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From the Bishop - September 2016

Citizenship: Our Responsibility as Catholics

As you are well aware, we are in the midst of election season. It is hardly necessary to remind you of that fact since the season seems unending.  Now, however, we draw closer to November and the actual election. That election is not just a vote for a president, as important as that is, but votes for representation in Congress and other ballot issues. It seems, therefore, a good time to remind you that the Church affirms that every Catholic is called to prayerful, active, and responsible participation in the political process. As such, I urge all Catholics in Maine who are eligible, to register and vote.  We are both Catholics and Mainers and follow the dual calling of faith and citizenship.

In this election year, the Catholic bishops of the United States are pleased to once again offer to the Catholic faithful Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, a teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics. This statement represents guidance for Catholics as they exercise their rights and duties as participants in our democracy. It is available (also in Spanish) here:  http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org/. As the document states, we, your bishops, “urge our pastors, lay and religious faithful, and all people of good will to use this statement to help form their consciences; to teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue; and to shape political choices in the coming election in light of Catholic teaching.”

Catholics believe that we should base important decisions on what we call “an informed conscience.”  Our catechism puts it this way:  “Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened.  A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful.  It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1783).   We are all confronted by situations, those gray areas of dilemma, that make moral judgments less certain and more difficult to decide upon.  But the obligation remains to seek seriously what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law.  To make decisions only on the basis of utility, pragmatics, party loyalties, or opinion polls would not be accordance with the catechism or with our faith.

The Faithful Citizenship website includes resources and handouts that will help you prepare to exercise your responsibility as a citizen. Despite the craziness of the political season, Catholics should not abandon their duty.  Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has said, "We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes, we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern."

As Catholic citizens, we should keep three things at the forefront of our minds when going to the polls in November: 1. Respect for the dignity of each human person is the core of Catholic social and moral teaching. The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching.  2. We focus on the common good, not our own personal interests. We ask, how can we make the world a better place - not, how can I improve my own personal situation?  3. We have a responsibility—a true obligation—to form our consciences and participate in the civic life of this nation.[1]

Suzanne Lafreniere, our diocesan director of public policy, will be traveling throughout Maine this fall, speaking to groups about the virtue of faithful citizenship and the moral obligation of participation in the political process.  I encourage you to contact your local parish for dates and times so that you can hear more about how to make your voice heard.

Finally, this fall there are six statewide ballot questions that voters will decide.  Of particular note to me is Question One which reads: “Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age, and allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?”

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, a recovering alcoholic and a passionate advocate for those struggling with drug addiction has said, “If you know anyone in the recovery community, talk to them,” said Walsh. “You’ll hear that most of them, many of them, started with marijuana.”[2]  Through the past year the headline news has been the fact that Maine is fighting against an epidemic of opioid addiction. In my opinion, the state does not need to legalize another drug which will bring harm to our people.

[1] “Catholics Care, Catholics Vote” bulletin insert, USCCB 2012

[2] http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/07/11/like-bill-clinton-didn-inhale/Sagf8pj8JcN1Uc5cPwmUFP/story.html