Election 2016: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

First slide

Following is the first in a six-part series by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on forming our consciences as Catholics prior to the November presidential election.

No doubt, each time we watch the nightly news, many of us become dismayed when we see the segment on politics. Like so many of our fellow Americans, these days I find myself at a loss to describe my thoughts, and yes, even my feelings, as the 2016 presidential election draws near. Why? Because politics, which is meant to be the search for the common good, is being reduced to negative ads and name-calling.

As you know, I have dedicated so much of my ministry as a priest and bishop to defending the right to life, the true and authentic nature of marriage, and the dignity of every human person who is created in the image and likeness of God.

Today, I see clear examples of where candidates' positions are contrary to our Church's teaching and to fundamental truths we know by human reason. In these recent weeks, I can also see where candidates' character and temperament seem to be troubling when we consider the enormous responsibility entrusted to the President of the United States.

Over the course of the coming weeks, I will offer a series of six reflections that I pray will assist you as you join me in the effort to form our consciences as we prepare for our participation in the presidential election of 2016.

Forming our consciences will require prayer, reflection on the teachings of our Church, the application of principles to the issues of our day and the positions taken by candidates for public office … and yes, more prayer!

As a first step in the effort to form our consciences, I propose the practice of prayer and fasting.

A regular and habitual "discipline" of prayer opens our minds and disposes our hearts to hear the Word the Lord speaks to us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Fasting - from food or drink, from different forms of entertainment, and even voluntarily "disconnecting" for a time from our various electronic devices - also purifies our minds and hearts so that we may be open to the Truth who, we pray, will speak to us in this time of discernment.

In future columns, I will present the principles of the Church's teaching and the natural law, which form the basis for making the decisions of conscience that ultimately lead to casting a vote in an election.

But now as we begin the journey of discernment, I invite you to join me in taking the first step in forming our consciences: let us make or renew a specific daily and weekly commitment to some form of prayer and fasting g, asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and move our hearts - and those of our fellow citizens - so that we might choose leaders who will best serve our nation, and specifically, in the words of Pope Francis to the U.S. Congress, "protect and defend human life at every stage of its development."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016