Faith on the QuadCatholic Voting in College

In 1971, the 26th Amendment was ratified, allowing U.S. citizens to vote at age 18. This opportunity was obtained through much effort and was viewed as both a privilege and a duty. Yet today, less than four decades later, young people seem to have forgotten the privilege that it is to have the right to vote.

Over the last decade, 18-24 year olds have consistently shown the lowest voter turn-out of any age group, with as little as 17% of eligible citizens between these ages exercising their right to vote. In the last presidential election, 48% of this age group was not even registered to vote, according to the U.S. census. Many young people simply do not care about politics. They believe that political decisions do not affect them, or they feel overwhelmed by the many different issues and the complex system – so they adopt an apathetic attitude towards politics as a whole.

While it is not necessary for every person to be utterly fascinated by American politics, it is important for us as Catholics to be involved in the political process, which directly affects our lives and the lives of others. The Catechism tells us, "It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom… Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community" (CCC 2239). This submission to authority and share in the responsibility to promote the common good create a moral obligation for us as Catholics to exercise our right to vote (CCC 2240). There is no place for political apathy in the life of a Catholic.

In order to vote properly, we must have an informed conscience. It is necessary to learn about the issues at stake in an election, as well as the candidates who are running and what they support. We must elect candidates who support Christian morality and be careful to avoid voting for those who support intrinsic moral evils. This can be especially difficult when politicians twist their words, change their public views, and make false claims that their actions do not support. Even those who claim to be Catholic do not always make decisions that reflect the Catholic faith. That is why it is essential for us to take the time to carefully inform ourselves so that we can make wise decisions in the voting booth.

With so many different issues in each election, chances are that we may not find a candidate that agrees with our views on every single issue. How then do we decide who to vote for? We must examine the importance of the issues. Some issues are simply more important than others and take precedence over them. Respect for life is an absolutely essential pillar of Catholic moral teaching, and for that reason, certain issues that violate the dignity of the human person can never be tolerated. The Church is adamant in her support for life, and she identifies five non-negotiable issues which are intrinsically evil and opposed to the moral law: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and gay marriage. It is wrong to promote or endorse these evils, and no politician who supports them is truly supporting the common good.

The non-negotiable issues are the most important to consider when we are forming our consciences in preparation to vote. But besides the non-negotiable issues, there are many others that are subject to political debate: health care, the economy, education, the environment, and a multitude of other concerns. These topics are up for debate – Catholics can rightfully differ in their views on how to handle these issues, but should always seek to form their opinions upon a foundation of solid Catholic morality, with an aim towards the common good.

With Election Day just over a month away, I would strongly encourage young people to get involved and become active in the political process. Register to vote and start learning about the issues now. I would recommend Archbishop Charles Chaput’s new book, Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, for further reading on the connection between faith and politics. As college students, we should be particularly concerned with politics because our entire future will be affected by the decisions made by politicians today. Voting is a concrete way that we can work towards the common good and put our Catholic morality to practice in our present lives.

 

 

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