Voting in 2006 Part One
by Christopher Dodson
Executive Director
North Dakota Catholic Conference
September 2006

North Dakota voters will go to the polls in November to choose federal and state representatives and possibly several ballot measures. Now is the time for Catholics, if they are not already doing so, to embrace their political responsibility as people of faith. This month’s column explores some of the principles that should guide Catholic political responsibility. Next month’s column will discuss some of the important issues in more detail.

The North Dakota Catholic Conference has several resources available to help Catholics during this campaign season. Church leaders can obtain “Voter Guide” cards that discuss principles for guidance and questions to ask candidates. A short movie prepared by the North Dakota Catholic Conference about Catholic political responsibility is available on DVD and will be sent to each parish in the state. The most comprehensive resource is a web site with information on the issues, Catholic social teaching, voter information, and materials for downloading at:

Your Faith

As with all things, we should approach politics through the eyes of faith. Faith purifies our activities so that we can better understand and achieve the requirements of justice, namely respect for the dignity of human life and a special preference for the poor and vulnerable.

Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical
Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) discusses the relationship between faith, reason, and politics. Pope Benedict explains that the aim of all politics should be justice and that to know how to achieve justice, we must apply reason. Faith, for its part, purifies reason, so that our political activities do not become blinded by "the dazzling effect of power and special interests."

The Issues

When examining the issues, we should begin by seeking a well-formed conscience. Go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Discover what the Church teaches on the issues. Learn the facts.

The bishops of North Dakota have identified several important issues for this election, giving particular attention to state, rather than federal issues. Some issues are more important than others. Some concern policies, like attacks on human life, which a Catholic with a well-formed conscience should never support. Catholics can legitimately disagree about how to address some other issues. All the issues, however, have a moral component.

They are:

• Respect for Human Life
• The Death Penalty
• The Importance of Marriage in Civil Society
• Immigration Reform
• Conscience Protection and Religious Liberty
• Helping the Poor and Vulnerable
• Health Care as a Human Right
• Assistance for Pregnant Women
• Educational Choice
• Economic Justice
• Family Farms and Rural Life

Next month’s column will discuss the issues in more detail. In the meantime, you can get more information at the North Dakota Catholic Conference web site.

The Choices

Our responsibility does not end with informing our consciences and taking positions. We must also investigate the positions of candidates. When so doing, we should see beyond party politics, analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and choose political leaders according to the principles of our faith. Similar responsibilities apply to deciding on ballot measures.

Find out -- Does the Candidate Oppose:
• Abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, and research that destroys human embryos?
• The death penalty?
• Laws and policies that dilute the unique and important role of marriage in civil society?

Does the Candidate Support:
• Immigration reform that humanely secures our borders, provides a path to citizenship, protects workers, and fosters family reunification?
• Protecting the rights of persons to act in accordance with their faith and conscience in the provision of services?
• Programs that help the poor and most vulnerable members of our society?
• Extending quality health care benefits as a right to all people?
• Funding for programs that help pregnant women choose life?
• Financial assistance to parents, enabling them to choose the best educational setting for their children?
• Policies that ensure a just wage, the right of workers to unionize and bargain collectively, the right to economic initiative, and private property?
• Policies to protect and foster family farms, rural communities, good stewardship of natural resources, and the right of local communities to regulate for the common good?

Your Vote

Catholics have an obligation to participate in the democratic process. Remember to vote and, no matter what the outcome, become involved in the legislative process.