September 19, 2016

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are in the midst of a general election campaign that has been characterized by heated political rhetoric and a tone that is less than civil. If we are not careful, we can be swept up in the emotion of these events and could speak or act in ways that do not respect the dignity of our brother or sister who does not agree with us.

Not only does this lead to hurt and disrespect, it prevents us from participating in a way that reflects our values, our faith and our conscience -the very places from which an act of Faithful Citizenship should come.

Our task, then, is to do some true reflection and prayer about the candidates and issues on which we will vote. Our Church teaches that a well-formed conscience is our greatest ally in discerning matters of politics and public policy. But how do we reach it?

The Catechism advises this process:

  1. We set aside predispositions and open ourselves to the truth and what is right in a particular situation or issue.
  2. We study the Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church.
  3. We examine the facts and the background information on the particular issue or candidate.
  4. We prayerfully reflect to discern the will of God.

Conscience formation is especially critical for us in 2016 because, for many, the “right” choice in this election is not readily apparent. There is no candidate that perfectly aligns with the teachings of our faith. We have no choice but to weigh the issues and candidates carefully.

Some might prefer a Catholic Voters Guide to make the choices for them. Others do not see any relationship between their faith and the election and believe the Church should “just stay out of politics.”

Your church is not going to tell you who to vote for, but it surely will encourage you to vote and it will help you prepare.

The big issues of the campaign, which include abortion, immigration, national security, jobs and the environment, have moral dimensions that transcend politics. That is why we are called as Catholics to be part of the civic process. It is part of our living the Gospel.

So I invite you in the coming weeks to continue to study the issues and candidates that will be before us on November 8. Do not be swept away by the current of hostility and hysteria. Look through the lens of the Gospel and ask yourself important questions:

How is the dignity of every human person being served?

What is best for the common good?

How is marriage and family being promoted and protected?

What is being done for the least among us?

Is religious liberty being respected?

Where is the mercy of God reflected?

These questions and others like them are worthy of our time and prayer.

May God continue to bless you, your family and our country.

In Christ,

Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes
Bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino

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