A Brief Guide for Catholic Voters

Today is Super Tuesday, as a dozen states hold primaries or caucuses across the country. As the election kicks into high gear, here is a guide for voting as a Catholic:

1) Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you form your conscience and make your choices.

2) Form your conscience. This is a great place to start, courtesy of the USCCB: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States with Introductory Note. In Forming Consciences, the US Bishops outline the Church’s teaching on various pressing issues in our country.

For more information, you can consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The USCCB makes it easy with a search function on the online Catechism. Papal encyclicals and homilies can also be helpful. You can search for those at the Vatican website by subject.

3) Find out about your state’s voting options. Are you eligible to vote in a primary? If so, which one? Do you get to choose? Who is on the ballot? Is there a write-in option if you’d like one? Can you abstain if you can’t find a suitable candidate?

4) Learn about the candidates’ views. You can check each candidate’s website or go to an independent aggregation like OnTheIssues. At OnTheIssues, each candidate’s views on big issues are outlined by past votes and quotes from various sources—writings, speeches, debates, etc.

5) Now it’s time to make a choice! If after reading the views of the candidates, it’s still fuzzy, there are some issue-candidate matching websites. You get a series of questions and answer them according to your conscience. The website then tells you which candidate most closely matches your views. SmartSelect.com and ISideWith allow you to specify the importance of each issue. So, if you feel most strongly about the economy or social issues, your candidate match will reflect that.

6) Find out when and where you can vote. And get out there and do it!

7) Continue to pray. All our elected and non-elected officials need prayer. In fact, we all need prayer. Regardless of our views, this is always true. Perhaps it’s the officeholder with whom we disagree the most who is most in need of our prayers.

A final note: There will very likely not be a single candidate on your ballot who embodies all the teachings and beliefs of the Church. This situation, thus, requires discernment and conscience-forming for all Catholics. And asking a priest to tell you which candidate you should choose is not a permissible way to escape the hard task of prudential reasoning. Clergy should direct their parishioners to the documents mentioned above or other resources, rather than choosing candidates for their parishioners.