Friday, October 31, 2014

ToT East: How to be a Discerning Voter

by Alison D'Souza
Precious Blood Parish, Scarborough, ON

Should we consider all politicians to be untrustworthy? Should we be cynical of politics as a whole? At the October 23rd Theology on Tap East at the Bear Pub in Pickering, Bishop William McGrattan (from the Diocese of Peterborough, ON) tackled these and other misconceptions in his address about the importance of voting preceding the October 27th municipal election.

The night started off with a statement that surprised me: Bishop McGrattan noted that we as Christians should “recover a legitimate respect for those involved in politics.” His statement stood in contrast to the often heavy-handed criticism of politicians that I’ve seen in the media, as well as uncharitable personal attacks that have often accompanied voting periods. His statement reminded me about the dignity of the politician who is, first, a human being made in the image and likeness of God; in this way, we’re called to be charitable people even when we don’t agree with a politician’s platform. But, as Bishop McGrattan explained, there’s yet another reason for why respect is needed, and it relates to the dignity of politics itself. 


Bishop William McGrattan
The political profession is a noble one, said Bishop McGrattan and, properly understood, it’s “the enactment of justice.” In other words, politics serves the cause of justice in its concern for individuals, and especially the common good. The political profession thus expresses “a noble form of love.” The bishop urged us, therefore, to set the tone when it comes to promoting a respect for the political profession and those who are in office. Bishop McGrattan’s statements helped deepen my understanding of the political profession as one that is worthy of pursuing and encouraging others to pursue since it’s a way to do God’s will in love of our neighbour. 

That said, how does one choose the right candidate? Because reason alone cannot perfectly inform our decision-making, Bishop McGrattan noted that faith can greatly guide our reason. That’s not to say that the Church imposes Herself on politics, but rather that She assists us in “how we decide on particular issues and [how to choose] the right candidate.” The Church helps us form (and inform) our conscience so that we may make good decisions.  

Practically speaking, how could the Church inform our decision-making when choosing candidates? Bishop McGrattan left us with eleven principles from the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops document entitled Taking Stock - An Examination of Conscience.
These principles include, for example, a consideration for the dignity of human life, the common good, and the stewardship of the environment. He reminded us, however, that there is a hierarchy of values among the principles in that some issues hold a greater weight of value than others, for instance, issues that deal with human life.  Of course, a candidate may not fill all eleven of these criteria, but we are “encouraged to support the one who can fill these principles as much as possible.” Thus, we were called not to withdraw from voting whether because of a single issue or because we’re cynical about politics, but to use our faith to guide us in choosing, according to our conscience, the best possible candidate to serve the community.