Preparing for the upcoming election

No, I don’t mean Bush vs. Kerry…..I’m *Canadian*, remember? But here in Canada we are also expecting to have a federal election sometime in June or July. The Canadian bishops have therefore decided to publish a very interesting document, one that I think our American friends might also enjoy, setting forth principles to help Catholic voters make their prudential judgement when they vote on election day. It’s worth checking out.

I once sat next to one of our Members of Parliament at a dinner, and the topic of the morality of voting came up. Her argument was that her job made her an agent of “the will of the people,” so she had to vote in a manner that the people would want. My argument was that this simply turned the “will of the people” into another member of a pantheon of failed pseudo-gods that she was choosing to worship, in violation of the First Commandment. True, her responsibility is to communicate the hopes and dreams of her constituents and to help translate that into public policy, but there are limits. She is not simply a messenger, because even just passing on a message for someone else has a moral component, especially when we both know the content of the message and are responsible for its presentation. Passing on the message “FIRE!!!” in a crowded theatre is full of moral implications, no matter whose idea the message was.

I think it is important for all of us to remember that to vote is to make a moral choice, for which we are responsible before God — and I am not aware of any clause in the Bible that exempts elected officials from their moral responsibility in parliamentary voting just because they are elected officials. Let me hasten to add, however, that this is also true for all of us. An election is about making a choice between political parties and between candidates whose views and, in some ways, whose lives are matters of public record. Selecting an elected representative is not the same as selecting between chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Where you put your “X” on the ballot is a moral choice. It behooves all of us to make such choices responsibly, and (if we are Christian believers) in conformity with the Gospel. Otherwise, we are simply exalting *ourselves* as the “will of the people”, which is far worse — for we are not worshipping a false god, we are turning ourselves into one.

For readers who would prefer the document in French, Benoit at Benedictus74 has a link to the French version.