Creighton University’s Justice and Peace Studies Program held its first virtually-platformed annual social justice lecture titled ‘Voting and Catholicism’ on Tuesday. Moderated by Dan DiLeo, director of the program, the department embraced two guests in response to Pope Francis’s revised Catholic voter’s guide with the stand-out statement: “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent danger.”
Co-sponsored by Creighton University’s Division of Mission and Ministry, the webinar welcomed 400 attendees, domestic and international, to hear the insights and responses of Most Rev. John E. Stowe, Bishop of Lexington, Kentucky, and Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of theology and law at Boston College.
The Pope’s revised Catholic voter’s guide, called Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, is a teaching and influencing document outlining the political responsibilities of Catholics to exercise their rights and duties for U.S. democracy.
What gained the most attention from bishops is the stand-out statement about the issue of ‘abortion being a preeminent priority,’ which suggests the voter’s guide encourages one to make a decision on one’s ballot regarding a single issue.
“The document is the most widely misused and abused statement of the U.S. Bishops conference,” Stowe said. “...It’s cherry-picked by partisans that can proof-text the document to suit their political preferences.”
A hard stance to swallow for all audiences is the reason why many bishops and moral theologians are responding with how non-Catholics and members of the church should approach forming their stances up until one’s individual decision in a voting booth.
Summarized by the speakers, Jesuit-inspired education, such as the education provided at Creighton, spurs students and other members of the community to strive for the common good, defined as the flourishing of all humans in practice of solidarity and recognizing each person made in the image and likeness of God.
Above all aspects, the Ignatian value of protecting human dignity is the true preeminent priority.
“I think the common good needs to be reintroduced, not simply as an abstract concept, but really as the impetus for in- tegrating and ordering the various components of Catholic social teaching,” Kaveny said.
Also addressed is how Catholics are supposed to discern and vote for decisions of multiple injustices and issues that are as equally dangerous and intrinsically evil.
“As Catholics, we are not single issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’ssupport.But...ifacandidate’s position on a signal issue is an intrinsically evil act ... a voter may legitimately disqualify a candidate from receiving voter support,” Stowe stated from the document.
The speakers emphasize that the Catholic church has a duty to its members to form one’s own conscience, formed by values and experiential lenses in which they see the world and what will always protect human dignity, all influenced by the teachings of Christ.
Participation in the public square and political sphere is a responsibility of Catholics, so that one exercising their conscience is ongoing and reflective.
Even the evening’s moderator, DiLeo, said to his ethics students, “In conscience, Catholic or not, we have the moral responsibility to discern the decision on the ballot and which candidate will transcend issues ... the insight pulls us back and helps us realize that it’s more complicated and reevaluate.”
Attendee Janeth Arvizu Rivera, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, praised Tuesday night’s webinar.
“Before, I thought that religion taught that we were not allowed to disagree with its teachings. But now, I know the church encourages us to ask those hard questions in order to bring to light solutions that actually help the common good and do not just cause more confusion” Arvizu Rivera said.
Despite the ongoing disagreement of keeping church and politics separated, Kaveny still encourages all voters to consider a candidate’s competence, collaboration skills, character and connections with the world as a foundation to view issue stances, considering, “ ... we vote for candidates, not issues.”
“What worries me about the voting guide is that it assumes the relationship between a candidate and their stance on an issue, with no inquiry. I think it’s just the first step of a many-step process” Kaveny said.
Stowe’s takeaway is, “The church seeks to have a voice in the debate in matters affecting the common good and the dignity of the human person. And while our teachings are rooted in scripture and tradition, our role in the public square, is to argue, not to impose, the consequences of those teachings that contribute to the common good. The church recognizes and respects the plurality of US society and acknowledges the value of the appropriate separation of church and state.”