic policy and the various conflicts the U.S. is engaged in. For those who are not familiar with our engaged conflicts here is a list: U.S. aided Saudi Arabian bombing of Yemen, bombing via drone in Pakistan that rarely achieves our means, helping to suppress ISIS (Daesh) in Iraq and Syria, and the U.S. supported (since 2006) war on drugs in Mexico that has result in the disappearance of well over 100,000 Mexicans and Central Americans.
After looking though my confession app I was discomforted at how the Church labeled not voting a sin. I was more concerned about this than telling Catholics they cannot vote contrary to the morals of the Church. My concern is this: in an election cycle like 2016 there are many Catholics who cannot, in good conscience, vote for Trump or Hillary. But for those who are determined that Trump not be elected, they are asking themselves if they should split the vote against Trump and vote for an independent who will not win the election or not split the vote and support Hillary for the reason that she is the sole candidate who has a chance of taking the White House over Trump. This is the problem of having a two party system. The problem and dilemma doesn’t end here. What bout the Catholics who fall into the U.S.’s minority groups? Or for those, like myself, who are concerned about the rights and safety of family and friends who are minorities or part of the LGBTQ community? When the Catholic Church requires people to vote in a way that upholds moral teachings over their own safety and safety of family is harsh.
I suggest that Catholics look to Mormons and the teachings of the Holy Father for guidance on how to vote. I strongly discourage Catholics from following in the footsteps of some of the leaders of the Evangelical Church, who, during this election have shown double standards on human morality. Trump has committed actions that are sinful in the Catholic Church while criminalizing minority groups that are part of our Catholic and global family. After all Pope Francis has said that being a Christian means building bridges and not walls, be it literally or figuratively. The Pope has also stated that “No tyranny can be sustained without exploiting our fears.” At the end of the day the Church cannot dictate how a Catholic will vote, the Church can only give guidance and advice. A Catholic should also look at all of the Church’s teachings and the Holy Father’s actions on issues being presented in policy and the moral character of the candidates. Then vote on what your conscience tells you.