Catholics have a responsibility to participate in public life in
order to positively influence our communities, our states and our
nation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the duty to
vote is “morally obligatory”
and further summarizes a Catholic’s public duties in paragraphs 2238
through 2246. We cannot sit on the sideline and expect secular culture
to move toward truth; we must actively bring our values to government
through the ballot box.
In our form of government, we relinquish
individual freedom in exchange for a peaceable society that protects
families and individuals in the fulfillment of their rights and duties.
This society is a republic, not a pure democracy, and is guided by laws
written by our elected representatives. If Catholics do not vote, if
our voices are not heard by those in power, these officials may advocate
for policies, regulations and statutes contrary to the teachings of the
Church and which offend our consciences.
an article titled, "Voting May Be Habit-Forming: Evidence from a
Randomized Field Experiment," Professors Gerber, Green and Shachar of
Yale University conducted a study of voting behavior. This study
concluded that voting is habit forming; the more often a person voted in
the person, the more likely that person is to vote in the future. As
Catholics, we need to understand this fact and adjust our behavior
There are five main reasons to vote in every election:
voting is habit forming. If we want to be faithful citizens, we need
to vote regularly and inculcate habitual voting in our children. Family
political discussions at election time and a parent bringing his or her
underage child to the polls are excellent ways to teach the habit of
voting to the next generation.
Second, it is possible to avoid
casting a ballot with whom we do not agree or about whom we know
nothing. In this situation, a voter may either leave the ballot blank
(and cast an “undervote”) or vote “none of the above.” This fulfills
our Catholic obligation to vote and strengthens the voting habit without
violating our conscience.
Third, prior to every election,
political candidates compile a list of “likely voters.” Based on the
principle of voting as a habit, these “likely voters” are those who have
participated regularly in prior elections and are the ones to whom the
campaign is directed. A habitual voter is likely to receive direct mail,
campaign phone calls or candidate visits. Communications by candidates
educate voters on that candidate’s platform while a personal visit or
phone call is an excellent opportunity for a Catholic to express his or
her opinion on issues to the candidate in a conversational atmosphere.
all elections have consequences to Catholics and their families.
Whether it is the sexual education curriculum of the local school board,
a local government entity seeking to provide health benefits to the
unmarried or homosexual “partners” of employees or even the county
hospital prescribing the “morning after” pill as an abortifacient
contrary to Church teaching, the opportunity to positively influence
secular culture is available to habitually voting Catholics in every
Finally, voting begets other habits that are a boon to
our communities. A habitual voter is likely to familiarize himself or
herself with local issues in order to participate intelligently in local
elections. A vigilant electorate is more attuned to the nature of
local, state and national government and less patient with corruption by
elected officials. Habitual voting translates into more efficient, more
transparent and more honest government.
Voting in every
election, large and small, is as important to good Catholic citizenship
as regular exercise is to maintaining bodily health. It is not enough
to study voting guides; this information is of no use to someone who
fails to vote on Election Day. In order to maximize our influence as
Catholic voters and amplify beyond our individual numbers, we need to
adopt voting as a lifelong habit.
* A 2001 convert to the Catholic
Church, Travis Ketner is a graduate student studying educational
administration in San Antonio, Texas. Educating others, especially
Catholics, about politics and local government is his personal and
professional mission. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.