Beyond the voting booth: Setting the public policy tone

| November 7, 2012 | 5 Comments

CNS photo / Nancy Phelan Wiechec

In the lead up to Election Day, many pundits were still talking about the “Catholic vote” as a key constituency of support for candidates, although Catholics today are as divided as any group when it comes to election-year politics.

What isn’t talked about at all — and what should be — is the “Catholic response” in the aftermath of Nov. 6: How can we unite and respond to the call to be responsible citizens after the polls close, the votes are counted and the winners declared?

After all, our responsibilities as citizens don’t end when we leave the voting booth. As Catholics who believe in the sacredness of life and the dignity of all people, we have something to contribute after Election Day that can help bring an end to the increasing polarization infecting our political system, temper the often-strident tone that characterizes public policy debates, and keep everyone focused on working toward the common good.

Changing the tone

Changes won’t happen overnight, but we can start at home and how we conduct ourselves within our neighborhoods and social circles. The Knights of Columbus were spot on earlier this year when they launched a “Campaign for Civility in America” urging an end to the hate and demonizing that characterizes so much of today’s public discourse. “How we disagree with each other says as much about us as a nation as what issues we disagree on,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson noted.

The Catholic response to Election Day should be a reinvigorated effort to promote civility because how we conduct ourselves with those with whom we disagree says a lot about what we believe regarding everyone’s God-given human dignity.

Civility helps to keep us focused on the issues at hand rather than personalities.

In an election season that included tough debates over candidates as well as ballot initiatives such as the marriage and voter I.D. amendments, civility is an essential asset going forward since discussion around these and other important issues will continue well beyond Election Day, no matter which way the votes go. (This issue of the newspaper went to press before polls closed.)

Getting involved

The Catholic response to Election Day should also include a commitment to get involved in the public policy process beyond voting by:

  • Writing letters to state legislators, members of Congress and other elected officials to hold them accountable to the campaign promises they made or to persuade them on issues on which they took different positions from our own.
  • Participating in social action events such as pro-life marches, poverty awareness campaigns and religious liberty rallies.
  • Continuing to educate ourselves about the Catholic Church’s social teachings and what they say about the laity’s involvement in political life. If you didn’t read the U.S. bishops “Faithful Citizenship” document before the election, read it now so you can better understand what the church teaches on this topic and why. More resources for learning and action are available online from the Minnesota Catholic Conference (

Doing our homework about Catholic social teaching and what it requires from us moving forward, getting involved, showing respect for others, and praying for our elected leaders and fellow citizens — this is how Catholics can help set the tone after Election Day for our nation as we strive to build a just society.

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Category: Editorials

  • Terence Rafferty

    The archbishop should step down after conducting a costly campaign against gay civil rights.  The people of Minnesota have rightly rejected an amendment to the state constitution that sought to take civil rights away from a group of citizens.  The church doesn’t have to marry gay people if doesn’t want to.  But the church was wrong to interfere with civil marriage rights.

    • John W.

      Terrance the Catholic Church is protecting the civil rights of children to grow with
      a Mother and Father. Marriage is about protecting children and providing as much
      as possible a permentant and stable environment for their  moral, human and
      pschlogical development . Gay marriage denys this right to children and destroys the very fabric of a culture.

  • S Trost

    I hope the Archbishop has learned a lesson from his decision to attempt impose conservative Christian (Catholic) doctrine via legislation in a pluralistic and changing society. The decision to champion anti-gay legislation put him literally in cahoots with Mormons and Evangelical Christians and this turned off many Roman Catholics such as me. My entire family voted against the amendment.  I fully support the church right to decide who will receive a sacramental marriage.  Beyond that, the Church should stay out of it.

  • Jackson1961

    I am very happy to read persons like S Trost above who vote to corrupt traditional and sacramental marriage, are disappoionted in the Archbishop.  It shows just how correct the Archbishop is and just how incorrect persons who think like S Trost are.  Poor S Trost, pray for that person’s soul to healed and their heart to be softened so they may hear and see and know the real truth and not the lies of the deceiver.  S Trost is surely deceived, to believe gay marriage is a “civil” issue.  Gay marriage is an abomination and a lie and deadly (both physically and spiritually).  The church should be in every part of our lives, especially pronounced in the public sphere.  Civil issues are not based on someone’s psychological and spiritual disorder.  These men and women have the right to marry someone of the opposite gender, just as we all do. Gay marriage is not a marriage, it is perverse, disordered, sinful, deadly, and when forced onto society it is anti-religious and anti-God.  Real Roman Catholics are not turned off by the truth, S Trost.  Real Roman Catholics live in The Truth!  I hope you will too, someday.

  • Carmen

    In spite of their protest to the contrary, we know the Democrats in the MN State House will begin the process of enacting same-sex “marriage” through the State House, thus I offer this outline of compromise for what the bill should contain:
    *Upon enactment of this law all clergy of all houses of worship will no longer be agents of the State. When officiating at a wedding within their house of worship, it will be solely as a representative of their faith tradition.*Upon enactment of this law all persons who wish to avail themselves of the public rights and duties of what federal law calls “marriage,” whether they be a couple made up of same or opposite sex members, this contract will be called a “civil union” so as not to confuse it with the religious term.*Upon enactment of this law, any re-issue for any purpose of the civil contract granted before or after enactment of this law, will be re-issued as a “civil union.”*Upon enactment of this law, no religiously run institution; be it a house of worship or a social agency, school, or any other such place owned and operated as an extension of a faith tradition will have to recognize, or be penalized for failure to do so, any “civil union” that is contrary to their faith tradition’s teachings.*Upon enactment of this law, no religiously run institution; be it a house of worship or a social agency, school, or any other such place owned and operated as an extension of a faith tradition will not have a State contract, given by the State to enable it to have private organizations take care of what the State can’t or won’t do, rescinded if it does not recognize any “civil union” that is contrary to their faith tradition’s teachings.*Upon enactment of this law, no privately owned business that is often involved in the facilitating “weddings” will not be prosecuted or penalized for not offering their services to any “civil union” that is contrary to their faith tradition’s teachings.
    This is a compromise for both sides, but I believe it respects both parties real intentions…allowing same-sex couples all the benefits of a State recognized union; and permits houses of worship and their social institutions, as well as private citizens, to practice their faith tradition free from interference and coercion as the First Amendment promises.