Voting in 2006 Part Two
by Christopher Dodson
North Dakota Catholic Conference
Last month’s column listed important issues that should guide us as vote in November’s election. This month’s column discusses each of those issues in more detail. For more information, see the North Dakota Catholic Conference election information site at: ndcatholic.org/electioninfo/
The right to life is fundamental and must be at the center of all public policy. Abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, and the destruction of human embryos are direct attacks on human life that a Catholic with a well-formed conscience can never support, personally or through public policies.
Abortion kills a child before birth. This is not a matter of opinion or religious doctrine. It is a scientific fact. As such, it is never morally acceptable. A politician who claims to be personally opposed to abortion, yet supports the procedure as public policy, shows an indifference to the protection of human life -- one of the fundamental purposes of public policy.
The Death Penalty
The death sentence in the federal trial of Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. has elicited calls for the death penalty in North Dakota. Let us hope that the traditional wisdom of North Dakotans prevails and we do not enact the death penalty.
Every person is bestowed with a dignity that cannot be taken away. Therefore, the death penalty is not acceptable unless there are absolutely no other ways to prevent the aggressor from doing further harm. In today's society those cases are "rare if not practically nonexistent."
Marriage is a personal relationship with public significance. It contributes to society because it models the way in which women and men live interdependently and commit, for the whole of life, to seek the good of each other. When marriage is redefined so as to make other relationships equivalent to it, the institution of marriage is devalued and weakened.
From a Catholic perspective immigration reform must further the dignity of the human person and the interests of true justice. Therefore, immigration reform must: (1) humanely secure our borders, (2) provide a path to citizenship, (3) protect workers, and (4) foster family reunification.
The right to religious freedom is fundamental. For Catholics and many others, religious belief means serving others. For that reason, religious based organizations and religious individuals provide many public services, such as health care, education, adoption services, guardianship, help to pregnant women, immigrant services, and assistance to the poor.
Elected officials should respect the religious liberty of religious institutions and the right of religious institutions to serve without sacrificing their religious principles.
Help for the Poor and Vulnerable
The state budget is a moral statement. Through it, the values of the state are expressed. With it, basic needs of citizens are guaranteed. By it, the mandate to work for a just society comes closer to realization. Of particular concern to the Catholic faithful must be the programs assisting those who are poor, elderly, sick, imprisoned, and those struggling with addiction or mental illness.
Basic health care is a human right that society has an obligation to provide when necessary. Too many North Dakotans lack health insurance and those that have it are finding it increasingly expensive or limited in its coverage. Priority concern should be given to the poor, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and the working poor.
Help for Pregnant Women
Our obligation to help those in need includes helping women choose life for their unborn children. Women choose abortion because they are in a desperate situation and not fully aware of their options. North Dakota has joined the growing number of states that help organizations provide pro-life alternatives to crisis pregnancies. This program must continue and be strengthened.
Education is a basic human right. Since parents are the primary educators for their children, they have a fundamental right to choose the educational setting for their children, whether it be a religious school, a public school, or home education. Since both rights are fundamental and essential to the common good, the state has an obligation to provide the means to exercise those rights, through financial and other types of assistance. Funding educational choice is not about taking money away from public schools. It is about adequately funding all education.
The economy must serve the human person and the common good. Moreover, work must be respected as a form of continuing participation in God's act of creation, rather than just a way to make a living. Protecting the dignity of work means respecting the basic rights of workers and owners be respected, ensuring a just wage, providing safe working conditions, and respecting the right of workers to unionize and bargain collectively. Economic policies should also respect the right to economic initiative and the right to private property, since they contribute to the common good.
Private property comes with responsibilities for the common good and God's natural creation. Proper governmental authorities have the right and duty, consistent with the principle of subsidiarity, to regulate the use of private property for the common good and the environment.
Family Farms and Rural Life
The Church's teaching about the importance of labor, the importance of ownership, the stewardship of creation, a just economy, the right to food, and, above all, the importance of families, all come to bear in a unique way on family farms and rural communities. Public policies should give special attention to strengthening family farms and rural communities.
The principle of subsidiarity is increasingly important in policies concerning rural life. According to the principle of subsidiarity, which is essential part of a just society, "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good." Legislative actions that strip the local community of its right to regulate and control land uses can violate this principle.