What has happened to the civility in politics?
It has become commonplace for politicians to use name-calling and insults to win an election instead of running on their achievements and qualities. What has happened to politics?
What has happened to politics, from my perspective, is candidates in campaigns no longer run on merit, their qualifications or their ability to lead, but run on the weaknesses of the other person. The name-calling and insulting comments that candidates exchange, in my mind, create an evil spirit among us.
I think most of us are tired of the name-calling and accusations that candidates are alleging or putting on one another. We saw it in the recent state elections. It’s very clear that this is where the presidential election is going.
Even if we as adults can walk through this and sift it out, my question is, “What are we teaching our children and young adults about respect for those persons who disagree with them, or about civility in elections and a Christian spirit?”
In my mind, politics, in many ways, has a lack of civility, and I, at times, feel embarrassed and ashamed of the turn this has taken. I believe that one of the reasons that some good and qualified people don’t run or offer themselves (as a candidate for political office) is because who would want to put themselves on the chopping block for name-calling or have every sin in their past be placed before everyone else? This is happening at the city, state and federal levels.
What is the church’s responsibility to help Catholics choose a candidate?
First of all, the church’s responsibility is to do what I am doing – speaking out and saying this is not what we want politics to be. It’s not of God. Where is our negativity bringing us?
The second thing we should look at – helping people form their consciences so when they go to the voting machine, they know the basic qualities they are looking for in a candidate.
The bishops in the United States put out a document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A call to political responsibility for the Catholic Bishops of the United States” that was most recently revised in November 2015. What does this document say?
In that document, we make it clear that we, as a church, do not support or denounce any candidate. No clergy or anyone who works for the church should be making public statements about a candidate. The candidates cannot use our pulpit. The candidates cannot do campaigning on church property. We cannot hold assemblies for candidates to speak unless all of those running for that office are present, and each of them has an equal opportunity to present his or her platform.
I think Catholics are confused on how best to pick a candidate to represent our values. Can you summarize the four basic principles Catholics are asked use to gauge a candidate?
Firstly, we do not subscribe, as a Catholic Church in this archdiocese, to voter guides. Most often they are inaccurate and sometimes dishonest. A candidate can say yes to a particular issue, but it might have so many qualifications that it cannot be considered an accurate yes. Voter guides, for us, cannot be used.
There are four principles we are asking Catholic to consider in supporting a candidate:
The first issue is human life. This has to do with the respect of all human life from conception to natural death. Not only does it include abortion, but also euthanasia, the death penalty and caring for the poor and issues regarding biotechnology. The issue of human life also deals with the issue of war and will the candidate promote peace in our country and beyond.
The second issue is family life. Marriage must be held up as a great gift from God. A candidate must be willing to do all he or she can to help a person form a family that gives respect to family and children. Family life also has to do with wages. Do the wages that are offered to people in their various occupations support their families and give them an ability to live respectful lives?
The third is the issue of social justice that includes issues such as welfare policy, religious freedom, Social Security, affordable health care, sharing housing and sharing the resources of our earth with the poor. And it also embraces reforming the criminal justice system and welcoming the stranger with the issue of immigration. The Catholic Church teaches that people, under certain circumstances, have a right to leave their country and find a new life. Social justice also deals with respect for the environment and using the environment in a way that promotes respect for humanity.
The fourth is global solidarity. What is the candidate willing to do to foster solidarity, for the elimination of global poverty, for religious liberty and human rights? We must ask how the person will work with the United Nations and international bodies.
What should a voter do if candidates don’t meet all four principles?
A person should look at all candidates and their platforms and compare them to the four principles we are upholding. It is likely that no candidate will measure up to all four completely. We have to decide which of them would best move our country forward in a way that reflects those qualities. We as Catholics must have our voice heard: We are tired of the lack of civility that exisits in campaigns and we are calling for change.