Some people are already tired of the political hoopla. While we can sympathize with their feelings, I think the citizens of our state - and our entire nation - must pay attention to this election. It is our privilege and our responsibility as Americans to become informed and active voters.
And, as we found out in the last presidential election, every vote does count!
Moral obligation. For Catholics, voting goes beyond a civic duty. "In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue; participation in the political process is a moral obligation," say the U.S. Catholic bishops in their Faithful Citizenship document. "All believers are called to faithful citizenship to become informed, active and responsible participants in the political process."
The bishops seek to educate the laity on the moral dimensions of public policies and on the responsibility for all Catholics to form their consciences in light of their faith. Their statement is available on the Web at www.usccb.org/faithfulcitizenship
Becoming educated. We are fortunate to have many excellent resources available to help form our voting consciences. In Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference (WCC) has produced a six-part Faithful Citizenship voter education series (being published in the Catholic Herald starting this week on Page 7 [print edition]). Individuals, parishes, schools, and organizations may obtain materials from the WCC Web site (www.wisconsincatholic.org) or by phoning 608-257-0004. Faithful Citizenship materials for parish use is also available through the Diocese of Madison's Office for Justice and Peace at 608-821-3086.
These resources give information on church teaching in four priority areas: protecting human life, promoting family life, pursuing social justice, and practicing global solidarity. The WCC provides questions in each area for Catholics to discover where candidates stand on the issues. Of course, voters must check the candidates' own materials and other resources to help in making a final voting decision.
Suggestions for churches. Besides educating ourselves personally, the Wisconsin Council of Churches also has some great ideas for church congregations. They include planning adult education and candidate forums; participating in voter registration efforts; promoting absentee ballots for those who cannot go to the polls; providing child care and/or transportation for those interested in voting; and holding prayer services before the election.
We hope readers of the Catholic Herald will study and reflect on the Faithful Citizenship series as they prepare to vote. We hope, too, that all people - even if they don't agree - will treat each other with respect and civility in this election year and in the years beyond.
Mary C. Uhler, editor