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By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

Vote, Then Deal With the Results

Are Catholics Obliged to Vote?

Q: My husband’s family, which immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s, does not vote. They are not even registered. They consider all politicians corrupt and unwilling to follow through with their promises if elected. Thus, they think it is better not to vote.

I believe that as American Catholics we have a moral obligation to vote. I think we should try to vote for candidates who support life and rights for the unborn, poor and uneducated.

I believe we should go to the polls and vote for candidates whom we feel have the best moral background and support Christian ethics. Is there any Catholic document which supports my opinion?

A: I agree with your basic position wholeheartedly. Saying that all politicians are corrupt is simply not true while encouraging the very corruption it deplores.

If your in-laws pay taxes, shouldn’t they accept some responsibility for selecting the legislators who assess them and determine how the money is spent?

In 1965 the bishops at Vatican II approved the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which says: “The Council exhorts Christians, as citizens of both cities, to perform their duties faithfully in the spirit of the Gospel.

“It is a mistake to think that, because we have here no lasting city, but seek the city which is to come [Hebrews 13:14], we are entitled to evade our earthly responsibilities; this is to forget that because of our faith we are all the more bound to fulfill these responsibilities according to each one’s vocation” [see 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Ephesians 4:28] (#43).

The bishops call for avoiding a “pernicious opposition between professional and social activity on the one hand and religious life on the other” (#43). They point out that Christians who shirk their temporal duties shirk their duties toward their neighbors, neglect God and endanger their eternal salvation.

Last year the Catholic bishops in the United States issued Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium, a pastoral statement on voting and the political process. They wrote:

“In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue; participation in the political process is a moral obligation. Every believer is called to faithful citizenship, to become an informed, active and responsible participant in the political process.”

You can find this document at Ordering information is available there.

A condensed version of this document, entitled “Faithful Citizens” (C0300), is available from Catholic Update. Bulk copies of this condensed version can be ordered at or through 1-800-488-0488.

Have you rejected the idea of voting for any non-Christian political candidate? I hope not. The person best able to promote the common good of society in a particular elective office may or may not be a baptized Christian.

Must I Vote for the Pro-life Candidate?

Q: What is the moral responsibility of a Catholic voting? Let’s assume one candidate’s voting record shows that he or she supports abortion in general, including partial-birth abortion. Let’s assume the other candidate is definitely pro-life and a very conservative individual.

If a Catholic votes for a candidate who supports abortion, saying that supporting one party is crucial, is that sinful? If so, what kind of sin?

A: Catholic moral teaching says that Catholic voters should consider a wide range of issues when deciding for whom they will vote.

As I mentioned earlier in this column, the administrative board of the U.S. Catholic bishops in 1999 issued Faithful Citizenship, a statement on political responsibility.

Speaking for and to Catholics in this country, the bishops wrote: “Our moral framework does not easily fit the categories of right or left, Democrat or Republican. Our responsibility is to measure every party and platform by how its agenda touches human life and dignity.”

Later in the same document they state: “As bishops, we do not seek the formation of a religious voting bloc, nor do we wish to instruct persons on how they should vote by endorsing or opposing candidates. We hope that voters will examine the position of candidates on the full range of issues, as well as on their personal integrity, philosophy and performance.

“We are convinced that a consistent ethic of life should be the moral framework from which to address all issues in the political arena. We urge our fellow citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not simply party affiliation or mere self-interest.”

They also wrote, “We believe that every human life is sacred from conception to natural death; that people are more important than things; and that the measure of every institution is whether or not it enhances the life and dignity of the human person.”

Ordering information about this document and a condensation of it are given above.

Are Angels Saints?

Q: In the Litany of the Saints, we pray to “all the angels and the saints.” Angels and saints are two different groups. Angels have no bodies. Saints are humans who achieved a high level of perfection and are role models for other humans. Why do we have a parish called St. Michael the Archangel?

A: Angels and humans have this in common: They have a free will which they can use wisely (in a saintly way) or not wisely (as Lucifer and anyone in hell did).

Holiness is the wise and generous use of one’s freedom in accord with God’s plan. Thus, the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have seen no problem with invoking angels and archangels as patrons of persons, places or institutions.

Why Can't They Attend?

Q: I am a 37-year-old married man with two children. I was raised Catholic and married a Methodist woman 15 years ago. We are raising our children Methodist and attend church every Sunday.

Whenever my parents visit for a weekend, they refuse to come to the Methodist church, saying, “It is a sin for a Catholic to set foot in a non-Catholic church.”

My son will soon be confirmed in our church, and I would like my parents to be there to share the experience. I find it difficult to accept the notion that God forbids Catholics to attend services of other Christians, especially in the spirit of family.

A: Catholics are not forbidden to attend services in other churches, although that was very much discouraged before 1965.

Saying that they cannot come to your church may be your parents’ way of expressing their discomfort with your decision to raise your children in the Methodist Church.

If they follow through on not attending your son’s Confirmation, however, I am afraid they may create bigger problems for themselves if any of their grandchildren marries someone in a ceremony not held in a Catholic church.

You may want to raise this issue with them. Their disagreement with a decision made by you and your wife should not penalize their grandchildren.

A Novena to St. Francis?

Q: I want to make a novena before the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4). Are there any traditional or frequently used ones? Or do I simply use prayers of my choice for nine days?

A: Franciscan Press (Quincy, Illinois) advertises a 64-page booklet entitled Novena to St. Francis. It costs $1.25 plus shipping and handling. You can place your order at

You can make a novena using this booklet, your own prayers or ones which Francis wrote. Several publishers have books of those prayers. Consult your nearest Catholic bookstore or St. Francis Bookshop in Cincinnati, Ohio (1-800-241-6392).

How Can I Avoid Being Hurt?

Q: I have been in abusive relationships for much of my life. I seem to pick the same type of partners and am constantly being hurt. What can I do differently?

A: You were created in God’s image and likeness. Saying, “I deserve better than the kinds of relationships I have had” may be the best start you can make. If you respect yourself, other people will also.

Your diocesan Catholic Charities office can help you contact a professional counselor with whom you can discuss this situation.

If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

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