Catholicism should, maturely considered, influence every aspect of one’s personal life. The way we eat, the way we work, the way we enter relationship (filial, too!), the way we treat our cashiers – Catholicism demands that everything, no matter how small, be elevated and sanctified because the Lord considers nothing small. Catholicism cannot be compartmentalized and still remain healthy. Catholicism, lived publically, is the exterior expression of an internal relationship with Jesus Christ, who died for our salvation and desires, in union with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, for us to come home to him. Catholicism is a map. Shouldn’t we consider the map at every turn, especially when electing a leader for the whole freaking nation?
One’s personal faith, in deciding a presidential candidate, is either the only thing worth considering, or it is not worth considering at all. We live both in the kingdom of God and the kingdom of men while on earth, and Catholics must take seriously their responsibility to both extremes. Either we let our faith shape our votes, or we wind up slowly regulating Jesus to Sunday morning from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
A true Catholic keeps in their mind’s eye the ultimate end of the world when considering the nation. Isn’t it funny, that we are voting for a president that will hold office for four years (eight, if he’s lucky) and then disappear, shuffled behind-the-scenes? If he’s really lucky, his spouse will run for president. Relatively, these candidates, with all their pomp and circumstance, are small and petty compared to the moral responsibility to vote justly that you and I have as practicing Catholics. Our church claims to intimately know Truth himself. No other sane religion has ever made such a claim. Either we listen to the teachings of Truth himself while we are voting, or we are voting on the basis of our own pride.
Humans must always be in service to something. If not God, then another man. If not the church, then some social institution. Mankind must swear absolute allegiance to something, even if it is his own pride. Do not permit the fear of the world going to ruin shake your firm conviction that Jesus’ promises still apply. What do social institutions have that the church does not? What claim to truth do they have that the apostolic succession of Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, does not? What claim to truth do they have that you, a member of the Body of Christ, who has an intimate relationship with both Jesus himself and with his church that he left to shepherd you to heaven, does not?
Don’t get me wrong – eternity with Jesus does not mean that we can brush off earthly matters. That’s as foolish as ignoring faith for the sake of party or fear. Catholic faith, legitimately incorporated, should take seriously its responsibility to vote wisely and elect someone who won’t run around legalizing evil and wrecking the chances of his citizens ever getting to heaven without investing their hope for social salvation in him.
A Catholic elects a president who will do his dang job: defend vital national interests in order to create a social and moral climate that will allow man to virtuously work out his salvation using the tools of reason, faith and community given to him by God; protecting him from evil and ushering him – not legislating him – toward the ultimate good. A Catholic does not elect a leader under the faulty desire for a new messiah. In that vein, the candidate’s faith should absolutely be considered. If he is living his faith, if he is not living his faith, how his character matches the religious principles he claims to believe in – if his walk and talk don’t match, then you have a problem.
Like St. Therese indicated, you cannot be a Catholic – which is to be a saint – by halves. Either you are a whole Catholic or none at all. So listen to the church’s moral teaching. Consider prudently the input of her shepherds. Weigh the needs of the nation according to the needs of the soul enumerated by the church. And watch the behavior of the candidates carefully. They can’t be Christian by halves either. Either they are trying to follow Christ up Calvary and do justice to the people with whom they could be charged with – or they aren’t. Some of them are shepherds, some of them are wolves. Our job, as Catholics, is to do the best we can to figure out who’s who. But the only way we can do that is by the light of reason illuminated by grace – grace ultimately only found in Christ.