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Catholics who can’t in good conscience vote for either major presidential candidate are well within their rights to pick a third option, says Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska. Voters need to discern whether there is a candidate in each race who can “advance human dignity, the right to life and the common good,” he said in his Sept. 30 column for the Southern Nebraska Register. “When there is, we should feel free to vote for that candidate – whether they are a member of a major party or not,” he said. “No Catholic should feel obliged to vote for one candidate just to prevent the election of another.” The bishop advised a prudent course that avoids dangerous forms of “blind partisanship” and misleading political rhetoric and media alarmism. He acknowledged the possibility that “in extraordinary circumstances” some Catholics may decide there is no suitable candidate for a race and abstain from voting in that particular race.
In his column in the Southern Nebraska Register, he writes:
In good conscience, some Catholics might choose to vote for a candidate who, with some degree of probability, would be most likely to do some good, and the least amount of harm, on the foundational issues: life, family, conscience rights and religious liberty. Or, in good conscience, some might choose the candidate who best represents a Christian vision of society, regardless of the probability of winning. Or, in good conscience, some might choose not to vote for any candidate at all in a particular office. As a matter of conscience, faithful Catholics have to weigh all those pertinent issues, and make the choice that seems most in accord with the common good of our nation: with respect for human dignity, social well-being, and peace. Catholics will make different judgments about those questions, and come to different conclusions—this reflects the fact the Lord has given us free intellects and free wills. My final point is that we need to remember that being good citizens—building a culture of life and a civilization of love—is a much broader obligation, and opportunity, than the voting booth. Americans today, are, in many ways, disengaged, discouraged, and divided. Much of our political rhetoric is unhelpful. And family, community, and public life are in decline. We need a broader vision of public life, which values and proclaims the dignity of every human life, and which aims for the flourishing of individuals, families, and communities. This broader vision won’t come through an election. It will come through life in Jesus Christ. The most important part of being good citizens is living as faithful and active missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. In fact, Christ is the broader reason we are called to hope. God calls us to be faithfully engaged in working to build up and proclaim the Kingdom. That includes our vocation to the public square. But our hope is in the eternal mercy of God—the salvation won in the Incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This month at Notre Dame, Archbishop Charles Chaput said that “Christians are not of the world, but we’re most definitely in it. Augustine would say that our home is the City of God, but we get there by passing through the City of Man.” Our hope is in the Lord. We are his faithful disciples when we work to help others to know the Lord. But the success is according to his plan. We are called to be faithful to his call, as we make thoughtful, prudent, and prayerful choices as citizens. And we are called to trust in the Providence of his plan for the world. Christ is the only real source of our nation’s hope.