With Election Day less than a week away, millions of U.S. Catholic voters will decide who they want to serve in the White House for the next four years. Forty-eight years after John F. Kennedy’s historic win, the Catholic vote still represents a significant voting bloc.
The Catholic Church does not endorse a presidential candidate but instead asks members to base their vote on “political responsibility” or “faithful citizenship,” according to the United States Conference of Bishops.
The year before each presidential election, the Conference of Catholic Bishops issues a statement regarding Catholics’ participation in the upcoming election.
In the most recent statement released in Nov. 2007 entitled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citzenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States,” the bishops outlined seven key themes such as “the dignity of human life” and “call to family, community and participation” that they believe Catholics should think about when choosing a candidate.
The document stresses that Catholics are not “single-issue voters.”
It continues, “Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who is in charge of the Brooklyn Diocese, which Queens is a part of, wrote about the statement in his Oct. 4 column in The Tablet, a local Catholic newspaper, saying it “clearly identifies the right to life, especially innocent life, as the fundamental beginning of forming one’s conscience in regard to voting for an elected official.”
Rev. Patrick Flanagan, a theology professor at St. John’s, said that the statement asks Catholics to “form their consciences,” but the decision of which candidate to vote for is ultimately up to the individual.
“The Church has an important role to play in the formation of consciences, [but] people choose what issues are most important to them,” Rev. Flanagan said.Catholic students at St. John’s are still split between which candidate they should choose.
“It’s a real toss up in this election,” said Tony Anderson, a sophomore. “It seems Obama has the people with the most need in mind but, on the other hand, you have McCain with the strict stance on abortion.”
Anderson, who said he is leaning towards voting for Obama, said that in this election, he is torn between voting for a candidate based on social issues or based on the economy.
Luigi Spiridigliozzi, a senior, however, said that religion does not influence his vote.
“The economy is the most important issue,” he said.
On the other hand, junior Greg Webb, president of Students for Life, said that he and the other Catholics in his organization believe abortion is the biggest issue during the upcoming election.
“If it isn’t [the biggest issue for other Catholics],” Webb said, “it should be.”
He explained that while Catholics support policies usually associated with the Democratic party, such as programs aimed at ending poverty, “all of that doesn’t compare to abortion.”
Because of this, Webb said that he and other members of Students for Life will be voting for McCain and not Obama. He stated that while neither candidate is the “ideal pro-life candidate,” McCain is “more in-line” with pro-life views than Obama. “Even a nuanced difference in opinion matters,” he said.
Whichever candidate Catholic voters choose, the Catholic vote will play a role in the upcoming election. In a study done by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in June 2008, there are 47 million Catholic voters in America. The number of Catholics unaffiliated with either political party increased over the last eight years to 41 percent.
To read the statement issued by the U.S. Conference of Bishops, go to faithfulcitizenship.org