by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
While at World Youth Day this summer, several Europeans expressed their wonderment about the quality of our candidates in the upcoming presidential election. They asked me: “Are these the best leaders America is able to produce?”
Several individuals, whom I admire and respect, have said that they will not vote for either candidate from our two major political parties. Frankly, they find both of them too flawed. In my lifetime, I do not recall a presidential election where so many Americans found the choices so unattractive.
I sympathize with those who have come to the conclusion they will not vote for either candidate. They find their defects of such magnitude that they do not want to contribute to their election. It is a dilemma with which many are grappling.
Personally, I feel an obligation to discern which candidate might do the least damage and which candidate, despite their weaknesses, has the potential to do the most good for our nation and world. While we may be troubled by serious leadership and policy defects in both candidates, to refrain from voting will be a missed opportunity to help our nation to select the best person between our available options. After all, life is filled with imperfect choices.
The Kansas bishops have produced a video in which we offer our reflection on the responsibility of Catholics as citizens and, more particularly, as voters. In the video, we offer guidance by highlighting principles of Catholic social teaching as well as identifying what we consider the most morally significant issues facing our nation, state and local communities.
In the video, we consider the importance of such issues as abortion, the protection of life, marriage, religious liberty, immigration reform, access to health care, concern for the poor and care for the environment.
We also point out the increasing role judges have assumed in determining public policy on such fundamental issues as abortion, the definition of marriage and the protection of conscience rights and religious liberty. Some judges have chosen to decide important social issues by inventing rights not found in the Constitution. They have disenfranchised Americans by usurping the responsibility of our elected representatives to determine public policy in these crucial areas.
We challenge Catholics not to allow self- interest to determine their voting choices, but rather to seek to contribute to the common good. I urge you to view our video which can be accessed either on our archdiocesan website or the Kansas Catholic Conference website.
In my opinion, one of the most significant responsibilities of the president is the appointment not only of Supreme Court justices, but all federal judges. Since more and more public policy issues are being decided by the courts — not the Congress or the state legislatures — the selection of judges has become extremely important.
The U.S. Supreme Court, just a little more than a year ago, redefined marriage, striking down the vast majority of state constitutions and legislation that recognized marriage as it has been understood for millennia between one man and one woman.
More recently, the U.S. Supreme Court declined in late June to hear a case in which the state of Washington was compelling privately owned pharmacies to provide so-called emergency contraceptives that function as abortifacients.
The case involved a pharmacy, owned and operated by a devoutly Christian family, who objected to providing their customers with the means for a chemical abortion. There are over 30 pharmacies within a five-mile radius providing emergency contraception. Anyone who desired this product had easy access to procure it. However, the court determined to force these Christian pharmacists to violate their deeply held religious convictions.
Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Thomas and Justice Alito all dissented from the majority opinion of the Supreme Court. In his dissent, Justice Alito stated: “This is an ominous sign. . . . If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.”
On June 21, the Skagit County Superior Court ruled that public hospitals in the state of Washington must perform abortions if they also offer maternity care, even if all of the hospital’s doctors and other medical staff conscientiously object to performing abortions.
The president also appoints the members of his Cabinet, who often interpret legislation by developing regulations that do not always reflect the intent of Congress. A prime example of this is the Health and Human Services mandates that are part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. With these mandates, the administration is attempting to force the Little Sisters of the Poor, as well as many other religious employers, to include in their employee health plan abortifacient drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations.
On June 21, the Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights declared, contrary to the plain meaning of current federal law, that California’s Department of Managed Health Care may continue to force private health plans to cover elective abortions.
This summer, private Catholic colleges received a letter from the Department of Education, threatening the loss of federal financial aid for their students, unless these colleges allowed transgender students to use whatever locker room or bathroom they preferred.
Just in the last week, Martin Castro, who was appointed in 2011 by the president to serve as the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, stated that religious liberty and religious freedom are “code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.” Mr. Castro essentially was attempting to silence anyone who objects to the current administration’s assaults on religious liberty and conscience rights by calling them bigots.
The president of the United States exercises enormous power by his or her appointments to the court, the Cabinet and federal agencies and commissions. Remember: In choosing a president, we are also choosing judges as well as bureaucrats who will interpret legislation by the manner in which they choose to implement it.
During these weeks, we need to pray for our nation. Pray that we may choose wisely those that we will empower to govern and lead our country.