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When does voting become an act of love?

By  Brendan Steven, Catholic Register Special
  • May 27, 2022

When is a vote an act of love? This is an important question for Ontario Catholics voting on June 2, called by Christ to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12) .

To me, a loving vote has four traits: service, knowledge, prayer and humility.

First, service. The consumerist spirit of the age tells us to ask ourselves, “Which party will most benefit me?” As Catholic voters, we must ask, “Which party is best for the common good?” The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “service of the common good requires citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community… (making) it morally obligatory... to exercise the right to vote….”

Politics, as Pope Francis has always reminded us, is one of the highest forms of charity when oriented to the common good. So too is voting, a foundational and universal political act.

Second, knowledge: because “love follows knowledge,” in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas. As we ask, “Which part is best for the common good?” knowledge helps us understand what the common good is. We can’t love others well unless we know their real needs, especially for the poorest and those on the peripheries of life. To identify these, we educate ourselves. We can’t become experts on every topic. But we can listen to thoughtful voices on different sides, explore the parties’ proposals and see what Catholic social teaching (CST) has to tell us. CST offers the principles which guide us in this discernment. Only CST — against all the ideologies of our age — affirms the sacredness of every life and the communal reciprocity which is a consequence of that sanctity.

Third is prayer. In learning, we quickly discover there is no perfectly Catholic option. No party reflects the fullness of our values. Do we despair? No! Pope Francis has written, “For many people today, politics is a distasteful word, often due to the mistakes, corruption and inefficiency of some politicians. There are also attempts to discredit politics, to replace it with economics or to twist it to one ideology or another. Yet can our world function without politics? Can there be an effective process of growth towards universal fraternity and social peace without a sound political life?”

We must pray and act. We pray that the Holy Spirit guides our vote. That God might make it fruitful along with the votes of our neighbours. That the Holy Spirit might help us discover how you and I can build up this fraternal vision of political life.

Finally, humility: We don’t and can’t know everything. Like the journey back to Christ, we thus lean on community: the People of God together, as we discern where the Spirit is guiding us. Dialogue with friends and family about the issues you care about. Where they disagree, explore why. See what you learn. Your own discernment may shift as you discover more from those around you, always in a spirit of charity.

With these in mind, we can vote with confidence amid our many hopes and fears for the future. In the words of Pope Francis, “The joy of knowing we are loved by God despite our infidelities enables us to face the trials of life confidently, makes us to live through crises so as to emerge from them better. Our being true witnesses consists in living this joy, because joy is the distinctive sign of a true Christian.”

(Brendan Steven is Executive Director of Catholic Conscience, a lay apostolate focused on Catholic civic and political engagement and leadership — forming citizens in the full breadth of our faith’s social vision, and thereby forming our Catholic community into a diverse, influential, and gently persuasive family of voices within Canadian civil society and politics.)

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