NEW YORK – Ahead of the national midterm elections next week, South Carolina’s only Catholic bishop reminds American Catholics that regardless of what political party they belong to, they must first vote as Christians, seeking the common good of all.
“As Americans prepare to enter the voting booth later this month, it’s important to recognize, especially as Christians, that we don’t just belong to one specific party – we are first Christians,” Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune of Charleston said in a Nov. 2 statement.
“We belong to God who has made us one family in faith,” he said. “We have a responsibility to our nation and our communities to seek the common good of all and to promote dialogue in a world of difference.”
Midterm elections are on Nov. 8, with 35 of the 100 Senate seats and all 435 House seats up for grabs.
The results could remove a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate. Currently, Democrats have a 220-212 advantage in the House. The other three seats are vacant. In the Senate, there are 48 Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats and 50 Republicans. Any tie vote in the Senate is broken by Vice President Kamala Harris, giving the Democrats a slight edge.
The Catholic Church does not endorse individual candidates for election or re-election. Instead, the church advocates for Catholics to vote in accordance with their religious values and advise them on different issues – issues of life, religious freedom, definition of marriage, wealth disparity, immigration and violence. between them.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops highlights these issues in its ballot document “Shaping Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The document reminds Catholics of three things to take with them into the voting booths: that respect for the dignity of each person is at the heart of Catholic teaching, that there should be a focus on the common good, and that Catholics have the obligation to vote.
Individual dioceses and state Catholic conferences have issued similar documents. And some have spoken out specifically against abortion measures on their state ballots in recent weeks.
In his November 2 statement, however, Fabre-Jeune talks about the upcoming elections from a broader perspective. He insists on the idea that Catholics must vote with a well-formed conscience and recalls the “blessing” represented by the possibility of participating in civic life.
Fabre-Jeune was born in Haiti – a country that has long experienced political turmoil – immigrated to New York while in high school. He was ordained a priest in 1986 in the Diocese of Brooklyn and, before becoming bishop of Charleston earlier this year, held offices in Florida, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Rome and the state of Georgia.
“As citizens of this great country, we have the ability to vote and engage in civic life,” Fabre-Jeune said November 2. “It is a blessing that we can actively live our faith and a moral obligation to vote for those who uphold the right to practice it.
The bishop also mentions the importance for Catholics to form their conscience before voting and to weigh each candidate’s position “on the moral hierarchy of issues.”
“We must elect legislators who defend and promote the common good, reject inherently evil acts, and protect the weak, undeserved, and vulnerable,” Fabre-Jeune said.
“We do not vote out of social pressure or selfishness, but out of a well-formed conscience. We vote for the love for one another that flows from God, Creator and Giver of Life,” he added. “Let us pray for our state and our nation as we seek the intercession of South Carolina’s patron, Our Lady of Joyful Hope.”
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