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Archdiocese of Boston

Bishop William Murphy's
Pilot Column

Faithful citizenship: the obligation to vote

The most important thing to remember is how important it is to vote. The percentage of qualified voters who actually do go to the polls is, in a theological sense, a scandal.

One national convention has been completed this week. The second will take place within the coming month and we will be off on another national election campaign. Although some may think that electioneering is a never ending sport, the next three months will be the time in which each and everyone of us will be called to decide who to support and who will receive our vote.

The most important thing to remember is how important it is to vote. The percentage of qualified voters who actually do go to the polls is, in a theological sense, a scandal. It is a scandal because it is the omission of an act for which we are responsible and not voting gives a bad example that unfortunately has become widespread and threatens to become even more so.

One evening by accident, I saw some young people being interviewed; saying basically that no one cares about politics which is boring. The reporter accepted this is the way things are. No question, no challenge was made to these young people by the ever powerful and ever self-confident media. That too is scandal.

Once we have decided to vote, it is not enough just to pick a candidate either at random or as some kind of casual act. It is crucial to become informed. It is not enough to vote a party without looking at the position of the party and the quality of the candidates they propose. Some of us may have been raised as members of a family tried and true to one party. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it often is an admirable trait. That does not, however, mean that we are free to vote for that party without examining the issues and making conscious decisions based on the positions now being proposed and the programs now being supported by that party. There should never be espoused the attitude of "my party, right or wrong" whether it be Democrat or Republican.

One of the best aides to help you make your decisions in this election year has been published by the administrative board of the United States Catholic bishops. Entitled Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a new Millennium, this pamphlet of 24 pages is available in English and Spanish from the U.S. Catholic Conference by calling (800) 235-8722 or by visiting their website: www.nccbuscc.org.

Since the 1970s, the bishops have made a statement every four years that has served to call attention to the issues and inform people of how Catholic social teaching illumines some of the political issues of the day. In my opinion, this year’s statement is the best one the bishops have ever made.

The Knights of Columbus in this state have already distributed a copy to every knight. Mr. James Breen and his colleagues in Young Adult Ministry have made the diffusion and knowledge of this document a priority of their efforts. I am very grateful to the Knights and to the Young Adult leadership for this because I am convinced that all of us will be better informed and exercise our choices in a more Christian way by reference to this brochure. I would like to call your attention to some aspects of this text in the next few weeks.

The bishops begin by pointing out some of the challenges we as a society face in this election year. Abortion, poverty in our own country, the status of public education and the violence within schools, hatred, intolerance, bigotry and racism, growing gaps between rich and poor within our country and around the world, crisis in family life, threats against family life and the lack of response by elected officials to the rights of the family and the scandal and corruption by elected officials that has so scarred our nation.

The bishops then raise a number of questions for the campaign that begin to situate the challenges and prepare us for a serious reflection on the issues. These questions range from how we will care for the poor to how we can resist the "culture of death" that has so infected our society and become in fact the hallmark of many of the elite and powerful in this nation.

They ask us how we are going to support families, and make justice and peace the signs of the new millennium. In this context, the bishops call us to faithful citizenship.

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