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10/29/2012 11:25:00 AM
After the vote: Proclaim civility, respect, Gospel
Catholic News Service photo
Polling workers double-check the photo on U.S. President Barack Obama's drivers license as he votes early at the Martin Luther King Community Center in Chicago Oct. 25. 
Catholic News Service photo
Polling workers double-check the photo on U.S. President Barack Obama's drivers license as he votes early at the Martin Luther King Community Center in Chicago Oct. 25. 
Tom Sheridan

For Catholics who pay attention to faith and politics -- something we all should do -- presidential elections can be frustrating. Why? Consider the following:

Lies and misinformation. Threats to religious freedom. A fraying social safety net. Richer rich; poorer poor. Higher taxes; lower taxes. Better health care; worse health care. Ailing Medicare. Class warfare. Culture of violence. Lies and misleading statements. Failed immigration reform.

Abortion and human dignity. Environmental disaster. Divisive rhetoric. Threatened labor unions. No respect for faith. Same-sex marriage. Culture of death. A darker, hopeless future. Or a future of light and happiness.

Oh, did I mention lies and misinformation?

And that's just in the campaign literature.

Sadly, no matter who is sworn in as president on Inauguration Day in January, America likely will continue to be polarized for years to come.

What do we do about it? The task of changing things may fall to people of faith who can see Gospel values beyond the divisions.

That virtue, after all, is one of the cardinal possibilities of religion: the ability to renew hope, to lift up the poor, to be a good neighbor, to promote civility. That is certainly a tall order in our heart-hardened culture that seems to have lost the ability to believe in itself.

This election is not just between parties or men. Some see it as a choice between the heart and the heartless. Or between today and tomorrow. Or between self-serving and self-sacrifice. Or between faithful and faithless.

There's an element of truth to each of those choices, making faithful voting an imperative.

In every national election, both major parties hope to garner the "Catholic vote," a political bloc that, frankly, no longer exists. Indeed, despite the issues, or because of them, the "Catholic vote" in this election seems nearly even between the candidates.

The U.S. bishops point to their document, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," which maintains that neither party is perfect and that a Catholic's conscience, formed in concert with the church's teaching, must guide voting.

The clashes over abortion, religion in public discourse, the plight of the poor, the economy and the other issues will not disappear on Inauguration Day.

And Catholics, undoubtedly, will continue to stand in the middle, seeking a society in which social justice and human dignity reign along with tolerance, understanding and concern for the vulnerable.

How do we get from where we are to where we must be?

We must begin by acknowledging the bishops' call to responsible citizenship. There is a place in the public square for a voice of faith that demands truth and civility. Despite its challenges, Catholics must continue to proclaim a society respectful of Gospel values protecting human dignity in all areas while recognizing that in a pluralistic culture such efforts cannot be dictatorial.

There is life after this election. And we're all going to have to get along. That doesn't mean agreement or capitulation, but it does mean there must be cooperation, civility and respect. If we claim to be people of good will, we must learn to work together toward the good of the Gospel.

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