The Catholic Letter

Seasonal Subjects

Voting and Catholic Obligation

As we round the corner into voting season, some thoughts occur to me. Most people have heard the biblical quote "All authority comes from the Father." This has been used in various times throughout history to support either theories of the divine right of kings to rule, or moralities that included submission to the reigning government, whatever that may be.

Under these theories, many would have indicted the actions of the revolutionaries who were instrumental in the establishment of the United States as an independent nation in the 18th century. After all, the British government's authority over the colonies, however difficult to bear, was an authority with its source in God the Father, and therefore should have been preserved and submitted to.


Well, maybe not. Many readings of the text use the term "power," rather than "authority," and within our modern understanding of the relationship between the two, "power" is probably the more appropriate translation, when we understand it to simply mean "the ability to accomplish something."

In the case of the revolutionaries who launched the project that became the United States, we can see then that the power they exercised in doing so was just as much "from the Father" as that which they were opposing. To be sure, they were at the time committing acts of sedition and treason against their own government, and what they were doing was highly illegal. Had they failed, they would be remembered as "insurgents" that were put down, rather than "patriots." However, they didn't fail and today we continue to have a share in the power they exercised over two hundred years ago.

Of course, I'm talking about the power to influence our government by voting at the polls. In this, we have the opportunity to use an instance of power in the service of good, by voting for candidates and policies which will continue to ensure the greatest freedom for the Church to worship and evangelize within our society.

Another quote from scripture comes to mind in relation to this: To whom much is given, much will be expected. Even though they weren't specifically Catholic, and they weren't overly concerned with the establishment of a society on Catholic principles, the patriots who led the American Revolution were taking what was given to them and using it in the service of good, as far as they could determine. Today, we have an obligation to do the same.

Consider the growing number of so-called Catholic politicians who flaunt the Catholic faith by openly defying the Church's authority and teaching, for example, by supporting a pro-abortion agenda and then receiving Holy Communion. Catholics-all Catholics-should withdraw support for such politicians until they renounce their non-Catholic behavior or renounce their claim to a Catholic identity. Of course, if they simply renounce the Catholic Faith, then they will certainly continue to support policies that are morally problematic for Catholics. The point, though, is that Catholics have the power to influence the selection of men who are going to establish the rules and policies for the rest of the country, and God expects us to use that power in the service of good.

And if we don't?

Then we are like the man in the parable of the talents who hid the money entrusted to him by his master, by burying it. In the ground, it could do nothing; it could draw no interest or serve the good of the master in any way. For that, the servant lost what he had and it was taken and given away to the others: "He that has not will lose even what little he has."

And that is what is at stake: If we don't take seriously our God-given power to influence our government at the polls, and put that power at the service of good, then we will surely sometime lose it, and the consequence will be the loss of freedom for the Church to in our country.