Catholic News Service photo
Mitt Romney and President Obama speak during the second debate.
Catholic News Service photo
Mitt Romney and President Obama speak during the second debate.
We're in a countdown to the national elections, no doubt about it. And we all say "thank God" because we can't take much more from either party. By now, a good number of people have taken the opportunity to vote early in their states, so electioneering is a moot point for them.

We just can't get rid of the sound bytes and political harangues in commercials. Besides, if the polls can be believed, those who are undecided are very few, indeed. So what's all the fuss?

Part of the problem that we should undoubtedly consider is that neither candidate is perfect from a Catholic perspective.

What are we supposed to do? Neither man hits all the high notes with Catholics even as the pollsters continue to talk about the importance of the "Catholic vote." Catholics don't agree on many issues either because society -- including those who belong to the Catholic Church -- is becoming more and more polarized.

We're no longer unified Catholics; people in different "camps" often have difficulty talking with their brethren about controversial political issues. I'm not picking sides here, just pointing out that we seem to be having the same kinds of problems the politicians are: We're not so much talking with each other but trying to outshout others.

The polarization in the political arena led to the gridlock we saw in the last session of Congress: Nobody seems to remember what cooperation means.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have stated in "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," a document reissued in 2011 and profoundly relevant in today's political free-for-all: "We recognize that the responsibility to make choices in political life rests with each individual in light of a properly formed conscience, and that participation goes well beyond casting a vote in a particular election."

That should become our mantra: Participation includes the rest of our lives that begin after Nov. 6. Our consciences can't be put to sleep until the next election; they must lead us and guide us as we look to Congress to formulate legislation that is socially just and courageously consistent with the life ethic that we hold dear as Catholics and citizens of this country.

The interaction that must take place between and among people of different political parties needs to begin now. However, we've had precious little cooperation within and among our politicians and their parties for more than a year.

Those who are elected set the tone and tenor of what we hope will be good, honest discussions that do not include emotional outbursts or a lack of candor. We're really truly sick of it from both sides.

"In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. This obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do," the bishops said in "Faithful Citizenship."

It would be almost miraculous if our politicians saw their responsibilities in this same light.

The writer is editor of The Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill.