Bishop Dewane: Importance and the duty of political participation Print this post

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It takes little more than turning on the television, reading online news, tuning into the radio, or opening a newspaper to realize that society is in the heat of a political “open season.” Even though the nature of political campaigning is not always ideal or admirable, the outcome of elections should be based upon moral decision-making at the ballot box. In order for such an outcome to take place, it is essential that the lay faithful take the responsibility to get involved and participate in the political process.

Decisions made by political leadership are never purely economic or administrative. Political choices always have a moral component, and at their root are moral decisions. These decisions have profound impact on policy formulation and the public at large. For Catholics, reflection upon these issues and the decision for whom to vote, must be tied to a correct understanding of Catholic teaching. In their hearts and minds, Catholics must evaluate policy positions, party platforms, and the promises candidates make, so that while standing upon the foundation of the Gospel and teaching of the Catholic Church, a vote will be cast with a properly formed conscience.

During the next few months, I will be writing letters to the faithful of the Diocese of Venice on the following subjects: 1) Defense of human life; 2) Defense of religious liberty; 3) Defense of traditional marriage and the family; and, 4) Defense and protection of the poor and needy. These are key issues in the upcoming election.

While exploring these issues, it is important to keep in mind the unique and respective responsibility of the laity, and how the role of the Church supports that responsibility. A document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith titled, “The Participation of Catholics in Political Life,” makes the distinction between the role of the Magisterium, which is put forth by the Bishops (who are the Church’s teaching authority), and that of the distinct role of the lay faithful. As stated in the aforementioned document, the role of the Magisterium is “to instruct and illuminate the consciences of the faithful, particularly those involved in political life, so that their actions may always serve the integral promotion of the human person and the common good.” As lay faithful, it is vitally important that your voices be heard. By voting for policy makers, all people can contribute to political solutions and legislative choices which will benefit the common good. This responsibility is so important that the Church teaches the lay faithful “never to relinquish their participation in public life.”

As with any election, candidates emphasize different topics as “the most important issue of the election.” Given the times, a significant focus will be upon the deficit, job creation, debt and other economic issues. These topics should be considered by voters, but they are by no means the only focus of the upcoming election. At times, economic concerns are trumped by still more important issues—after all, people are more important than material goods. Violating the right to life, sanctity of marriage, religious freedom and the needs of the poor, involve intrinsic moral evils, which must never be supported by Catholics. There are instances, however, where no intrinsically moral evil is in question. In those cases, politicians may, in good conscience, use discretion in forming public policy and reasonably disagree with one another.

Sadly, in a culture that embraces secularism, the line between good and evil might seem to blur. This is largely due to a ‘moral relativism,” which is becoming an increasingly popular concept amongst secularists. The election issues previously noted do not boil down to “my morals” and “your moral”—rather, there are objective truths and truths rooted in Natural Law. Pope Benedict XVI said, “When policies do not presume or promote objective values, the resulting moral relativism, instead of leading to a society that is free, fair, just and compassionate, tends instead to produce frustration, despair, selfishness and a disregard for the life and liberty of others.” Respect for human life, marriage, religious freedom, and the needs of the poor: these are the objective values of this election, and they should determine the outcome.

My forthcoming letters will address the Church’s teaching on the core issues of the election, and elaborate upon why they are so vitally important. With Election Day (November 6) just around the corner, carefully consider your political decisions and, as with all of life, bring the fundamental contents of faith and morals with you to vote.

This opportunity is taken to express to you and your families the assurance of my continued prayers and consideration.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida


Info Box:

One powerful way to gain a greater understanding of Church’s teaching on key political issues is to read Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, which is published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This thorough and detailed document was written to help voters understand what issues are at stake, and what the Church teaches on those issues. To download this document, and for other resources, go to



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