Archbishop Chaput urges Catholics not to vote 'on autopilot'

Archbishop Charles Chaput speaks with CNA in Rome on Sept 15 2014 Credit Joaqun Peir Prez CNA 8 10 15 Archbishop Charles Chaput speaks with CNA in Rome on Sept. 15, 2014. | Joaquín Peiró Pérez/CNA.

In his latest column for the Philly Catholic Archdiocesan paper, Archbishop Chaput shared some of his personal thoughts on the upcoming presidential election, and implored Catholics to take the time to pray and form their consciences before voting.

This year is a particularly interesting one for Catholics, Archbishop Chaput said, because both major candidates for president "have astonishing flaws."

The archbishop, himself a long-time registered Independent, said this realization is both "depressing and liberating at the same time."

"Depressing, because it's proof of how polarized the nation has become. Liberating, because for the honest voter, it's much easier this year to ignore the routine tribal loyalty chants of both the Democratic and Republican camps," he wrote.

"Both major candidates are – what's the right word? so problematic – that neither is clearly better than the other."

That's why it's crucial in this election year for Catholic voters to take time in silence, prayer, and formative reading in order to discern what the best course of action will be when they enter the voting booth in November, he said.

"Note that by 'Catholic,' I mean people who take their faith seriously; people who actually believe what the Catholic faith holds to be true; people who place it first in their loyalty, thoughts and actions; people who submit their lives to Jesus Christ, to Scripture and to the guidance of the community of belief we know as the Church," he wrote.

One of the most important things Catholics can do is to pray, the archbishop said.

"And prayer involves more than mumbling a Hail Mary before we pull the voting booth lever for someone we see as the lesser of two evils," he added. "Prayer is a conversation, an engagement of the soul with God. It involves listening for God's voice and educating our consciences."

Silence is necessary for prayer, and so prayer must mean that Catholics take time to "unplug" in order to make room for silence – from T.V., from social media – and in order to make time for true prayer, Archbishop Chaput added.

The Archbishop also made several suggestions for Catholics who are looking for formative reading on the subject of Catholicism and politics, including "Living the Gospel of Life," the 1998 pastoral letter of the U.S. bishops and "the best brief guide to American Catholic political reflection yet produced."

Archbishop Chaput also recommended several books, including "Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society" by R.R. Reno, "It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies" by Mary Eberstadt, and two essays by Czech writer Václav Havel: "Politics and Conscience" and "The Power of the Powerless."

While the archbishop admitted that he is not sure yet how he will vote in November, he wrote that "(i)t's a matter properly reserved for every citizen's informed conscience."

But taking the time to ensure one has a well-formed conscience is crucial, he added.

"The next few months will determine the next decade and more of our nation's life. We need to be awake, we need to clear our heads of media noise, and we need to think quietly and carefully before we vote.  None of us can afford to live the coming weeks on autopilot."

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